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What is the best way to handle a bunch of fax lines? I'm looking to setup a local fax server that I can pack full of models so 40 users can receive faxes directly to their desktops. Other than adding a ton of USB modems or buying $4,500 Brooktrout 8-modem PCI cards I'm at a bit of a loss. Any suggestions?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

You don't need to setup 1 modem per user. You just need enough lines to handle the concurrent traffic. So if you only have at max 3 fax operations going on at a time, you only need 3 fax modems and a 4-port multi-modem card will handle that traffic.

We setup a solution supporting about 300 users. The server is RedHat Linux running Hylafax with a Perle 4 port multi-modem card. We then have our phone system set to convert the DID number (in our case, the last for digits of the phone number) to the CallerID information. Then on Hylafax side, we have a configuration that links the CallerID to an email address.

So remote person dials 1-123-456-7890, that is set to a pool that balances to one of the 4 lines, the callerID information gets set to 7890, hylafax answers the modem, converts the fax TIFF to a PDF and emails it to the address associated with 7890. This solution also allows outbound faxing from the desktop using HylaFSP on our Windows workstations.

I am not a phone person, so I am a little sketchy on the details of the magic that happens at the phone level, but hopefully what I have posted is enough to get you in the right direction.

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Ahhh, this sounds great. I know very little about the phone system as well. So I wasn't sure how many modems we required and what not. I think I'm going to have to contact the guys that do our phones and see if I can iron out the details. Thanks for your help. – jcm Nov 25 '09 at 17:52

You should be able to handle this with a 4 or 8-port Digi or Multitech modem card and something like Esker VSIfax or Hylafax.

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A T1 card should be 24 lines.

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Digi has 8-modem devices for $2200

That's still a lot of money, however...

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While there is a setup cost for doing this, the monthly cost can really be a determining factor. I'm not sure where you are and costs will vary by location/provider but I'd look into these:

  • Channelized T1 will give you 23 concurrent calls. This is probably overkill for only 40 users but your environment may demand it. On top of the monthly for the T1 find out how much it will cost you for each DID number.

  • One of the multiple modem cards you mentioned. In addition to each line, you'll also have a charge for the additional DID numbers. Depending on your provider; you may or may not run into issues with inbound numbers ringing busy if a particular line is in use for an outbound fax.

  • VoIP Server and DID VoIP Lines. You will want a solid internet connection for this but your monthly cost may be cheaper. Alternately, some of the VoIP Providers offer fax to email termination.

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