End of SBS 2003 Faxing Discussion: Swiss Army Knife Approach

Hey there – today is the end of the chapter nine postings regarding faxing in Windows Small Business Server 2003 (SBS) from my purple “Best Practices” book. That was a long journey deep into FAXING and I, for one, am ready to move along.

Enjoy the read – new topic tomorrow!

 

enjoy…harrybbbb

Harry Brelsford, CEO at smb nation www.smbnation.com

Microsoft Small Business Specialist SBSC, MBA, MCSE, MCT, MCP, CNE, CLSE, CNP

PS – did u know I host an annual conference in Seattle each october for SBSers and SMB consultants? This year we help launch SBS 2008 and Essential Business Server (EBS) between October 4-6!

 

The Swiss Army Knife

Needless to say, I like the awesome faxing capability in SBS 2003.  While it’s similar to the faxing capability in SBS 2000, the setup and configuration of the Shared Fax Service is much better in SBS 2003. In fact, in my older “Small Business Server 2000 Best Practices” book, I spent a great deal of time in this section showing you how to manually configure faxing because no easy point­and-click wizards existed! Such dark days are behind us, and I can give you a quick overview of the Fax (Local) Properties property sheet.

First, perform the following steps at the SBS server machine while you are logged on as Administrator.

1                    Click Start, Server Management.

2                    Right-click on Fax (Local) under Standard Management and select Properties.

3                    The General tab will be displayed by default. You will see tabs for Receipts, Event Reports, Activity Logging, Outbox, Inbox, Sent

 

Items, and Security (all of which will be shown and discussed in this section).

General

As seen in Figure 9-14, the General tab displays general in-progress information under Activity. However, this is not its great strength.  What’s really valuable is the ability to disable specific fax activities via the three disable check boxes. And why would you ever do this? I can think of one reason I’ve already used in SBS 2003: to add a new fax modem to the server.  By disabling the function to send (Disable transmission of outgoing faxes) and receive faxes (Disable reception of new faxes), you could replace a broken modem or add a new one (an external modem I’m assuming) without affecting a user’s ability to submit new faxes to be sent out when the faxing capability is restored via the fixed/ new modem. As long as the submission-related check box isn’t selected (Disable submission of new outgoing faxes), users could continue to submit faxes to the default fax queue for transmission at a later time.

Figure 9-14

The General tab sheet is valuable for temporarily disabling faxing capabilities.

Receipts

Not surprisingly, the Receipts tab displays configuration selections for how delivery notification receipts should be handled. Under Message Box, the Enable message boxes are receipts check box is selected which allows users to elect how they would like to be notified when a receipt is sent.

More important, you can configure an SMTP e-mail box (either on the local SBS network or out on the wild side of the Internet) to receive delivery receipts. This occurs by completing the Fax Configuration Wizard (in SBS 2000 you have to manually configure the tab sheet). I thought you would enjoy seeing the Receipts tab before (Figure 9-15) and after (Figure 9-16) the Fax Configuration Wizard has been completed so that you could see exactly how said wizard configures the faxing function.

Figure 9-15

The Receipts tab before the Fax Configuration Wizard has been run.

Figure 9-16

The Receipts tab after the Fax Configuration Wizard has been run.

Event Reports

As they say in business, once you lose someone’s trust, it is very hard to regain. Such is still the case with many SBSers who, twice burned by the faxing application in both SBS 4.x versions (4.0a, 4.5), are legitimately casting a wary eye toward the “new and improved” faxing capabilities that started in SBS 2000 and continue today in SBS 2003. Okay, fair enough.  So on the Event Reports tab sheet, I recommend you set the levels for error tracking to High from the default position (which is one notch to the left of High) for each of the tracking areas (General, Incoming, Outgoing, Initialization or Shutdown).

That way, if you need to troubleshoot the faxing capability of SBS 2003, you’ll at least be capturing all of the information you need.

