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back to article UK biz: Fax us and explain what this cloud thing is

Forty per cent of workers in Britain's small businesses still use fax machines on a daily basis, a report into the IT habits of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) has found. The paper was published today by Intel. While the fax machines are running full tilt, only 16.2 per cent of IT users in small business used a smartphone …

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Mushroom

More "let's worship the cloud, it is our lord and master" marketing stuff.

You need some expertise to update your in-house IT, but you also need some expertise to do cloud and mobile properly.

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Fax Machines work and are easy and simple. If I need an insurance cert or reference from a customer it is far easier for them to fax it than it is for me to logon to my email, find the file, open the PDF and then print it.

Yes, it would be possible to write a script that prints any attachment sent to fax@company.com however, why bother? When a fax machine and a decent VOIP set up is just as cheap and idiot proof. And it is being idiot proof that is the real winner for fax.

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Anonymous Coward

How would the use of either of these improve the productivity of most small business workers? They're toys for home & recreation use aren't they?

If you can identify the solution and sell it then you may improve uptake. A fax works!! Well, most/enough of the time...

I know some small business who are avid tech users but most I come across aren't. And some do tell porkies as well in surveys...

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Silver badge
Unhappy

Cloud - Again !

Can someone explain the benefits for a firm that works from a single office that all employees have to attend in person, most of said employees being within a 15 minute radius.

As for faxes. We'd love to ditch them but get a lot of faxes from {gasp} rather large companies - who expect return faxes.

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Bronze badge
Meh

At least with a fax machine...

...it's much harder to send "the names and email addresses of 46,524" subscribers to all and sundry.

BTW., any news from the ICO?

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Silver badge
Stop

Faxes are still used because they're easy

If I have a paper document and want to send a copy to someone, it is often much easier to drop it into the fax and send it to someone (especially if they're programmed into the speed dial) than it is to run up a scan program on the PC, perhaps convert the resultant huge TIFF into PDF, and then send it as an attachment in a mail message, which has to be printed by the recipient.

Also consider the legal situation. There is plenty of precedent for taking a faxed signed document as legally binding. Technically *we* know that a scanned & emailed document is no more or less free from possible forgery, but until that gets tested by the courts a few times, using a fax still confers some perceived protection.

As for smartphones, if I just want to make a phone call, a 10-year-old candybar works just fine, thanks.

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Stop

Can someone explain to me what's better about

Putting a file in a scanner. Waiting for it to scan to pdf and then attaching it to an email to send it rather than putting a document in a fax machine and typing a number in...

I'm not a business but I have an all in one scanner/printer/fax and find the fax part exceedingly useful. For example I recently sent my proof of no claims to my new insurance and was much easier to put in fax number and let it scan than switching computer on, waiting for it to scan, open it to make sure it's scanned ok and then sending an email!

I appreciate you can direct email from a scanner but most don't have keyboards so your left typing an email on a directional pad that takes far longer than typing in an 11 digit phone number.

Obviously having a digital document copy on a computer but that's not needed every time.

I'm not saying fax is the be all and end all but it is still a very useful tool that complements email rather than replaces it!

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Linux

The opposite often applies...

Small businesses use fax because it's dependable. This should be a lesson to IT developers that the need is for products which work reliably, NOT products with a million stupid gimmicks that break down every five minutes and take a team of rocket-scientists to maintain.

Main issue you meet is that IT installers simply aren't geared-up to meet the needs of the small business, and IT guys have mostly been trained on corporate systems.

So, you end-up with a tiny office having two computers joined to an Active Directory Controller, with an Exchange server, complex passwords that expire, inhouse DNS that is a potential failure-point for Internet access, backup systems that probably don't work, multifunction inkjet printers that cost thousands a year in consumables, and so on. To cap it all, of the two computers one probably runs Windows XP and the other Windows 7 so they can't interoperate properly on a domain anyway.

All of this ends-up costing a mint in support. Which, is probably the objective. It's a milking exercise, more often than not.

Linux, because it would actually be better for many small business servers.

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Meh

Fax isn't a good indicator

Disclaimer: I work as a messaging systems engineer - email, fax, IM.

Fax isn't as great an indicator of "backwards" as you'd like to think.

The plain fact is that a fax is a legally understood medium in every jurisdiction that matters. Email isn't.

So if you send an offer, a contract, a complaint or other documents by fax internationally then it's usually as legally binding as the real thing via the post. Those court battles were fought years ago, and won in favour of the fax.

The same cannot be said of email.

So when doing business, especially internationally, fax is often preferred. (Just yesterday, I spoke to someone whose small business only has a fax machine for dealing with suppliers in Europe.)

In some cases, they may have to send documents by fax because it's required by law, or because lawyers (on either side) have advised it be used as a "belt and braces" measure.

This doesn't mean that Intel's paper isn't valid - just that it may have picked the wrong metrics.

