Enterprise Cloud
Fax to the Future

29 minute read

Recently, The Cloudcast Podcast invited Shawn Freligh, SVP and General Manager of Content Lifecycle Automation at Upland Software, as a guest to discuss enterprise cloud fax, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and digital security. During the episode, Shawn also talks about what goes into managing document workflows and fax integrations with highly regulated markets like healthcare and financial services. 

Shawn is a technologist with 25 years of experience in document intelligence. He has extensive experience in software development and high-tech that he uses to help businesses implement solutions that drive operational efficiency through digital transformation and automation. One of his areas of focus is Upland InterFAX, an online secure fax service that transmits documents at volume anywhere in the world, while adhering to global data security standards. Read on for key takeaways from the session, or listen to the full conversation on The Cloudcast Podcast.

Fax in the Past

How did we get here? 

Fax has extraordinary staying power. Unlike most technology, which fades and becomes obsolete, fax has remained relatively consistent for decades, if not generations. The first fax machine was developed in 1843. In the 1960s, Xerox invented the fax machines we’re all familiar with. 

Modern-day faxing takes that evolution a step further by moving it to a hybrid model or entirely to the cloud. While on-premise fax infrastructures still exist, many organizations have already added fax to their digital transformation initiatives. However, taking fax digital means more than just moving to a server. There are many other components such as data security that need to be taken into consideration when implementing an enterprise cloud fax service. 

Fax to the Future

Enterprise cloud fax incorporates AI. 

Today’s cloud faxing happens over servers through enterprise cloud fax software. At its core, enterprise cloud fax is simply a method of transferring content from one place to another. These days, faxes aren’t typically exchanged between individuals. Instead, they are moving from one data source to another. 

It wasn’t that long ago that businesses started to connect fax to email, and now we’re implementing AI. Upland InterFAX uses AI to scan and “read” that content, so it can be properly organized and stored for easy retrieval when it’s needed. AI helps extract and digitize the information in those documents using Optical Character Recognition (OCR), machine learning, barcode scanners, forms automation, and more, so it flows seamlessly into the new system. 

Is enterprise cloud fax secure? 

If a document or an email flows through your system, you monitor it. If there are other electronic communications, you monitor those as well to look for data loss or leaks and surveil for threats. Are you giving the same attention and due diligence to your fax communications? Shawn Freligh had this to say about the process, “When I ask compliance officers how they’re monitoring fax, there is always a blank stare because they’ve never really thought about it. They’ll say, ‘Oh, we don’t really monitor our fax communications, because how do we do that with a fax machine?’.” 

Once the documents have been digitized and placed into the dataset, you can start scrutinizing the content and applying security protections. This is necessary because the industries that utilize enterprise cloud fax the most are some of the strictest sectors—healthcare, financial services, and government. 

“Healthcare hands down is the biggest driver of fax in the U.S.” – Shawn Freligh

InterFAX has data security covered. Our enterprise cloud fax service meets the most stringent compliance standards and regulations required by HIPAA and PHIPA, and InterFAX has earned both ISO-27001 and PCI-DSS Level 1 accreditation. 

With traditional fax machines, there is no way to restrict who has access to the pages coming through at any given time. Enterprise cloud fax gives you control over who can view certain material. Whenever you disconnect an all-in-one printer/copier/fax from a phone line, you save money and create a more secure workplace. 

How do you streamline fax content through your business processes? Start treating these documents the same way you treat an invoice or a purchase order, so they follow the same structured process and increase your ROI. InterFAX can decrease data leakage and minimize the cost of replacing or recreating lost documents.

Ready to learn more about the future of fax?

Schedule a demo today! 

Fax to the Future
(Full Transcript)

Listen to the full conversation on The Cloudcast Podcast.

Aaron Delp: Good morning, good evening, wherever we are, and welcome back to The Cloudcast. We’re coming to you live, from our massive Cloudcast stadiums here in Raleigh, North Carolina. And it is Aaron, for Cloud News this week. And for many of you, it is cube con week, whether you’re attending live or keeping up with it virtually. I know there’s going to be a lot of really good news and developments coming out of the show, and we’re certainly looking forward to recapping that in future episodes. But for this week, we’re going to jump into Cloud News here quickly, and as promised by Brian, on one of the Sunday perspectives recently, we’re going to start digging into AI a little bit more. And so one or two of our Cloud News articles are all about AI this week. And first of all, we have Futurepedia, really good link to a website, and it’s the largest AI tools directory. I thought this was a really good find, and is a good first place to dig in a little bit. 

