Tips in Selecting Cloud-based Fax Providers

While the past technologies seem to start to be extinct, fax machines are still keeping their ground. For many reasons, faxing just can’t seem to die. One of which is the fact that many small businesses still need to send and receive faxes to communicate with vendors, customers, clients and partners. The ability to communicate and transfer documents via fax can boost productivity and add a level of professionalism to one’s brand of business.

black fax machine

Fortunately, technology not only improves what is current. It also bridges the gap between the past analog to the digital future. You no longer need a bulky, outdated fax machine or a dedicated landline in order to fax thanks to cloud-based faxing.

Cloud-based faxing allow you to send and receive faxes through your email account, as well as store those faxes digitally. Most services offer a low monthly subscription fee to enjoy a reliable and secure way to provide online faxing solutions.  Most online fax service offer practically similar pricing and features, but there can be significant differences between vendors.

When you’re choosing an online fax service, it’s important to note the number of outgoing and incoming faxes that are included in the monthly price, as well as any overage costs that might apply. Also, ensure that any company you select has a solid track record and a responsive, accessible customer service department.

Before anything else, you ought to know how online fax services actually work.

How online fax services work, and why people are using it often

Many of these cloud-based providers allow users to easily fax online, Google and Nextiva as the frontrunners. However, how do they actually work?

Online fax services essentially digitize a huge part of a faxing process. Also, there are a number of ways to send a fax using an online fax service: by special email address that includes the recipient’s fax number (i.e., 9876325123@gmail.com), through the vendor’s website or with a mobile application.

nurse fax machine

Once you create the documents you want to send in a word-processing program (like one of the staple desktop application Microsoft Word), they can scan and upload paper documents. When these documents are uploaded, the online fax service translates the document so that a fax machine can read it, and then sends it via a phone line. Fax machines don’t just accept documents. Email faxing services convert these documents (from any file type!) to information that is readable even by analog fax machines.

When you sign up for an online fax service, you’ll receive your own fax number, which others will use to send the documents to you. The service then converts the incoming documents into a digital format and sends them directly to your email address. For the sender, it’s as simple as dialing your chosen fax number, just as that person would do if you had a fax machine.

fax copy

Opting for online fax services nowadays is a very viable option to share documents and information for practically any purpose. Primarily, the reason a business might contract with an online fax service is to keep costs down, particularly if it’s a company that faxes infrequently. Convenience is another factor since businessmen don’t have to be in their office or near a fax machine to send and receive documents.

Managing your incoming and outgoing faxes with an online fax service is as simple as being near a computer or mobile device.

Features and options

Like most businesses, the selling points of online faxing services are the added features and extra options.

Convenient features include mobile alerts, integration with Microsoft Outlook, preset delivery times, digital signatures, customizable cover sheets, the ability to fax multiple recipients at once and the ability to forward incoming faxes to multiple email addresses.

As for its security feature, it includes SSL or PGP encryption and password protection to guard sensitive information. Most services offer these features, but it is important to check ahead of time and find out whether or not they cost more.

desktop fax

Another common option offered by providers is the use of a toll-free fax number or a local fax number. Most services also offer long-distance and international faxing as well, though it often comes with an additional per-minute fee on top of the subscription cost.

Choosing Online Fax Service

When choosing the cloud-based faxing service to tender, it all boils down to the cheapest option that will provide the best features. While most online fax services offer similar feature options and pricing models, no two are identical. Here are some tips that will help you decide:

Know your needs: Knowing the volume of faxes you’ll need to send and receive each month is first priority. This information is your key factor in determining which vendor and plan is the best fit for you. If you only need to send and receive a few faxes each month, a pay-as-you-go plan might be a good choice. If your business is much more fax-oriented than that, it’s best to pay a higher fee that includes a larger package of free faxes.

