Although getting familiar with a new cloud-based solution is never an easy task, online faxing service providers are doing everything in their possession to make the transition from analog to digital as smooth as possible – especially for less tech-savvy users. However, not even the best faxing companies can avoid using certain terms that could sound confusing or downright incomprehensible to those that have never dealt with online faxing before. And failing to understand these terms may result in newcomers to online faxing being alienated altogether.
To help these users out and to ensure a long-lasting, hassle-free experience with online faxing, we have collected the most common and important expressions that may be come across while reading our reviews or when searching for the most fitting online faxing solution solo.
ATA stands for analog telephone adapter, a device with which old telephones and fax machines can be connected to the internet by converting their analog signals into data packets. ATAs are configured to make analog phones compatible with virtual phone systems, but since the use of such a device is the only way to hook up analog fax machines to the world wide web, certain ATAs can handle both telephone and fax signals as well – provided that the device uses the right codec.
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Broadcast faxing is another name for simultaneous faxing, the process of sending a fax to multiple recipients at the same time. Most online faxing services come with this feature by default, while others like RingCentral Fax require subscribers to create groups in order to broadcast faxes.
Broadcast faxing is beneficial most of the time, but it can be exploited by wrongdoers and may be used to send out spam faxes – although these instances are actually quite rare.
Confidential fax is any fax message that contains sensitive information and, therefore, should be protected by any means before, during and after transmission.
Thankfully, online faxing services comply with confidentiality requirements for various reasons: faxes, whether inbound or outbound, are stored in a password-protected, fully encrypted online faxing manager that cannot be accessed by unauthorized parties. Transmission between sender and receiver is also encrypted, making sure that if a fax was intercepted it would be impossible for hackers to interpret it.
Additionally, users have the option to add e-signatures to the faxed documents, making all facsimiles with this added legally binding and authentic. And if that’s not enough, online fax services always alert users when a transmission was not successful, plus there is the option to add certain disclaimers to or even digitally stamp a giant ‘Confidential’ warning onto the cover page.
The cover sheet is the very first page of a fax message and includes various data, such as the name and fax number of the sender and recipient, the date the fax was transmitted and the subject of the message. Additionally, fax cover pages can also contain a short message written by the sender, and can be anything from just a quick explanation of the nature of the fax to entire formal letters.
Unless stated otherwise by the user, cover sheets are always added to faxes automatically by the service providers, although in the case of desktop faxing software and Microsoft’s own built-in solution for its Office suite there is the option to further customize cover pages to your liking with, for instance, various stamps that explain more about the included fax message.
Electronic signature – or e-signature for short – is a simplified and faster method of signing a document that exists only in an electronic form. Not only is e-signature more convenient than signing a printed page that then has to be scanned again, but it also has the same legally binding strength of a regular signature.
Although most of the time a separate solution is necessary to handle digital signatures – such as HelloSign or Adobe Sign – certain online fax services like eFax include e-signature as a basic feature.
Email to Fax
With this convenient feature on board users can send emails as fax messages – which will therefore appear as a regular fax at the receiver’s end – without the need to access the online faxing manager.
There are some requirements for this to work, though: the user should have an active subscription to a faxing service and the email address from which faxes will be sent has to first be associated with the online faxing manager. From then on the only thing you have to pay attention to is to ensure you always address the recipient in the correct format – which is firstname.lastname@example.org – and the message will arrive at its destination without a problem.
A fax bridge is an analog telephone adapter (ATA) intended for faxing purposes only. With such a device connected to it a standard fax machine becomes capable of sending and receiving fax messages using the internet.
Most of the time these devices are preconfigured in order to work flawlessly with a certain online faxing provider, but there are fax bridges that must be configured manually to allow users to integrate their fax machines to virtually any cloud faxing service they like.
Fax forwarding is a simple feature with which one or more incoming faxes can be attached to a new fax message to be sent again to a third party. Depending on the online faxing service provider the incoming fax can be forwarded as a regular email, too.
