Fax APIs (application processing interface) are a technology that allows users to send and receive documents via fax but using the cloud. Fax APIs can be used to integrate faxing capabilities into the business applications.
Understanding Fax Technology
Fax is short for facsimile, a word originating in the 16th Century meaning an exact copy. In more modern terms, it’s been co-opted and refers to the act of sending an exact copy of a document to another location via a fax machine. A fax is usually sent out to a telephone number that is associated with the fax machine, printer, or any other output device. However, contemporary fax technology has evolved and can now function over the cloud without the need for fax machines and paper printouts.
Faxing is used when a document needs to be sent out quickly, securely, and in particular if an exact copy of a document is needed. The original fax technology had a machine at one end that scanned a document containing text or images, treated it to be a fixed graphic image, and converted it into a bitmap. Once digitized as a bitmap, the information was then transmitted to the receiver as electronic signals over a public switched telephone network (PSTN) using the telephone line or over the internet. Then, a fax machine at the receiving end converted the coded document and printed out a copy.
Using fax technology allowed businesses to send documents securely across the globe in just a few minutes, at a much more affordable price than any other way of secure document transmission. However, it required a fax machine at both ends, and a physical telephone line, both of which have quickly become outdated. In our more modern business era, faxing has had a glow-up and now can be used via the internet, still maintaining security and the other benefits of faxing.
What are Fax APIs?
An API is software that links programs to enable communication with each other and exchange of information. More specifically, a fax API can allow businesses to integrate their faxing systems with other technology, allowing faxes to be sent through computers, smartphones, or similar devices.
While using a fax API, there is no need for an independent fax machine. This is because faxing capabilities are a part of the app, website, or software. The fax-related tasks occur within the existing platform.
The information technology department of any business can use an API to expand the capabilities of faxing software way beyond just online faxing. APIs can help software to become more robust, powerful, and flexible. As a result, employees can perform their tasks faster, with more security, and with other benefits too.
A cloud-based fax API allows third-party software to establish communication with a fax service based on the web using a programming language. The API creates a bridge between the software and the web application. This way the existing in-house software for any business can access the faxing function of a web-based fax system without the need to switch to another program. This means an employee can directly fax through the program that he or she is using instead of logging in to some separate fax system or having the need for a fax machine and a telecom phone line.
Using a fax API, the IT department can integrate cloud faxing into the existing platforms used by businesses like customer relation management (CRM), electronic medical records (EMR), and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. This makes processes easier since the user does not have to exit the program to send or receive faxes. Instead, a user can do so directly through the system they are using.
For example, by integrating the cloud-based faxing program into a CRM system the API allows cloud faxing to directly operate from the CRM system.
Another more practical example can be that of the medical sector. Here, instead of printing the referral of a patient and faxing it to an insurance company or another medical service provider, the EMR system integrated with the fax API can directly send the file to the concerned party online, with just a few clicks of the button.
How Do Fax APIs Help Streamline Business Workflows?
If a business uses proprietary applications, they can connect with online fax services using fax API. This interface allows businesses to automate their system and eliminate additional steps along the faxing process. Developers can use a powerful web interface or fax API to streamline the company workflows in more than one way.
Fax APIs allow businesses to have a streamlined faxing process. A traditional faxing system requires a separate fax machine and multiple steps before a user can finally send or receive faxes, and even then, only one fax can be sent at a time. Meanwhile, using fax API reduces the steps and makes the faxing procedure more convenient. Because a fax API acts as a bridge between two or more software, it can easily integrate the faxing capabilities into existing systems of any business.
Most fax APIs have the capability to support a variety of file types thus making it easier for users to send faxes even if the file is from Microsoft Word or Photoshop.
Some of the ways that fax API can help streamline the workflows or benefit businesses are listed below.
As fax APIs integrate with the existing programs within the organization, it discourages users from switching between different applications. As the user works on one application, they can send or receive documents through fax using only a couple of clicks instead of using traditional fax machines. This helps the employees focus their time on other important tasks, reducing clutter in their processes.
Even the fax-capable multifunction printers (MFPs) or fax servers take a longer time to finish a task compared to modern online faxes that use APIs. Some MFPs or servers also require queuing tasks before they can be sent out.
Security and compliance
In-program fax systems help to secure private data in several ways. It reduces the chances of unauthorized access to documents as only the people using the program can send or receive the fax. This is done by encryption of the data being transmitted, which guarantees privacy of the information. On the other hand, sending faxes over a local area network (LAN) is comparatively less secure, as the LAN may not encrypt the document when faxing. Also, the documents sent over LAN can be vulnerable as they can be accessed by anyone who has access to the business’s LAN. Many fax APIs also provide compliance with security regulations including:
- Sarbanes-Oxley (SO)
- The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA)
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
- Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA)
- The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS)
- ISO 27001
This ensures that data sent by the business is always secure and compliant with rules, reducing the chances of businesses facing any kind of legal or compliance troubles. The fax traffic can be monitored too, so there are records kept of what was sent and when.
The programs and systems of businesses need the option of scalability as the organization grows or pivots. Fax APIs allow businesses to send or receive multiple faxes in a short duration. Fax can be sent and received by one or multiple users who use the in-house business software. As the number of users grows, the fax API can be scaled to give access to more employees. Fax APIs can integrate with systems like email servers, VoIP networks, and web browsers for increased communication capabilities.
Using a traditional fax machine can lead to an increase in overhead costs of office supplies like paper, ink, and toner, and the maintenance of fax machines. Fax APIs reduce these costs as the users can fax directly from their computer system.
