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   ARTICLE   |   From Scotsman Guide Residential Edition   |   June 2014

Focus on Faxing

Ask yourself these six questions to help your company streamline its fax usage

The mortgage industry is facing a transitional time, with new regulations and a market downturn at the top of many originators’ minds. As mortgage companies look to trim their information-technology budgets and improve services to customers, technologies like online faxing can help drive efficiency and cost savings. Before this can be achieved, however, companies need to understand how different employees, departments and locations use these services.

As a mortgage broker or banker in today’s market, you’re probably managing and dealing with lots of paperwork, especially confidential documents and contracts. Whether these are lender documents, borrower contracts or proprietary documents, the chances are good that your office has paperwork coming in and out of its fax machines every day.

Many mortgage organizations have either under- or over-invested in on-premise fax servers and the supporting telephone and Internet infrastructures required, as peak-load conditions are difficult to predict and may occur only once or twice a month. Does your bank or brokerage support its peak bandwidth load but have many multiples of unused bandwidth 90 percent of the time, or does your company equip itself for the median load and attempt to deal with delays and unsent faxes at the peak?

Because fax-server bandwidth can’t be inventoried, sizing becomes a critical cost-benefit equation. How can you determine which approach is best for your company? What are the various faxing options? Typically, fax-server capacity decisions depend on the importance of the documents being transmitted. Because faxed documents often have financial or contractual implications, most companies tend to overspend for peak load capacity and backup service protection rather than risk service delays or interruptions.

For banks and brokerages that have variable transaction volumes, an alternative approach is to get out of the fax-server business and use hosted fax services in the cloud. Using a hosted service provider is a pay-per-use proposition — you simply purchase however much or however little service you need.

In-house fax server or hosted fax service? How can you determine which approach is best for your organization? Start by answering the following six questions as an evaluation of your best option.

1. Is your volume predictable?

If your company’s faxing volume fluctuates significantly from day to day — or even hour to hour — you may have a situation where you would be best served by a pay-per-use model. Investing in an infrastructure to support peak loads may be a waste of money and service.

2. Is your volume growing?

Take the amount of faxes that your company sends today and compare that volume to, for instance, two years ago. Where do you expect that fax volume to be two years from now?

When considering a capital investment in a fixed asset, you want to be reasonably certain that your case for continued usage will extend beyond the return-on-investment period. Otherwise, the model of renting versus owning may be more cost-effective.

3. Is routing required?

Once a fax enters your organization, what is the process for getting it to the right person? Is a workflow with multiple approvers required?

You also need to ask yourself how many incoming faxes end up being copied. Related to that, how many incoming faxes are lost before they reach the proper recipient? With hosted fax services, it is easy to assign each user in your company a dedicated fax line, ensuring that incoming faxes are directed to the intended individual.

4. Are your faxes integrated?

Does your staff simply need to fax from desktop devices or do you need to have detailed integrations to back-office programs? Fax servers are often employed when complex integrations to enterprise-resource planning applications and other corporate applications are required.

If you still wish to move to the cloud, you’ll need to ensure that your service provider offers robust application programming interfaces for your platform.

5. Are your faxes audited?

Where do you keep a record of sent and received faxes? How often are these records accessed? If you receive documents from multiple sources such as e-mail and fax, this matter can be especially complicated.

Do you want to maintain dual audit trails, port all transactions to a content-management platform or implement a solution that integrates e-mail and fax transactions? More and more mortgage organizations are taking a paperless route to their operations by using cloud-based data and document storage. Ultimately, companies that figure out how to use technology to do more with less may come out ahead of their competition.

6. Are you compliant?

As the mortgage industry continues to be subject to significant regulatory scrutiny, it is increasingly important for every bank and brokerage to be sure that it’s compliant, and that compliance extends to how it sends and receives faxes. Mortgage organizations should first consider their physical security requirements, and then they should consider document and data-security issues.

Cloud-service providers should be able to explain compliance considerations such as encryption in transit and at rest. If you use an in-house application, you need to document similar assurances of protected lender and borrower information on your own.

•  •  •

To a large extent, the technological evolution for faxes mirrors that of computers. Corporate computer usage began with mainframes, evolved into client servers and today is increasingly focused on Web-based applications. Similarly, the fax market has moved from dedicated fax machines to fax servers and, now, to cloud-fax services.

As you ask yourself these six key questions, it’s important to take stock of where your company currently stands with regards to its fax usage and operations. If your activities indicate that you would be better off focusing on core business competencies and leave the faxing to a dedicated service, it could be time to move to the cloud. 


 


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