Activity Logging

By default, the logging activity for incoming and outgoing fax activity is selected by default, as you can observe on the Activity Logging tab.

The logs are stored at: %system root%\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\Microsoft\ Windows NT\MSFax\ActivityLog

BEST PRACTICE: Note: To actually see the Application Data folder in the above string (fourth term from the left), your Windows Explorer file manager tool would need to be configured to display hidden files and folders.

The location can be changed by clicking the Browse button. The actual logs are text-based and reflect fax transaction activity.

BEST PRACTICE: Take this fax logging discussion seriously. I’ve billed good hours to SBS clients having to go back in time and prove or disprove that faxes were sent or received in matters involving litigation. When the pedals hit the metal in the courtroom, it is often necessary to resolve a “he said, she said” argument by showing SBS fax logs.

One other way to view fax activity is to view Event Viewer in SBS 2003 with the following steps:

1                    Assuming you are logged on to the SBS server machine as Adminis­trator, click Start, Server Management.

2                    Expand Advanced Management, Computer Management (Local).

3                    Expand Event Viewer.

4                    Select System.

5                    To observe outgoing fax activity, look for an Information entry for Print that has an Event ID of 10.

 

BEST PRACTICE: A Print entry #10 should be followed immediately by a Print entry #13 that confirms the document as deleted from the Fax queue after it was successfully sent. Also note that later in the book (Chapter 11) I speak to how to turn off Event ID 10 so your event log doesn’t get full. You’ll need to make the trade-off between tons of printer entries in your event log and receiving fax report information in this manner.

Now, viewing incoming faxes via Event Viewer is a slightly different procedure. Here you would look for at the Application event log in Event Viewer; for the Source equals Microsoft Fax, look for Event ID# 32008. This confirms the fax was received.

BEST PRACTICE: The Application event log will record Event ID # 32093 if the received faxed is archived and Event ID # 32081 if the received faxed is routed to an e-mail address.

Please refer to Chapter 12 and read the discussion on the Server Usage Report to learn about other ways to monitor and report faxing activity.

Notes:

Outbox

By default, several check boxes are selected for you on the Outbox tab sheet (see Figure 9-17). One that stands out in particular is that, by default, users can use personal cover pages. This is possible because the Allow use of personal cover pages check box is selected. But if you or your clients find this to be unacceptable, you should deselect this check box. Remember that personal cover pages can be silly and offensive in many business climates.

Figure 9-17

The default view of the Outbox tab sheet.

Note the Outbox tab sheet allows you to set some other important settings, such as number of times a fax call will be attempted (Number of retries), time between retries (Retry after), and setting the discount rate period (Discount rate start, Discount rate stop) that users can select when sending a fax. The Automatically delete faxes older than 7 days setting, selected by default, would indicate that older faxes that never successfully sent will be deleted.

Inbox

The Inbox allows you to make the selection that allows you to save incoming faxes (via the Archive all incoming faxes to this folder check box). This location was defined earlier in the chapter when I suggested you could create a shared folder on the SBS 2003 server called “SharedFax” for your users to browse. By default, the check box allowing Event log warning entries (Generate warning in Event Log) and deleting faxes over 90 days old (Automatically delete faxes older than 90 days) are selected. The Inbox is shown in Figure 9-18.

Figure 9-18

The Inbox tab sheet.

BEST PRACTICE: You might consider modifying to fewer days the Automatically delete faxes older than 90 days check box for one very important business reason. At this point in the chapter, you’ve used the Fax Configuration Wizard to tell SBS 2003 to save your faxes in a public folder named Faxes and in a WSS folder. That’s where you’ll store your faxes for historical purposes.