Supporting remote working
Fax APIs make remote working easier for the employees of any business. Many businesses have adopted remote or hybrid working models. In these situations, online faxing comes as a relief for businesses and employees as it allows users to send and receive faxes while sitting at their homes instead of having to set up faxing devices in their homes or running to the nearest store offering faxing services.
Reporting and analytics
Fax APIs also often have reporting capabilities that allow businesses to keep a tab on success metrics like transmission time, delivery rates, and average cost per use. This enables businesses to get insights into the team’s performance, track volumes of faxes, and find ways to resolve problems or roadblocks.
Choosing the Right Fax API
Fax APIs allow businesses to send documents over the internet and it is important that the data shared is secure and private. Depending on the sensitivity of the documents that are needed to be transmitted by businesses via fax, it is very important that the right service provider is chosen.
There are some important things that need to be considered when businesses decide to choose a fax API service provider.
Depending on the budget, the price of a fax API service is a major factor to consider for any business. Fax APIs often have varied pricing models depending on the usage requirement and features needed. If there is no need to send out a huge number of documents over fax on a regular basis, businesses can opt for a pay-per-use model. Otherwise, they can select a model that offers monthly, quarterly, or annual subscriptions.
Before choosing a service provider, businesses must decide on what type of features they require in the fax API that will serve their purpose the best. Features like electronic signal support, automated retries for sending failed transmissions, and integration with existing programs are some of the features that can be considered.
Ensuring that the service provider has a strong security system in place is a must. This should include encryption facilities and security to protect data from cyber-attacks and hackers. Security is a very important feature to consider, especially for businesses that deal with important and sensitive information like clients’ financial details or the health information of patients.
This is one reason why developing an API in-house is discouraged. APIs can represent a significant security challenge, as software loopholes are found and new threats advance. Having a secure API should be considered to be the most important factor to consider. The API should be maintained and automatically updated by the provider to ensure no weaknesses or flaws in the system.
Depending on the industry they belong to, businesses need to ensure that the service provider is compliant with various laws and regulations. For example, healthcare organizations should check if the fax API service provider is compliant with HIPAA or not.
As some documents are time-sensitive, a delay in sending them out may prove to be a costly affair for the business. Fax APIs should be reliable, and the service provider should guarantee 99% uptime. While selecting a service provider, the organization needs to check on the uptime guarantee and the service availability.
When selecting a service provider, businesses need to consider the customer support provided by them. This can include the timings for availability of customer support, and mode of communication. This will help ensure businesses have access to troubleshooting facilities whenever required. If the business works outside of regular office hours or across multiple time zones, will customer support be available?
One of the most important factors to consider when selecting a service provider is the integration capabilities of the fax API with legacy programs and systems of the business. The organization should check whether the API can easily integrate and customize with the software they are using. This will avoid disruption of workflow and make it easier for the employees to use the new faxing capabilities
Also, the usability of fax API on different devices like desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones needs to be considered. Does the API work with Windows based computers, Apple, and Android operating systems?
Industries that Can Benefit from Fax APIs
Using fax APIs can benefit businesses that deal with sensitive information. Some key industry sectors that benefit from the use of Fax API include:
Healthcare companies the operate within the USA or Canada
Healthcare companies are often required to send and receive confidential and sensitive information related to patients. This information needs to be sent and received quickly for the benefit of patients. Imagine an emergency situation where medical records need to be sent to a hospital so they can identify any allergies or pre-existing conditions – a fax needs to be sent immediately, with no delays.
This allows improved communication between different organizations leading to better collaboration which helps the patients access more effective, quality healthcare.
With HIPAA in the USA and PHIPA in Canada, there is incredibly stringent legislation about how highly sensitive medical records can be sent across providers. The simplest way to meet all legal requirements is by utilizing highly secure online faxing.
Financial industries can also benefit a lot from using fax APIs that are PCI DSS compliant. As the financial industry deals with confidential information, the security of documents being transmitted becomes a priority. Fax APIs allow companies to transfer data securely at a significantly lower cost than other methods such as tracked parcels. A fax API helps in the automation of several processes and the time saved by automation can save substantial money in terms of sales of shares or buying and selling currency.
Legal entities can also benefit from fax APIs as they allow the sharing of critical documents, particularly ones with signatures, with ease while ensuring that all legal regulations and compliances are met. It saves money and time while streamlining workflows. All the information shared using fax APIs is stored on the cloud which makes it easy for the legal team to pull out any document required for any case within minutes instead of having to search through a huge number of printed documents.
Logistics services use fax APIs to boost the efficiency of their teams by streamlining communications. Fax APIs allow teams to connect and share documents with the customers quickly. It can also help in completing transactions with the support of API integrations. Shipments and orders can also be handled using API and customer data can be easily accessed from the cloud to speed up the order fulfillment process. Because a lot of the logistics industry is still paper-based, fax APIs can be used for quick communication of waybills and other tracking paperwork.
Fax APIs allow e-commerce businesses to reach a larger audience and increase sales by sending broadcasts over fax. This helps businesses maintain a low marketing cost while ensuring that the target audience is reached.
Streamline Organizational Business Processes with Fax APIs
By eliminating repetitive processes, ensuring immediate transmission of documents, and doing so securely, fax APIs represent a considerable time and cost saving for organizations. Using existing systems, and by embedding the fax API in standard operating processes means no confusion, no switching between windows and apps, and a far easier and streamlined process.