And then, right behind that, AWS went and announced new tools for building generative AI on AWS. And this was multiple tools there. There was Amazon Bedrock, which is, really, how to build the models. And then, they announced EC2 instances to go along with it. And then finally, Amazon CodeWhisperer, think of CodeWhisperer a little bit, like co-pilot and some of these others when it comes to generating code and AI-assisted generation of code. So lots going on in the AI space, and some really good links to go check out and stay on top of the news there. And then, in addition to that, the good folks over at RedMonk, specifically James Governor, also put together some… Excuse me, a nice article on why OpenAI is the new AWS, and the new king makers still matter. A really good article, really thoughtful article. I really liked his take on all of this, so definitely go check that out, and really digs into the status of what is going on with open AI, in general, in the community right now. 

With that, moving on to our next and final news bit this week. We do have some additional links in the show notes, by the way, but I wanted to keep Cloud News short this week so that we could get onto the main article. Andy Jassy released his annual shareholder letter, and this one clocks in… And this is his second one, and it clocks in at, I don’t know, seven pages or so, and link to it in the show notes. But I thought it was a really good read, a really fascinating read on the state of the market and where Amazon has been, somebody that has been there since the beginning. He’s been there since it started, and watched all of this grow up, and really good perspective in all of this. So with that, I’m going to wrap up Cloud News this week. And coming up right after the break, we’re going to be talking about managing document workflows and fax integrations with Upland Software.

Brian Gracely: And folks, one of the things that tends to come up from time to time in your day-to-day life, and probably comes up all the time for your organizations is, how do you manage workflows? 

How do you manage, especially, document workflows? But more importantly, there’s going to be times when you’re engaging with different types of organizations, whether it’s healthcare, financial services, government, in which you’ve got to be able to get them information, but get them information in specific formats. And specifically, oftentimes, we still see fax being a big piece of being able to communicate. We need to be able to send them certain documents in certain formats. And they may be digital, they may be still analog, and we only need to be able to do that. Especially in today’s world in which everything’s on the go, we’ve got tons and tons going on, we want to make sure that we can do that in a way that’s going to be tied into the cloud, and tied into all the other things that we do on a day-to-day basis. 

And oftentimes, Aaron and I will run into situations in which we go, “Okay, what’s going on in that part of the world?” Something that maybe we haven’t covered on the show in a while. And today, we’re going to get a chance to dive into that. We’re going to get a chance to dive into document workflows, what does “Fax” mean in today’s world, around cloud? And then, how does AI come into play with this? Because we’re seeing so much interesting stuff happen around text, and text to speech, and text to capture, and so forth. So really excited today, to have Shawn Freligh, who is senior vice president and general manager of Content Lifecycle Automation at Upland Software. Shawn, welcome to the show. Great to have you on today.

Shawn Freligh: Hey, thank you, Brian. Thank you for having me on the show. 

Brian Gracely: Yeah, excited to have you on. Tell us a little bit about your background. You’ve been very, very involved with this part of the market for quite a while, so give us a sense of both your background, and then what you really focus on at Upland Software.

Shawn Freligh: Yeah. Again, thank you. I like to think of myself, really, as a technologist, even though I run a business unit within Upland Software that really deals with content, and life cycle of that content, and document workflows. But I’ve been doing this for 25 years in that digital transformation, digitization space, starting off as a software engineer, working with OCR technology, optical character recognition technology, ICR technology, document intelligence, spent the better half of 15 years developing product strategies in this space, really, thinking about what is content, and how can we apply intelligence to that, which includes, of course, what we’re talking about today, faxing, and all of the excitement that we have around that, believe it or not.

