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Friday, 1 October 2010

An industry reliant on faxing...

In a world of billions of web pages, natural use of email and tightly integrated web services - why is the fax still important for business in 2010?

The word fax derives from the Latin word "fac simile", meaning "make similar". The first patent for a fax was recorded in 1843 by Scottish inventory Alexander Bain who created a pendulum based back-and-forth line-by-line scanning mechanism. The first commercial fax machine, named the Pantelegraph, invented by Italian physicist Giovanni Caselli went into production in 1861. Fax machines were invented and in commercial use almost 15 years ahead of the invention of the telephone!

Whilst the fax machine has had a fair number of competitors over the years, it's still here and we see the number on the footers of our emails and the adverts in the paper. It's the easiest way to securely send a document quickly. Business' still don't trust the internet for the delivery of data; often we receive DVDs or memory sticks hand delivered with a small excel file due to the authors not trusting the delivery of sensitive data via email.

We all understand the fax is also sent over the telephone network and it's just a print out at the other end - so why fax over email? Emails can send encrypted files, but the end users may not have the relevant skills or software to decrypt the file. As a rule email is NOT secure. As the Met Police advise, you should never send any confidential information to anyone through email.. Moreover from a suppliers point of view accepting credit card numbers by email may be in breach of merchant agreements, and lead to penalties being imposed by banks.

Receiving a printed document still feels tangible - something you can touch - and important, just as you were to receive an invoice from a supplier, therefore it's still managed with care and attention.

Acceptance of faxes within hotels is a natural business requirement and an entire workflow runs from the messages received via faxes. Our Conferma Settlement Platform (CSP) utilises faxing technologies to communicate the payment details in a PCI DSS manner. It wouldn't be possible to communicate payment details/card data to hotels via any other standard delivery manner that is secure, accepted and with a prompt delivery time.

To remove the fax communication to the hotel entirely online booking systems and suppliers should adopt functionality to accept explicit payment details and payment restrictions. This is some years away from reality, until then the fax is here to stay.

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