Get recommendations: It’s not enough to just take a vendor’s sales representative word and use it as the basis of your choice. Make sure you talk to other business owners who use online fax services and see which ones they recommend. While there are many competing vendors, finding recommendations from other entrepreneurs is a great way to narrow down your choices.

fax from ipad

Personally contact the providers: Using the intel you got from recommendations, it’s now time to contact the top contenders on your list to get a sense of the service you can expect. It’s always best to observe how a company handles the initial call from a prospective client. Is the call representative up-front about all the applicable fees and the included features? Is the rep willing to spend the time to explain how the service works? Is he or she overly pushy and aggressive in trying to make a sale? Is the representative friendly and attentive? These are all questions worth asking before choosing a vendor.

Understand the fee structures: It’s best to always ask for a detailed breakdown of all monthly fees and any additional costs, including setup fees, long-distance and international fees, and overage costs. Understanding the fee structures is crucial when you’re trying to estimate what your total monthly costs could be. This is mainly because some vendors may offer low rates, but then sneak in additional, hidden costs. Reputable vendors are straightforward about their fees, no matter how they are structured.

Request free demos: The top-of-the-pack fax services almost always offer a free product demonstration. Take advantage of this offer to test out the service before you sign up. A demo allows you to find out which service is the most user-friendly, because there can be vast differences between two seemingly similar services. You can easily identify between the best and the worst service providers by seeing their product demos first-hand.

Know about their customer: Much like any other service-providing business, customer service is very important. Before you have a problem, you would want to know that the vendor’s customer service department will be there for you. You would also want an immediate resolution when you do have a problem. In this regard, find out what the vendor offers in terms of customer support. As a rule of thumb, service providers should have a good customer support to be considered legitimate.

Gartner Magic Quadrant use case: Enterprise application hosting

Gartner’s most recent Magic Quadrant for Cloud-Enabled Managed Hosting, North America, contained a tremendous amount of information regarding the cloud services market. Key among the report’s offerings was an evaluation of the different service providers – their strengths, weaknesses and how they stack up against one another.

One of the most noteworthy aspects of the Gartner Magic Quadrant report was its focus on three specific use cases in this market: eCommerce hosting, Web-based business application hosting and enterprise application hosting. Gartner noted that it is very rare for a cloud services provider to deliver high-quality performance for all three of these use cases. Yet Datapipe may be one of the few to achieve this distinction. Gartner rated Datapipe as both a visionary and leader in its industry, one of only two vendors to receive this classification.

Here, we’ll take a look at how Gartner rated Datapipe’s offerings and how they meet the needs of the enterprise application hosting use case.

Enterprise needs

As Gartner explained, enterprise application hosting needs differ significantly from the eCommerce and Web-based business application hosting use cases. Most significantly, the sheer size increase inherent to enterprises creates unique cloud-related demands for such organizations. Enterprises require managed hosting for their robust infrastructures, which in turn are necessary to support large commercial software applications. These include offerings from Oracle, SAP and other enterprise vendors.

These enterprise-level workloads are typically very complex, as Gartner pointed out. Consequently, they require specialized, extensive knowledge on the part of the managed hosting services provider. Making matters somewhat easier is the fact that they tend to have a low rate of change.

Datapipe and flexibility

The specific hosting needs of enterprises makes Datapipe a particularly invaluable services provider, as the Gartner Magic Quadrant report revealed.

Gartner noted that Datapipe is one of the few cloud services providers that has managed to integrate its own hosting and cloud IaaS offerings with those of Amazon Web Services. This is crucial, as AWS represents one of the most popular cloud options available to major enterprises in every vertical, and yet most enterprises will also have a wide range of operations and workloads they would rather retain on traditional platforms. With most cloud service providers, enterprises would not be able to effectively, efficiently leverage both cloud and traditional platforms. However, Datapipe makes such a solution not only viable, but easily attainable.

Datapipe is also a powerful choice for enterprise hosting needs thanks to its expansiveness. Gartner pointed out that Datapipe operates data centers in three major metropolitan markets in North America, while also maintaining facilities in Europe and the Asia/Pacific region. Considering the global needs of many enterprises, high-performance and quick access to cloud services around the globe is often essential. Datapipe’s worldwide operations make this level of functionality a reality.

Furthermore, Datapipe offers support for Windows, Linux, Solaris and more operating systems. Additionally, customer services are available in English, Cantonese and Mandarin.