Brian Gracely: Yeah. That’s very cool. You and I were talking before the show. In a past life, for myself, I was heavily involved with fax, especially when voiceover IP came along, and all of us trying to figure out… We were trying to figure out how to digitize voice communication. And then, people said, “Well, I also have the fax machine plugged into the system. How are we going to make that work?” So it was interesting to swap some stories ahead of talking. How does technology, like fax, maintain a foothold in the marketplace? I know for some people, they used to interact with it, but as a broader sense, where is fax in terms of usage in the marketplace, and more importantly, how has it evolved? Because there’s been a lot of improvements in various ways that we share information, we share documents. Give us the broad picture of where fax is today.

Shawn Freligh: Yeah, excellent. I think, in the end, this probably turns into a little bit of a history lesson to modern day technology, and how we think about it, if we can call it that in the world of fax, all the way to what the future is around it. But if we go back, fax really does have a long history. And one of the things it has done, it has evolved, but it’s also stayed the same too, which is a little bit of a staying power, in that… Not evolving too quickly in the way that we think about technology. So the first fax machine patent was developed in 1843, by a gentleman by the name of Alexander Bain. So that was the first patent of the technology. It wasn’t really until the 1960s that… What we think of fax machines today, were invented by Xerox, actually, out there. They had, obviously, a lot of patents on different things. It’s crazy to think about that.

Brian Gracely: Wow, 120 years between the two is amazing.

Shawn Freligh: Yeah, exactly. And then, it was in the 1970s, really, especially at the end of the 1970s, that faxing really became a business standard. It was business standard equipment out there. So quite the history there. But really, today, modern day faxing really, generally happens over fax servers and fax equipment, or cloud-based faxing that you see out there. But we can break modern day faxing, if we think about it in that realm, into four different generations. So gen one, the implementation of modern day fax servers was, really, when email became a thing. Everybody was bolting on Microsoft Exchange servers and stuff, so you just added a fax server onto it. So you could do email to fax and fax to email. Then, as you mentioned, how you got into it, really, is that gen two. 

The resurgence was really based on that voice over IP transition that everybody was making, or VoIP technology. And everybody said, “Hey, what do I now, that my whole network is based on VoIP technology? How do I do that in fax?” So fax over IP became a thing, with the T38 protocol and T37 fax over email, and all this kind of stuff, was a thing. Now, today, in this gen three, and I’m going to combine gen three, gen four into one, really, you start to get this SAS-based model out there, or enterprise cloud fax. So how can I reduce the physical equipment that I’m supporting in our data centers, fax machines around the office, MFPs laying around, an MFP being a multifunction device? So it’s copiers, the Xerox machines, the HP machines that are sitting around offices. 

How can I reduce that footprint and reduce those expenses? So organizations have started to move to enterprise cloud fax. I don’t want to control it. I still want to have the functionality, because I have to, because it’s in our business, but I don’t want to control the infrastructure anymore. So that’s the gen three. And that gen four is really starting to imply intelligence around those documents, those faxes. So that’s where we are today, as I think about the faxing, it’s how it’s moved and evolved over time. Today, again, we’re in this cloud world, still a lot of on-premise. There’s hybrid models. And there’s, of course, cloud. But the whole conversation is switching to, how can I provide intelligence around that content?

Brian Gracely: Yeah. That makes total sense, especially what you call phase three and phase four. The phase three piece of it makes complete sense, especially if we… Even if just draw a parallel to what we see with data management, data backup, people stop wanting to pay to have a dedicated data center for backup, or to have facilities that… Who was going to staff those 24/7? Could you outsource that? Could you put it somewhere else, give it to people who specialize in that stuff? Yeah, absolutely. The whole idea of being able to bring… 

Probably what feels full circle to you, from OCR back in the day, to now applying AI technologies. How do we bring intelligence to the bits and bites, and the characters and the letters that are on the sheet? I’m curious if we can dive a little bit… Since AI is this topic that is top of mind for everybody these days. It feels like it’s exploded over the last couple of weeks, couple of months, and so forth, especially here in 2023. Where is AI? What’s its applicability? How do you guys, at Upland Software, apply that to the fax world and all of document management?

Shawn Freligh: Yeah. Brian, if I walked up to you on the street, or we were on the train together, or sitting next to each other on the plane, and I started talking about fax, and I was like, “Hey, fax can have artificial intelligence applied to it,” you’d probably call me crazy. Am I wrong in that? So when I think about faxing, first of all, you got to know that, at the end of the day, fax is content. And content just happens to be in the form of a document that needs to be transferred between two places, two endpoints. Let’s face it. You and me, today, if we had to communicate, we are not going to send a fax between each other. That doesn’t really happen anymore. When faxes go to different places, generally speaking, now, today, faxes are occurring between two different systems. 