Interesting to see that people don't know what the cloud is even if they're using it, though - the buzzword is overused, so I shouldn't be as surprised as I was.

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Unhappy

Fax machines...

For some purposes the fax machine is still the best technology for the job.

I regularly use fax to get quotes for small pieces of fabrication, where a formal drawing is unnecessary.

It is considerably quicker to scribble a note on a sheet of paper, add a quick sketch and fax it, than to fire up the CAD package and export to email etc.

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Depends on the business

If you want to get a signed contract across, a fax is the only way to do it fast. Emails simply don't have any legal standing.

As for using a smartphone or tablet for work,well bugger me backwards, I am surprised. Most small businesses don't need instant access to email - it's quite sufficient to work all day, then field any emails in the evening. And tablets - why in the name of Beelzebub and all his little imps would any muppet think that would make a contribution to most businesses?

Why no plan to buy hardware? Well, perhaps because what you've got does what you need it to. WinXP is fine for most people. Add Office 2K or OpenOffice and we're good to go. I recently made the mistake of buying Win7, and my desktop machine is now unusably dog-slow. I ain't doing that again.

Oh, and any business using Google Docs is an unprofessional bunch of amateurs, and they deserve everything they get. If your business-critical data is not physically on a machine in your possession, you're a bloody fool.

So thanks but no thanks, Anna. Small businesses will happily stay in your so-called "Digital Dark Age" and stay profitable. They won't fritter away money on rubbish they don't need - it might help the economy as a whole and pull us out of recession, but it'll do feck all for these companies.

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Thumb Down

That is simply not true...

... I worked in the largest law firm in the world (as a solicitor), in the Netherlands, Poland, France and the UK and I worked as in-house lawyer for Airbus and now I'm the head lawyer of a software company. In all these places (certainly in the last 6 or 7 years) signed/scanned PDFs have been perfectly sufficient to create the desired legal relationship. Indeed that is far more common that faxes.

If a party was to say (in an English court at least): "Sorry Judge, I don't consider myself bound by the contract because it was a PDF" [not a fax], he would be laughed out of Court (by the Judge) and he would lose and he would be ordered to pay his opponents legal costs. Of course, if there was a digital forgery, that could be raised, but then the emphasis would be on the party seeking to allege that a signature had been forged (email chains are good against this).

Incidentally, I now sign documents by inserting a JPG of my signature into a word document and printing to PDF which preserves the quality of the text and avoids having to use a printer at all, and I've noticed more and more people doing this.

0 Even in the 'conservative' law firm, contracts and documents which were suposed to be binding

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Anonymous Coward

"tapping phone numbers into a candy bar-like feature phone"

A what how now? Aren't you getting a little ahead of yourself? Feature phones go outdated maybe not as fast as jesusphones but far faster than the old desk phone. You won't find ITS battery dead with no spares available.

There's nothing wrong with still using fax. In fact, it comes with distinct upsides over email and even paper mail. It's quick as a phone call and gives direct feedback about the delivery; the receipt'll stand up in court and doesn't cost extra like for paper mail. And in email those return receipts usually don't even work. It's why I'm so annoyed my (supposedly) enterprise smartphone doesn't support fax mode.

So what's this, "research" by intel as a big fat hint to buy more newish stuff? No thanks. Busy keeping the old business afloat, you know. Though with a little respect for technology that actually works just fine, thank you, I'm sure a smart person can find a nice niche serving SMEs and their technology use. But that would indeed require the silly valley 20-something crowd to look up from their jesusphone and watch how other people do their thing, with or without tech. Shock, horror!

If people prefer to send each other faxes, typewritten letters, or hand-written notes for all I care, well, let them. Where IS the mailable sub-10p USB stick, by the by? Do I really have to stick with cheap 8cm CDRs?

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Hmm...

Not sure I buy the first premise of this article. Is it really so wrong using fax machines?

Depends on what you're sending and receiving, of course (do you need assurance around guaranteed delivery, security, authenticity, etc, etc), but with that caveat I'm not sure I buy the outright assumption that old technology = bad technology.

Isn't spending unnecessarily on technology which may or may not turn out to be any more secure or reliable (hello, "cloud") even worse?

The whole article has a sales spin: it's bad for the country that small businesses aren't hurling cash at their IT infrastructure - regardless of whether that's actually wise.

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Anonymous Coward

NHS!

The only reason we keep fax machines around is because the NHS loves them. We receive in the order of ~500 faxes per day from the NHS, and we probably send around 100 a day back to them.

All good fun :-(

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Thumb Down

I have a fax machine...

... in fact the exact same one shown in your image, *with* the same stickers on it!

And you know what? It works! Why the hell would I, running a one-man business, need to faff around with (let alone pay for) "clouds", smartphones, fondle slabs or any other such "OMG it's shiny, we have to have it!" nonsense?

As for "there is a real business need for these solutions", whose business is this, exactly? Mine, or the people trying to flog the stuff?

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