Just as cell phones haven’t displaced wired phones and the paper-based office has yet to disappear, many Canadian businesses still rely on fax communications. For Brascan Power of Gatineau, Que., a division of Brascan that generates, trades and resells energy, sending and receiving faxes is a vital

link between an internal purchasing system and the company’s external supplier base.

Until a year ago, faxes were sent using a dedicated PC in the server room running FaxSR software from Omtool Ltd. of Salem, N.H. The company received faxes on a traditional fax machine. Not only were two dedicated telephone lines required, but the system also required the watchful eyes of purchasing department employees who would need to review the fax log to verify transmissions were sent correctly and collect paper-based faxes as they were received.

By the fall of 2003, Brascan Power had upgraded its its purchasing package to Microsoft’s Great Plains software and IT workers learned that Omtool would no longer be supporting FaxSR, which had been replaced by a newer enterprise fax product called Genifax. Company officials then decided to look at fax alternatives and were intrigued to learn of an Internet-based fax service offered by Protus IP Solutions Inc. of Ottawa, says Michel St-Coeur, Brascan Power’s IT support co-ordinator.

Incoming faxes converted to pdf format

As St-Coeur explains, the Virtual Fax service from Protus enables Brascan Power to automatically send fax transmissions from its purchasing system as e-mails over the Internet and receive fax transmissions from its suppliers as electronic PDF files. Protus acts as the “”middle man,”” using its telecommunications infrastructure to route Brascan’s outgoing and incoming faxes through its Ottawa-based data centre.

“”Our suppliers don’t know the difference, except that our fax number has changed,”” says St-Coeur. Protus supports both local and toll-free numbers across North America. For a base fee, Brascan Power can send and receive a specified number of transmissions per account, paying per page once that amount is exceeded.

No need to print everything

The managed service model works well, says St-Coeur, since he no longer has the expense of maintaining a fax machine, two fax lines and a PC-based fax server with associated software. It also eliminates long-distance charges, as many of the company’s suppliers are located outside of Gatineau, including Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, New York and Maine, N.H.

Paper is another area where costs are down since inbound faxes are only printed if required, he adds. “”If we need it, we print it, but most of the time it’s filed as is. In the old model employees always had to keep an eye on the fax, now nobody’s spending time to make sure the process is working.””

“”It’s really a new face on fax,”” says Steve Adams, Protus’s vice-president of marketing. “”It takes fax from being this little island unto itself and integrates it into the rest of their systems.””

After one year of using the on-line fax service, St-Coeur has encountered no problems. As part of its service, Protus offers detailed, real-time reports, as well as delivery confirmations, auto resends for failed transmissions and 24-hour operation. Faxes are received in a private e-mail account that never runs out of paper and never gets turned off.

“”If you draw a big black box around us and Brascan, it looks to the outside world like a regular fax,”” notes Adams. “”But the big value for Brascan is in receiving electronic documents instead of reams and reams of paper.””

By using a managed services model to provide an on-line fax service, Protus aims to bring efficiency to any company relying on multiple fax transmissions. Time and money savings are possible just by reducing the number of times an employee prints a document in order to fax it, only to “”file”” it in the recycling bin later, says Adams.

“”Many people are surprised to learn that there’s a big business opportunity here.””

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