Think about a healthcare provider sending a fax to another healthcare provider of a patient’s medical records, receiving something in email, a digital document that I need an email from a brokerage firm, or something like that, comes an email that can then be digested into my business system, or a fax coming in, that needs to go through a line of business application, or my internal digital process workflow I have for documents. So it comes in that form. And once it comes into that form, and once it’s content, once it’s digitized, we can then start to apply some of those technologies around that. We can OCR that document. OCR is a form of machine learning. 

We can read barcodes, we can do more advanced forms recognition. So if I’m in a doctor’s office, and I’m receiving referrals, and I get a bunch of referrals, we can apply that forms automation technology around that to extract those referrals, extract patient information so we can push that into that downstream system. So fax itself is not AI-enabled. That’d be crazy for me to say that, but what it does do is by… In nature of becoming digitized, it enables that content, to be AI-driven, downstream. So that’s really where it comes to play today, where if you weren’t digitizing that, you could not start to put in those techniques.

Brian Gracely: Yeah. No, it makes sense. I think sometimes, when some of us, as individuals, think of how we use fax versus… You talk about it in the bigger sense of a healthcare system, or the interaction that happens between doctors and insurance companies, and secondary doctors that are looking at things like… You have to systematically look at it. And yeah, it makes complete sense. It becomes part of information flow. It just happened to start in the format that was faxed. But then beyond that, it becomes document workflows, it becomes information gathering, it becomes scanning, and all the other things that happen. I’m curious… And again, I’m going to be a little bit naive in this, or I’m going to date myself a little bit. I recall, back in the day, when we had fax machines in the office, and some people are going to go, “What’s an office?” 

I remember that from two or three years ago, but even, still… You had to worry, sometimes, about… I need you to fax this to me. And I need to make sure I’m near the fax machine so that somebody doesn’t read something they shouldn’t read, or it comes out of the machine, and the paper slips and goes underneath the table, and gets lost? Where is security? I have to imagine… As we’ve talked about this for the last few minutes, this is part of document management, this is part of data management. Are there things that have to be unique about security for fax? Because especially… I know they’re used a ton in healthcare environments where you’ve got HIPAA standards. They’re in banking and financial services where you have all sorts of standards, regulations. What’s evolved, in terms of security, around the workflows for fax and collecting information, storing information?

Shawn Freligh: And that’s just a really good topic. And I think you can break it down into three different areas that, again, I’d like to think about. So is the first, as you mentioned. I have these fax machines sitting around my office. And there could be a document that comes through, that has a lot of personal information on that, protected information, especially with all of the laws. In Europe, of course, you get GDPR, we have data protection. In California, we have privacy laws and stuff like that. So you have to be really careful with which data is coming out, in whatever form it comes out. So this is, again, why fax machines, in a lot of cases, the actual, as we think about them, that little machine sitting, when plugged into a phone line, have went away. And you start to think about fax servers, enterprise cloud fax systems that keep these things in digitized form. So it never actually gets printed out. 

It gets sent electronically into some other system that gets processed, that is secure. You also, of course, have techniques. So if you have fax server software, like what we have here at Upland Software, we have our Acura software, our inner fax software, we can control how people receive that stuff on those physical machines on a floor, if they want to keep those physical machines. Again, through a multifunction device, we can present ourselves on that device, and ask them to pull down that fax when they’re ready to, by putting in a key pin or something so they can pull that data down. The other thing is, too, we have to think about is the secure layer of fax in the communications side of things. So if we start thinking about fax over IP, and going over the network and the wire, in T38, that can all be encrypted at levels of TLS 1.2 and higher. 

So the communication is very secure. But I’d also turn to another way to think about this, and this is the data itself. So if you go into any organization, if you step out and say, “Okay, I’m a chief security officer,” or “I’m a compliance officer of an organization,” and I have this data that’s going around in my company, and I monitor that today. So if I have a document or an email that flows through, I’m monitoring that. If I have other electronic communications, I’m monitoring that within my network, and within my key security systems to see what’s going in and out of my organization, looking for data loss, looking for leaks, looking for how that data is being used. But if I ask, any… Would I go and ask most CSOs, or most compliance officers, what do you do with fax? Are you monitoring that? 

