Home & Office

Google, please integrate Fax and Document Management services into Voice!

Now that we've moved to VOIP and unified messaging, it's time to finally bury the fax machine and get some real online document and information management tools.
Written by Jason Perlow, Senior Contributing Writer

It's 2012. Many of us who have become mobile or home based-workers are now enjoying the benefits of VOIP and unified messaging services which allow us to have access to our voicemails and texts from all of our devices, including our desktops/laptops, smartphones and tablets.

And for those of us who use Google Voice, it also provides us with the benefit of only having to give out one phone number to our family and business associates, on which we have fine levels of control to screen or block calls. Google Voice is a wonder service, and I'm not sure how I ever got along without it before.

Still, Google Voice doesn't do everything I want it to do. While it has done wonders for integrating all the VOIP and voicemail and text stuff, it hasn't done jack for my Fax activity. And it's driving me crazy.

Many of you may laugh that in this day in age that I still have to send or receive faxes. Fax is indeed a legacy technology which like snail mail of paper documents is dying. But it's not dying as quickly as one might think.

I still have a multifunction printer/scanner/fax device that I use a few times a month, which has to be connected to a dedicated POTS line.

A lot of these faxes are scanned, then printed before being sent over, mostly as expense reports receipts for batch processing and also sent as legal documents and other things to large businesses which still, for some reason, don't want to take take them by email.

While I've moved all my voice services to VOIP over my broadband Internet connection or to my mobile phone, that copper POTS line still has to be there.

While companies like OOMA try to make Fax compatible with their VOIP products, the analog/digital conversion technology is essentially best effort because the protocol for analog data transmission used by fax machines was never originally designed to be used over digital connections.

So you can't easily connect a Fax machine to a VOIP appliance like an OOMA or any other of the things you might get for VOIP service that you'd normally attach a regular old telephone handset/base station to or even dedicated VOIP handsets, such as the OOMA Telo.

Indeed, there are services such aseFax which allow you to throw out your fax machine and instead print/email to a fax number from your computer/mobile device, receive faxes over email, and which also includes viewer apps for PCs/Macs and even iOS and Android devices.

eFax is awesome for someone who runs a small business. But eFax costs at least $160.00 a year, and thats actually more expensive than it costs for me as a home-based/mobile employee to have an occasional-use MFD sitting on a desk attached to a POTS line.

And I'd hardly call eFax a fully integrated solution with my Google Voice.

Ideally, what I'd like to see is for Google Voice to have a fully-integrated fax and document management system. And yes, I'd actually pay for such a service. Maybe Google should buy eFax and possibly even Evernote and integrate it into Google Voice.

That would be a killer app in my opinion.

It could be said that this might be a waste of time for Google to do, since everyone is emailing just about everything. But I don't think email is necessarily a good solution for document management even if analog Fax goes the way of the dodo bird.

I actually thought Hewlett-Packard had the right idea with its"Digital Sender"concept they originated back in the mid 1990's. But it was a bit too ahead of its time, and the units were very expensive for what they did. But I liked the way they automatically turned things into PDF format and directly emailed them to a recipient or sent them as a printer batch job across a network.

GMail doesn't exactly make it easy to organize documents through its labeling system, you sort of have to hack it up for yourself. And while you can compartmentalize stuff into folders and share documents with other users, Google Docs isn't really suited towards an Inbox/Outbox sort of document workflow.

The two concepts of email and personal document/information management need to be merged somehow with the unified messaging services that we already use today.

Ideally I would like to see the Fax/Scan/Document management tied into Google Docs and Google Voice, so I have a single entry portal for organizing all my personal and business activities in the Cloud. Literally, a "Place for my Stuff" in Carlinesque fashion.

Do you need an online "Place for your stuff?" that isn't served by just basic email? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

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