Of course, in order to be able to send and receive faxes via this Email to fax gateway, an appropriate fax device is required. This can be a traditional Class 1 or 2 fax modem, ISDN card, or a dedicated fax board from a company like Brooktrout. Once the server has one or more of these devices installed and configured, the server component of GFI FAXmaker for Exchange can be installed on the Exchange Server. While the installation of the server software is very straightforward, one potential issue involves the need for minimal schema modification in Active Directory environments. As such, schema modification must be enabled on your forest’s Schema Master prior to attempting the installation. Once installed, GFI FAXmaker runs as just another Windows 2000 service.
Along with the GFI FAXmaker for Exchange server component, there is also an optional client component that can be installed on user desktops. The client software installs both the FAXmaker printer on client systems, along with the FAXmaker viewer, a program to view any faxes received. If only used to send faxes from within Outlook, installation of the client software is not explicitly required.
Users Sending and Receiving Faxes
While I’ll evaluate some of the technical implementation details of the product shortly, the real litmus test for any software is whether it is intuitive and easy for users to figure out. In this respect I couldn’t have been happier with GFI FAXmaker for Exchange. After installing and configuring it for 5 different Outlook users in my office, it took only a brief demonstration of its capabilities for them to get the hang of things. Although the concept of “printing” the fax threw a few users off, they immediately understood the concept once Outlook automatically opened a message with the fax attached. From here, the users simply chose the recipient of the fax (using the user’s “Business Fax” entry) from either their Outlook Contacts or the Exchange Global Address List, as shown below.
Ultimately, a cover page is attached to the fax by GFI FAXmaker at the server level. The information is gathered from the To, From, and Subject lines, with the message on the cover page gathered from the contents of the what would normally be the email message itself.
While they found sending faxes using GFI FAXmaker for Exchange easy enough, what my users loved most was the ability to receive faxes directly into their Outlook Inbox. Upon receipt, the users found the concept very intuitive – they treated the fax as they would any standard file attachment, without my prompting. This ultimately opens the fax in the GFI FAXmaker viewer, as shown below.