First to FoIP Servers: The XMedius Story
Fax has been an unsung communications hero for well over a century, but during its life it has gone through some powerful evolutions. We’re going to trace a few key moments in its history here to discuss what makes fax so relevant to this day, and how XMedius was instrumental in ushering in a powerful new age for the technology.
While the underlying concepts (and devices starting to use them) are even older, the first commercially viable fax machine was the pantelegraph, first tested over long distances in the year 1860 and predating Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone patent by 16 years.
This machine might not look like much, but its implications were incredibly powerful. What started as a device for affairs of state and verifying signatures for long distance bank transactions became the bedrock upon which entire industries communicate to this day.
The 1980s: Golden Age of Fax
While fax was important to many large organizations in the 60s and 70s, it really took off in the 80s. Microprocessors, affordable optical sensors and thermal printing technology came together in the 1980s to finally reduce fax machine sizes and prices to the point where they could be deployed by small businesses and even home users. Fax truly became ubiquitous, even starring in a scene in Back to the Future Part II when Marty gets fired from his job via fax machine.
Safe, cheap, fast, and exact, fax was the tool of choice for instant transmission of documents over distances, from million-dollar contracts to spur of the moment restaurant takeout orders. Even when email started to proliferate, fax’s inherent security continued to make it indispensable.
Skipping the Walk to the Machine – Fax Servers Arrive
A major innovation in the world of faxing was the advent of the digital fax server. With such a solution, employees no longer had to walk back and forth to a dedicated fax machine. They could receive and send faxes from their computer workstations. These files would travel over the internal network to central fax servers, which would then use physical fax cards to send messages out and receive messages in the same way a plain fax machine would.
One leading purveyor of this exciting new technology was a company called Interstar Technologies, saving enterprise customers time (up to 90%) and money (up to 40%) with their flagship product:
But while LightningFAX was winning them accolades, they felt they could take the technology still further.
The Voice Over IP Tsunami and T.38
Fax servers were powerful innovations, but voice telecommunications technology was also advancing. We were beginning to enter the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) era, where expensive copper phone lines were being removed in favor of sending calls through each organization’s existing internet connection.
Analog fax didn’t work well with VoIP networks, resulting in egregious fax transmission failures. Fax as a technology is built on ensuring the entire image gets directly from point A to point B without modifications, while VoIP protocols prioritize latency-free realtime communications over exact data accuracy. This doesn’t play well with fax. While a caller typically doesn’t notice drops in voice quality, these periodic small pieces of lost content play havoc with fax call control protocols.
A new digital faxing protocol, T.38, was developed to help fax coexist with VoIP technology (as what is now called FoIP) across internet connections rather than phone lines (read more: What is the T.38 Fax Protocol?).
Interstar was working on a big innovation behind the scenes. Sebastien Boire-Lavigne, Executive VP and Data General Manager of XMedius, was there in the old days. Sebastien and his compatriots at Interstar Technologies Inc didn’t invent the T.38 protocol, what they did was create a new way of harnessing it.
“When we released XMediusFAX in 2002,” Sebastien says, “it was the first FoIP server on the market. Up to that point, all fax server vendors were using TDM boards. At the time, software-based fax was not deemed a viable enterprise product (mostly due to the very poor performance of software-based modems of the time),” he says, “However we felt that T.38 was a game changer that would enable fax servers to achieve production grade performance in a software based implementation. XMediusFAX indeed moved fax into the 21st century”
Enter XMediusFAX – The World’s First FoIP Server
We shared an illustration of the first commercially viable fax machine above, now take a look at the first FoIP server. This diagram, from a patent submitted in 2002, describes the technology at the core of the solution which would come to be known as XMediusFAX (and now, XM Fax):
Riding on the voice over IP and computer virtualization wave, the business ramifications of software based FoIP fax servers have been huge. The above image is a diagram, rather than a photo or illustration, because this new technology had no physical body or components of its own. It was a completely software driven solution that took the “machine” out of “fax machine.” Certainly, it still needed computers and a network to operate, but fax had finally become hardware independent.
What XMediusFAX Introduced to the Secure Document Exchange Market
XMediusFAX was the world’s first “boardless” “software-only” fax server, an innovation that reduced costs and maintenance needs while increasing reliability vs TDM fax boards. The product was well ahead of its time.
Sebastien explains, “it took several years for the other fax server vendors to release FoIP products, and they were mostly based on Dialogic (Brooktrout at the time) SR140 technology, but we had a battle tested technology with several years of field experience. To this date, our implementation is the gold standard of the industry.”
Why Fax is (Still) Important
For the general public in the year 2020, it’s easy to forget what the world was like before the internet and email (let alone smart phones), but for over a century fax was a miracle technology that allowed documents to be exactly duplicated across great distances in minutes. The only other way to get a contract across the country for a signature, for example, would be to have someone physically carry it there.
People today are also typically surprised to discover that fax use continues to be widespread (even expanding) after the introduction of the internet and email. This is not only because of fax’s deep roots in regulated industries like healthcare, finance, and education, it’s also because fax remains one of the simplest and universally receivable communications mediums to send documents securely. Emails are notoriously insecure, and the more protections you add on to them, the less accessible they are to the intended recipient.
How XMedius continues to lead the market
For over 25 years XMedius has been a powerful force for efficiency and improvement in the secure file exchange market. That continues to this day.
We Own the Technology
One of the things that separates XM Fax (formerly XMediusFAX) from others is that XMedius has our “own T.38 stack”. That means we control/own/know every part of the product. Customers who call XMedius get all the support they need in one place, and the buck stops with us when it comes to making sure things work.
Pioneering Secure File Exchange Beyond Fax
While demand for fax worldwide continues to be very robust, XMedius is also looking ahead to the future of securely transmitting documents, files, and messages in compliance with HIPAA, GDPR, and other major regulations. XM SendSecure handles files up to 5TB in size, in any format. Security features include 2 Factor Authentication, Double Encryption, Ephemeral Storage, and more…yet it’s still as easy as sending an email.
Organizations using the XMedius prepaid cloud version of XM Fax can even use their credits (after activation) on XM SendSecure, allowing easy switching between communication methods as dictated by their needs.
Revolutionize Your Compliant Communications
Reach out to us to discover how XMedius solutions can meet and exceed your organization’s secure file exchange requirements. Speak with an expert today for details, answers to your questions, and compelling pricing.