A fax modem is a device through which a computer can directly connect to phone lines, turning it into an actual fax machine capable of sending and receiving documents using the traditional analog method of transmitting faxes. There are two versions of fax modems: internal – which is often called ‘fax board’ due to the fact that it resembles a motherboard – and external, which can be plugged into the computer through any of its USB ports.
Fax Number Porting
Just as is the case with phone numbers, a fax number can also be ported from one service provider to another without any major hassle regardless of whether that number was assigned to a traditional or a cloud-based subscription. However, since number porting is a rather time-consuming process – it usually takes one to three weeks – a temporary number is always assigned to the customer until the old number is officially acquired from the old service provider.
Note that porting a fax number is an entirely different ordeal and online faxing companies will react differently to such a decision. Some companies will let customers go without causing too much fuss, but certain companies – like j2 Global, the owner of eFax, MetroFax and MyFax – may be a little nastier by holding onto fax numbers unless the leaving subscriber pays a porting fee.
Faxing over IP (FoIP) is a method used by all online faxing services and programs to send and receive faxes through the internet instead of traditional phone lines. Similarly to VoIP, internet faxing can be performed on any device that is directly connected to the internet, but the technology is also backwards compatible, meaning that standard faxing machines can send and receive faxes using the cloud with the help of gateways like a fax bridge.
Unlike internet telephony, however, IP faxing never fully relies on the internet due to the extremely sensitive nature of faxes, which cannot tolerate even the slightly disruption of transmission. This means that each and every fax has to make a detour to a PSTN before being forwarded to the recipient but, thankfully, this doesn’t affect either the transmission time or the overall quality of the transmitted document.
HIPAA compliance is a special data security standard that requires end-to-end encryption for electronically protected health information (ePHI) during a fax transmission. In simpler words, if a faxing solution complies with the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) then any sensitive medical data transmitted through that service is protected in such a way that nobody aside from the doctors and the patient can access it.
Online Fax Storage
The online fax storage is part of the fully encrypted – in addition to password protected –faxing manager in which all incoming faxes and scheduled messages are stored in an electronic (PDF) format. Due to this protection the storage can only be accessed by those who are in possession of the corresponding password, therefore preventing sensitive documents from falling into the hands of unauthorized parties.
Public switched telephone network – PSTN for short – is the aggregate of the world’s circuit-switched telephone networks, consisting of phone and fax lines, fiber optic cables, cellular networks, and even satellites. Put simply, the PSTN connects every telephone, fax machine and IP device to allow them to communicate with each other.
In the world of faxing, PSTNs have a huge importance as all fax messages – whether sent through phone lines or the internet – go through these networks before reaching their destination in order to ensure that the fax is always directed to the right place and is converted to a format that the recipient can interpret.
Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is a computer networking protocol developed in the early 90s to secure connections between internet users and web servers by relying on a combination of public key and symmetric key encryptions. Due to several protocol and implementation flaws over its usage the use of SSL protocol was deemed unsafe in 2015 by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and has since been fully replaced by its successor, Transport Layer Security (TLS).
Transport Layer Security – often abbreviated TLS or TSL – is the most widely used security protocol for web browsers and applications that require secure data exchange over a network. Although it is backwards compatible with its predecessor, the SSL protocol, TLS is considered to be more secure and efficient thanks to its message authentication, key material generation and the continuous support for newer and more secure algorithms.
Its secure nature is also apparent in the fact that web-based solutions such as VPN providers, file sharing services, VoIP, and online faxing rely on the TLS protocol for creating theft-proof transmissions.
VoIP is the abbreviation for voice over IP, better known as internet telephony, a technology that converts the caller’s analog voice signals into data packets before transmitting them to the receiver over internet cables. Due to being fully internet-based VoIP is scalable, since it can be used by any device that connects to the internet. This makes it mobile, too, since it doesn’t require the caller to be at the physical location that the phone number is associated to.
Aside from easy installation and its worldwide availability, VoIP services are commonly known for providing a wide variety of business-grade features including online faxing, which more or less uses the same technology as VoIP does.