But there is another interesting tale to tell about the faxing Inbox. It was a sunny Seattle summer day when a program manager from Microsoft Israel both took me to school and lunch. Having read the chapter on faxing in my book, Small Business Server 2000 Best Practices, this gentleman wanted to bend my ear and set me straight on a few things. First, the Inbox in the Shared Fax Service is “transitory” in nature, so you shouldn’t modify the quota (watermark) settings to stuff more faxes in the Inbox. Rather, use the other storage approaches allowed and just discussed a few sentences ago. Second, if your fax Inbox fills so rapidly because you’re really using the inbound faxing capability, and you overstep the quota boundaries, you’d know that the Shared Fax Service will effective shut down until the Inbox is cleared. But here again, you wouldn’t trade out your watermark settings, but lower the automatic fax deletion setting to keep that darn Inbox free!

Loyal readers will respectively notice that this is a reversal from my SBS 2000 book.

Notes:

Sent Items

The Sent Items tab sheet looks very similar to the Inbox tab sheet. You can make Archive folder and Archive rules selections. And again, you might deselect the Automatically delete faxes older than 60 days check box to preserve faxes indefinitely.

Security

We met the security tab sheet earlier in the chapter when we modified the permissions that allowed mere mortals to view faxes in the Fax Console. That said, Security is one of the more important tab sheets, and it is where you could use the Deny permission to prevent an individual user from using the faxing capabilities in SBS 2003.

Devices and Providers, Routing and Such!

In the prior SBS 2000 release, you really had to learn much about the nested settings beneath the Fax (Local) and shown in Figure 9-19 in order to fully utilize and appreciate the SBS faxing function. Such is not the case today with the wizard-based setup of the Shared Fax Service in SBS 2003 where all this stuff is basically handled for you. However, you’re encouraged to poke and probe around the edges of the faxing function by drilling down into these settings and taking a look-see at how things work. In my advanced SBS 2003 text, due in mid-2004, I’ll discuss this behind-the-scenes area much more. Until then!

Notes:

Figure 9-19

Delve deeper than you imagined with the child object beneath Fax (Local).

Faxing Alternatives

I want to quickly present an Internet faxing service that allows you to not use the faxing application in SBS 2003, but still have some of the benefits of computer-based faxing. This is a service I’ve used called OneBox at http://www.onebox.com (Figure 9-20). After completing a quick sign-up process, you will have free e-mail, voicemail (which is cool), and faxing tied to a regular telephone number in your area code and including a short telephone extension. So, when people want to fax to you, they enter the full telephone number followed by a few commas (pauses) and then your four-digit extension. The fax is received by OneBox and you’re notified by e-mail that you have a fax waiting.

Notes:

Figure 9-20

OneBox is an Internet-based fax service that captures incoming faxes as a digital image.

So, why in the world would you do this with the new faxing service so handy in SBS? I can think of two reasons.

                      Carrot and stick. Set up a reluctant client on OneBox to turn them onto computer-based faxing and its benefits as a way to “hook” them.  Then use that as leverage to implement the Shared Fax Service in SBS 2003.

                      The “heck with it crowd.” Perhaps the reading you’ve done in this chapter has actually scared you about SBS’s faxing capabilities.  You might find a service such as OneBox easier to use. Whatever works, as they say in business.

 

Summary

So you’ve decided to become an SBS fax organization:  You’ve decided to make the fax function part of your SBS network and everyday business-world activity. You’ve possibly arrived at this decision, based on much of the discussion herein and by considering the following about SBS network faxing:

                      Reduced hardware costs – Not only have you eliminated the need to purchase an expensive, modern fax machine, more important, you’ve eliminated the need to have each workstation equipped with its own fax modem and fax telephone line (I’ve seen it done). I’ve used the capability to eliminate multiple fax telephone lines in the past to help a firm justify the cost of an SBS conversion.

                      Ease of use – Properly trained SBS users find sending certain types of documents and receiving any document to be easy with SBS network-based faxing. To read a typical fax, the user only needs to double-click to open the fax image. To send a fax, the user only needs to use the basic printing command.

                      Monitoring and control – Again, depending on your unique situation, you might have an important need to control fax usage. That type of control is exceedingly difficult with a traditional fax machine, but with SBS, the network security model dictates who can use the fax service.

 

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