Cost considerations

Datapipe also received high marks from the Gartner report in terms of pricing. Gartner noted that Datapipe offers a consistent pricing scheme that prioritizes steady monthly cost predictability. Many other cloud services providers, by comparison, frequently charge their customers with add-on fees and other charges to boost their bottom lines.

In fairness, the Gartner report also noted that Datapipe’s prices can sometimes be higher than its competitors. However, as the Magic Quadrant report explained, these costs are due to Datapipe’s “focus on higher-touch levels of service.” For enterprises that are particularly concerned with customer support, limited down-time and high performance – which is to say, all enterprises – Datapipe’s commitment to service should far outweigh any additional expenses. Oracle in particular demands specialized knowledge to handle correctly in a hosted environment, and Datapipe has the experience and expertise needed to manage these solutions.

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Gartner’s most recent Magic Quadrant for Cloud-Enabled Managed Hosting, North America, contained a tremendous amount of information regarding the cloud services market. Key among the report’s offerings was an evaluation of the different service providers – their strengths, weaknesses and how they stack up against one another. One of the most noteworthy aspects of the Gartner Magic Quadrant report was its focus on three specific use cases in this market: eCommerce hosting, Web-based business application hosting and enterprise application hosting. Gartner noted that it is very rare for a cloud services provider to deliver high-quality performance for all three of these use cases. Yet Datapipe may be one of the few to achieve this distinction. Gartner rated Datapipe as both a visionary and leader in its industry, one of only two vendors to receive this classification. Here, we’ll take a look at how Gartner rated Datapipe’s offerings and how they meet the needs of the enterprise application hosting use case.

Enterprise needs

As Gartner explained, enterprise application hosting needs differ significantly from the eCommerce and Web-based business application hosting use cases. Most significantly, the sheer size increase inherent to enterprises creates unique cloud-related demands for such organizations. Enterprises require managed hosting for their robust infrastructures, which in turn are necessary to support large commercial software applications. These include offerings from Oracle, SAP and other enterprise vendors. These enterprise-level workloads are typically very complex, as Gartner pointed out. Consequently, they require specialized, extensive knowledge on the part of the managed hosting services provider. Making matters somewhat easier is the fact that they tend to have a low rate of change.

Datapipe and flexibility

The specific hosting needs of enterprises makes Datapipe a particularly invaluable services provider, as the Gartner Magic Quadrant report revealed. Gartner noted that Datapipe is one of the few cloud services providers that has managed to integrate its own hosting and cloud IaaS offerings with those of Amazon Web Services. This is crucial, as AWS represents one of the most popular cloud options available to major enterprises in every vertical, and yet most enterprises will also have a wide range of operations and workloads they would rather retain on traditional platforms. With most cloud service providers, enterprises would not be able to effectively, efficiently leverage both cloud and traditional platforms. However, Datapipe makes such a solution not only viable, but easily attainable. Datapipe is also a powerful choice for enterprise hosting needs thanks to its expansiveness. Gartner pointed out that Datapipe operates data centers in three major metropolitan markets in North America, while also maintaining facilities in Europe and the Asia/Pacific region. Considering the global needs of many enterprises, high-performance and quick access to cloud services around the globe is often essential. Datapipe’s worldwide operations make this level of functionality a reality. Furthermore, Datapipe offers support for Windows, Linux, Solaris and more operating systems. Additionally, customer services are available in English, Cantonese and Mandarin.

Cost considerations

Datapipe also received high marks from the Gartner report in terms of pricing. Gartner noted that Datapipe offers a consistent pricing scheme that prioritizes steady monthly cost predictability. Many other cloud services providers, by comparison, frequently charge their customers with add-on fees and other charges to boost their bottom lines. In fairness, the Gartner report also noted that Datapipe’s prices can sometimes be higher than its competitors. However, as the Magic Quadrant report explained, these costs are due to Datapipe’s “focus on higher-touch levels of service.” For enterprises that are particularly concerned with customer support, limited down-time and high performance – which is to say, all enterprises – Datapipe’s commitment to service should far outweigh any additional expenses. Oracle in particular demands specialized knowledge to handle correctly in a hosted environment, and Datapipe has the experience and expertise needed to manage these solutions.