And there’s pretty much, almost, always a blank stare. Because they’ve never really thought about… Oh, we don’t really monitor our fax communications, because how do we do that if I have a fax machine? So this is where it goes back up into being able to apply intelligence around that content that has been digitized. So now, if I have that content digitized right now, I can actually start to interrogate and subject that to some level of scrutiny through those AI techniques, through OCR. I can make that data available, I can mine that data. So now, all of a sudden, through these techniques, I can apply data loss protection. I can apply data loss detection just like I do in email and other electronic communications that go through the system. So those are the three different ways, at least, I think about security when it comes to a fax, and the different layers that you have to apply within an organization.

Brian Gracely: Yeah. It makes a ton of sense. And again, I think the thing that I’m hearing over and over again is, so many of the things that we think about in terms of data management, in terms of people wanting to… Security management, people wanting to offload common tasks that they either don’t think about or don’t want to think about. Those apply to the fax domain as well, just like they do for data, just like they do for other parts of IT. Interesting. I’m curious… We talked a little bit about healthcare as a vertical that this is relevant to. Where do you see the most… Is fax still, universally, across every industry, and so forth, or are there certain trends in certain industries that are driving adoption, or usage that’s different, maybe it was, than in past?

Shawn Freligh: Yeah. You mentioned it. Healthcare, hands down, is the biggest driver of fax in the US. And that’s primarily because, of course, our healthcare system is more disparate than you might see in other countries out there. I’ll give you a prime example. I moved from one location to another location, approximately 100 miles away, which meant I had to change doctor’s offices. So all of my medical records had to be sent from one location to the next. We don’t have a shared system of medical records within our country. So the way that I do that is, I had to go through, and I had to fill out this release of medical records and stuff at my current doctor office, and provide all the information to go back to the other doctor’s office. And there’s, really, two ways that this happens for healthcare providers and stuff that are not connected through a larger consortium or something like that. 

It either happens through mail, you print… The doctor’s office prints all of those records out, shoves them into an envelope, puts a bunch of stamps on it and sends it off to the other provider who then turns around and scans all of that information in, to digitize it. The other way that they do it, of course, is through fax. And the reason why they do it through fax, one, is because… Again, it’s a digital record, so it’s just easier to turn around and transmit digitally, through fax, to another provider, and have that remain digital. So it’s a benefit to both sides, but it is also considered HIPAA-compliant. So I can’t package that up and put it into an email, and just send an email, because it’s not HIPAA-compliant. It’s too easily… Able to be seen. So in healthcare, hands down, in the US, is where we see the growth. And we do actually see a lot of growth in the healthcare market there. 

Finance is another place, so bank records. If you ever apply for a mortgage, oftentimes, the way that mortgages get done for data collection, like driver’s licenses, extra documents that you want to send… Even if you do it through an electronic or an online mortgage company, a lot of times, they’ll give you a form that has a barcode on it or something like that, and ask you to fax all these different things back. And then, that barcode on that document provides the intelligence around that. Account opening at a bank, the same type of thing. All of this, also, is driven, in the finance world, a lot, by really, really strong ROIs. Again, it goes back to that security conversation. I can now look at what… And interrogate documents that are coming through. I have more control over that digitization piece. But also, too, just going and unplugging each one of those copiers that sit on the floor, that’s scan, copy, print enabled. 

Every time you unplug one of those phone lines, you’re saving $30 to $60 that you can consolidate into a service, like Acura or Interfax, to save that money. So if I have 1,000 of those connections sitting around in my organization, do the math, 1,000 times $30 to $60, huge, huge ROI that happens instantly for payback, and I don’t have any of the management along that… Dealing with that. So you see it a lot in finance because they have huge footprints of these devices and stuff in offices. The other smaller area that you might see it a lot in EOS is car dealerships and stuff. Have you bought a car recently? And they’re like, “Hey, can you fax me your binder?” So you see it that way, from your insurance company to the car dealership. I’m guilty of going through too many cars. I’ve had too many experience with that piece.

