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Multi-Tech Faxfinder 820

In most businesses, faxes have been almost completely replaced by email and digital forms. Although this leaves only a small number of faxes to be sent or received, their importance can be very high, so businesses need a reliable solution to handle this residual traffic.
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Written by Tim Omer on
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8.0

Multi-Tech FaxFinder 820

Excellent
Like
  • Simple and flexible installation
  • Works standalone or with an existing PBX phone system
  • Good reporting and logging
Don't Like
  • Sending support is basic
  • Not ideal if your company sends a high number of faxes

In most businesses, faxes have been almost completely replaced by email and digital forms. Although this leaves only a small number of faxes to be sent or received, their importance can be very high, so businesses need a reliable solution to handle this residual traffic.

Multi-Tech's FaxFinder is a turnkey fax server, that connects to an analogue port on a PBX. and converts faxes to PDF or TIFF files so incoming faxes can be received as emails, and faxes can be sent from any application that can print. We reviewed the FF820, a very compact 1u unit with eight fax modems; Multi-Tech also offers one-, two- and four-modem units.

Unpacking the unit provided us with one (trivial) issue with the FaxFinder products: they violate one of the main rules of our new computer room — no beige equipment! Regrettably the FaxFinder is very beige, so we put it in an end rack, out of sight.

As you would expect from an appliance, the unit looks simple, with status LEDs at the front, eight RJ11 ports at the back for linking to your phone system, a network port and serial port for direct access if needed and a standard power lead (no external power brick).

Setup
The documentation on the CD includes a Cabling Guide, which we found unnecessary, plus a detailed 216-page Admin User Guide, which was much more useful. In our initial excitement, we skimmed the documentation in two minutes and dived in — then quickly returned to the documentation to see how the appliance would request IP information. This turns out to need a traditional old-school crossover cable; minutes later, the appliance was on the network.

The configuration used a simple web interface, with an administration page for IP, SMTP and time configuration, and a modem configuration page. Modems can be configured in Post mode, to connect directly to eight individual phone lines, or in DTMF mode, to connect to your internal PBX.

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We chose the latter, setting the modems to accept DTMF digits that our phone system would pass to the unit. A phone book lets you list an email address each modem port, and an admin account. In Post routing mode, each fax will be routed to the relevant email address. In DTMF mode each user who can receive or send faxes has an account including their email address and extension (the DTMF tone the PBX passes to FaxFinder), so the unit can forward faxes for that extension to the correct email address. In DTMF mode, any faxes that come into the system with no extension in the address book are processed as if in Post mode, going to the email address associated with the modem port the call came into.

Phone system setup
An account was created for each modem port on the fax server. Fax calls were forwarded to the server — if modem 1 is busy, the call is forwarded to modem 2, then 3 then 4 and so on, so up to eight faxes can be sent at once. The final step was to create a phone account for each of our fax numbers and to forward those calls to the phone account associated with modem 1 on the FaxFinder server. This then allows an unlimited number of Fax numbers, only restricted by the number of faxes we could send and receive at any one time — in this case eight.

Testing
Our first test fax worked flawlessly, but later faxes where not routed correctly at first. Any faxes with issues are sent to the Fax Admin, which allowed us to eventually decipher the problem. It turned out that the server expected four digits of the fax number, but the PBX was presenting four or six digits depending on how the fax was received.

The FaxFinder was flexible enough to easily resolve this, by setting the first four modems to expect four DTMF digits and the last four modems to expect six DTMF digits, supporting both situations.

Later we found that one of the modem ports refused to accept any faxes due to line quality issues, suggesting a fault on that line. Responding to an email, Multi-Tech's support explained that PBXs are optimisd for voice traffic and not modem data traffic. Lowering the maximum data from 14.4kbps to 9.6Kbps resolved the issue.

It was interesting that only one modem port appeared to be affected by this, but with the reassurance of a two-year RTB warranty and a working system, we were happy to keep this unit.

Client software
Multi-Tech provides basic client software to allow users to send faxes, which can be installed simply on the client's computer and logged into the FaxFinder server. This software appears to be an afterthought; it provides basic contact synchronisation with Microsoft Outlook, but no direct integration with the product.

In Outlook, outgoing faxes must be printed to a 'Multi-Tech FaxFinder' printer. They are then sent to the client software, where you can enter a phone number, select a contact and add a cover pages. It does the job, but integrating the product directly with Outlook would have made the process a lot simpler for the user and provided a more polished solution.

Installing client software in a large organisation is not ideal; a better solution would be to send documents to be faxed to Faxfinder as email attachments, which are then converted to faxes. We'd like to see Multi-Tech offer this as a firmware update in future.

Conclusion
Multi-Tech FaxFinder is a simple-to-install and flexible appliance. The system provides good configuration and logging options and integration to an existing PBX is seamless. The system would benefit from additional features for larger businesses - for example, being able to pick users directly from the company’s Active Directory domain in the Phone Book page and support for email to fax conversion. If you're after a flexible and reliable solution to process your incoming faxes, then FaxFinder does the job well.

 

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