Ravello Launches the Cloud Application Hypervisor

Hybrid private-public cloud models are the reality in most enterprises in the forseeable future. Developers and business units coninuously go “rogue” and use public cloud services, while IT struggles with maintaining compliance and control and managing…

Hybrid private-public cloud models are the reality in most enterprises in the forseeable future. Developers and business units coninuously go "rogue" and use public cloud services, while IT struggles with maintaining compliance and control and managing legacy apps in the traditional data center. I've spoken many times about this constant push and pull between flexibility and control in the cloud. And it is becoming apparent that we need a better way. Well, today, my friends at Ravello Systems announced that they have launched in public beta their Cloud Application Hypervisor and that they have received $26 million in funding from Sequoia, Norwest Venture Partners and Bessemer. I've had the pleasure of working with the Ravello team in preperation for this launch, and I believe they have a much needed solution -- built on a very unique technology -- for many of the biggest problems associated with cloud deployment. The best way to think about Ravello's technology is using the familiar hypervisor as an analogy. But while the traditional hypervisor holds a single virtual machine in it, Ravello's CAH holds a complex multi-VM app in it. This allows you to encapsulate a complete application (load balancers, app servers, web servers, databases, etc.) AND it's environment (networking, storage, etc.). The result is complete portability across clouds and between on-premise and public clouds. For example, you could take an existing VMWare-based application running on your data center and deploy it on AWS, Rackspace Cloud or HP Cloud as-is. So what is this good for? One of the first use cases Ravello Systems is targeting is the need to do development and testing in the cloud, while running the app in production in the on-premise enterprise data center. The cloud -- with its unlimited resources and ability to spin up machines quickly and then dispose of them -- is ideal for testing and development. But as mentioned earlier, enterprise IT departments still have many issues with running production apps in the cloud. These issues include compliance, security, cost and fear of vendor lock-in and dependence. With Ravello, developers can deploy the application "capsule" in a public cloud, run multiple instances of it for parallel testing, collaborate on development and generally enjoy the flexibility of the public cloud. When it's time to move the app into production, IT can simply deploy the encapsulated app in the data center. In the future, Ravello will address additional use cases such as more general cloud portability, cloudbursting and other scenarios. It's important to note that Ravello is delivered as a cloud service itself. You create an account, log in and can then create blueprints of applications (or use pre-existing ones) which can be cloned and shared. Screen Shot 2013-02-05 at 7.33.21 AM The leadership team at Ravello brings a lot of credibility to the table. Among them, Benny Schnaider, Rami Tamir and Navin Thadani, were the team that created the standard Linux hypervisor, KVM. They sold the company they created to commercialize it, Qumranet, in 2008 to Red Hat. Check it out

State of the Open Source Cloud

Zenoss just published the results of an open source cloud survey they did. They polled more than 100,000 of their community members to determine the prevailing sentiments concerning open source cloud deployments, the perceived advantages and disadvantages of this technology as well as to gain insight into future open cloud deployments within IT departments.

Survey respondents included more than 600 IT professionals including system administrators and architects, developers, network engineers and CIOs. 

Unsurprisingly, OpenStack appears to dominate adoption plans today but CloudStack and Eucalyptus are on the rise.

Check out the infographic they created from the data below (click to enlarge). If you want the full report from the survey go here.

Infographic_Final_Open_Source_Cloud

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Zenoss just published the results of an open source cloud survey they did. They polled more than 100,000 of their community members to determine the prevailing sentiments concerning open source cloud deployments, the perceived advantages and disadvantages of this technology as well as to gain insight into future open cloud deployments within IT departments.
Survey respondents included more than 600 IT professionals including system administrators and architects, developers, network engineers and CIOs. Unsurprisingly, OpenStack appears to dominate adoption plans today but CloudStack and Eucalyptus are on the rise.
Check out the infographic they created from the data below (click to enlarge). If you want the full report from the survey go here.
Infographic_Final_Open_Source_Cloud