Brian Gracely: Yeah, I’ve got two teenage daughters, so I absolutely can relate. Exactly. So in the other parts of the cloud world, there are these things that the analyst firm, Gartner, comes out with every… Once a year, once every six months, called the Magic Quadrant. In your world, there are companies, like Enterprise Content Management, who come out with their data quadrants. Upland Software is essentially like the AWS of this space. You guys are way, way up to the far and right. For folks that are interested in, they’re in one of those industries, for example, government, finance, automotive, healthcare, that’s looking to save money to get better ROIs, what’s the offering they’re most likely looking at? And what results can they typically see?

Shawn Freligh: Yeah. Excellent question. In Upland Software, we have, again, the content lifecycle group, which is the group that I run. And we do, really, have a number of different product lines that deal with content. And of course, today, we’re really dealing with it, and we’re talking about it in the form of fax, because it’s just… It’s one of those things that people forget about, but it really is something that is integrated and embedded into our business culture in a lot of different ways, especially through backend-type of integrations. As I mentioned, so when we think about ROI and stuff, there’s a couple different ways to think about… Specifically around fax, is unplugging those phone lines. That’s an easy ROI. There’s also the cost of reducing your own footprint, data center footprints and stuff like that, by moving it to an enterprise cloud fax solution, like our Interfax platform, where we take care of all of that backend, heavy footprint of telephony, and all that kind of stuff, and the management of that. 

So really good ROIs there. But even the bigger driver of that, again, going back into that content life cycle portion, through all those different products that we have, is to think about… Again, and I said this multiple times, is to think about that fax as a document that is actually content. And what can I do with that content to streamline it through my business processes in the same way that I might treat a digital document that gets produced as an invoice, or a PL, from my AP program? And how does that go through my digital process? You got to start thinking about these documents in that same way so that you can streamline those processes, which, then, in turn, has strong ROIs to itself. 

So by doing that, you can start to reduce the number of lost documents out there, and if you lose a document, the cost to replace those documents to recreate those documents, which, again, from content that you might have in disparate systems and stuff like that. And then, the final piece to that is to really think about the security. Because there can be real costs to not being compliant to something, or having data leakage, or having data loss, that goes through this. So all of those different areas, if you think about that whole content life cycle and how it goes through that quadrant at the end of the day, is what we play in, like you say, the AWS content world. And all of those have strong value, with really strong outcomes that can drive a strong ROI.

Brian Gracely: Yeah. No, it’s fantastic. Especially in today’s economy, where things are a little more unknown, being able to point to things that have very strong ROI, very strong cost savings capabilities and things that you can probably measure in weeks and months, as opposed to years and years of investment is super important. Shawn, I’m going to wrap it up there. This has been fantastic. We’ve had a chance to dig into some technology that should be part of every day for every business. They may not be as visible as some of the things we talk about in the cloud every day, but the fact that people should be applying the same principles they use for… 

Should I move to the cloud? Can I take advantage of cloud flexibility? How do I manage security around things? How do I manage compliance from my organization? Really, really important to think about those things. And it was fantastic to be able to pick your brain, learn a little bit more. Hopefully, folks got a lot out of this. If people want to engage with the team at Upland, what’s the best ways to go about doing that, or what are some of the programs that are the easiest way to get started?

Shawn Freligh: Yeah, absolutely. So www.uplandsoftware.com is the place to go to learn about all of Upland’s product lines, specifically, though, around this CLA or content lifecycle automation. Interfax is our enterprise cloud fax solution. So if you want to move your fax operations into the cloud and take advantage of that SaaS offering, that’s the place to go. If you’re still looking for on-premise document capture and fax, it’s our AccuRoute product. And both of those, you can learn more about, up on our website, again, at uplandsoftware.com.

Brian Gracely: Outstanding. Good stuff. Shawn, thank you so much for the time today. I really, really appreciate it. Folks, with that, I’m going to wrap it up. Want to thank Shawn for his time, and on behalf of Aaron and myself, want to thank everybody for listening. Thanks, everybody, for telling a friend. Thanks, everybody, for helping us grow the community. And with that, we’re going to wrap it up. And we’ll talk to you next week. 

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