U of Ottawa Engineering Faculty sends faxes to e-mail

A University of Ottawa department is trying out an application service provider that promises to secure and streamline confidential faxes used throughout the organization.

So far only the administrator, chair and some other key

individuals in the school’s Faculty of Engineering are using Virtual Fax, a solution provided by Protus IP Solutions, but the plan is to eventually roll it out department-wide. The Virtual Fax service uses existing e-mail accounts to send and receive faxes without a fax machine.

Eric Dubois, vice-dean of research at the Faculty of Engineering, said the department employs about 120 professors and about 40 admin staff, who have traditionally shared half a dozen fax machines. The faculty sees a number of faxes come in, Dubois said, including applications from students, letters of recommendation as well as more sensitive documents that users don’t want found on a common machine.

“”When our professors are applying for tenure or promotions or things like that, we have to get letters after their whole file has been sent out to peers across the country,”” he said. “”It is meant to be a confidential, and if it’s just sitting on a fax machine in our office where any professor can walk by, it’s not the greatest.””

The faculty deals primarily with graduate-level students, who sometimes have to fax in transcripts or other documents that aren’t available in electronic format, Dubois added.

Protus, which is based in Ottawa, was founded seven years ago and has attracted approximately 20,000 customers. Joseph Nour, its CEO, said customers typically can expect Virtual Fax to save 40 per cent of operational costs on fax machines, including maintenance and support. It also allows users a number of customer service capabilities, he said.

“”They can administer their fax requirements online, add fax numbers to different professors in the university,”” he said. “”They can actually monitor how much each department or division is spending.””

Nour said the Internet fax business is growing at 50 per cent year over year, but Protus wants to differentiate itself from LAN-based fax software by offering capacity on demand and more control over the management of faxed documents.

“”It’s still a very healthy, I guess ‘paperful’ environment,”” he said.

Dubois agreed, adding that while the volume of faxes has gone down as e-mail becomes more prevalent, the university continues to deal with a number of hand-written documents.

“”It would be a lot of trouble to scan them and send them as an e-mail,”” he said. “”With e-mail being the mainstay of our electronic communication, often having to deal with fax machines is a bit of a nuisance.””

Nour said Protus is also seeing interest for Virtual Fax among organizations trying to comply with privacy legislation, including Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.

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