Centralization Helps Cloud Provider Keep Faxing Reliable
February 04, 2014
By Mae Kowalke
, TMCnet Contributor
Schools use a lot of paper. This extends to the faxes that educators send and receive, something that the Education Network of America (ENA (News - Alert)) didn’t expect when it first rolled out its infrastructure-as-a-service offering to school systems, libraries and governments in the U.S.
ENA offers school district and statewide managed connectivity, communication and collaboration solutions as well as instructional and productivity tools, and it serves six state-wide contracts and many of the largest school systems in the country. Overall, it connects more than 5,200 end sites, 555 school districts and 295 libraries, serving more than 2.5 million students, teachers and administrators and more than 3.6 million librarians and patrons throughout the United States.
One of the services offered by ENA is reliable fax communication. Along with voice-over-IP (VoIP), ENA planned to deliver fax-over-IP (FoIP) to its customers as well by using standard VoIP-based analog telephone adapters (ATAs) running on the T.38 protocol. By running the last mile of connectivity itself, unlike many other providers, ENA felt that it had the perfect environment for fax transmission.
But almost immediately the company had trouble with its FoIP service.
Struggling to identify what might be wrong, it went to customers and observed the use case for the service to see what might be causing the reliability issues.
What it found was that teachers fax a lot! They often send faxes that exceed 30 pages, and this presented too much opportunity for trouble to arise on the on-premise level.
By using T.38 and G.711 over ATAs, all the negotiation occurred between these different fax machines.
ENA needed a more reliable codec negotiation process, and that meant removing the SIP ATAs from the equation.
“The challenge is when you’ve got codec negotiation being handled solely by the premises-based ATA, you lose all control,” noted Simon Weller, director of systems architecture with ENA, in a case study.
He explained: “You have to rely on the local and far end fax machines’ ability to negotiate a protocol and speed you can support on your network. With Super G3 and G4 faxing becoming more and more common, that becomes an impossibility within the currently deployed hardware, associated standards and fax negotiation due to upstream carrier interconnects.”
The solution was using AudioCodes’ (News - Alert) HTTPS Fax ATA and Fax Connector solution, which together offloads the fax negotiation from the ATA, transporting the fax to centralized infrastructure and then controlling the transmission to the destination fax number. The link between the fax machine and ENA’s datacenter could also remain real-time with no onsite storage of the fax.
“We rolled out AudioCodes HTTPS Fax ATA and Fax Connector solution and integrated it into our core. That allowed us to utilize our existing voice infrastructure while providing a parallel platform towards our customers,” Weller said. “As with all of our products and services, we try to make it as easy for our customers as possible, and part of that service is we manage the hardware and provide all the inter-connections. Centralizing as much as possible keeps our support costs down and quality up.”