What fax machine should I buy?
November 18, 2008 2:15 PM   Subscribe

I need a fax machine. Recommendations?

I recently bought a business whose previous proprietor used the same number for his fax and his telephone. I've gotten a new line installed, and intend to gradually switch customers over to using it, but in the meantime I'm left with the annoying situation of faxes and phone calls coming in over the same line, to a late-80's thermal paper fax which picks up every call. If it is a fax it takes the call, as it should, but if it is voice, it answers the call with "Please Wait ..." repeated indefinitely until I pick up.

I am in Australia, phone lines provided through Telstra; requests for the obvious technological solution of the phone provider identifying whether the call is fax or voice prior to me or the machine picking up, seems to be beyond their abilities to implement or even understand. The solution, at this time, needs to be a machine at my end.

I want to be able to redirect the phone to my mobile when I'm out of the office; therefore, the fax has to be able to easily (1) be "put on the line" if a call I pick up turns out to be a fax; (2) be able to easily be put into "not pick up" mode; (3) ideally, choose whether or not it picks up based on a list of caller-ID numbers, ie customers' fax numbers. I'm prepared to take the risk of fax calls to my mobile. Ideally, I'd like to be able to connect the fax via USB to a computer to perform both incoming (ie, the machine stores them as TIFF or similar files) and outgoing faxing.

So, I need a new fax, and there are overwhelming numbers and varieties of the things, none of which I have so far identified as capable of the tasks above. I don't care about scanner/copier capability; if the fax machine comes with it, great, if not, so be it.

I could set up a computer with a fax modem instead, but it would have to be capable of the behaviors described above, particularly the "pick up/don't pick up" decision based on the caller ID, allowing the call to "redirect on no answer" to my mobile if the machine does not pick up.

Any make and models (or software) to recommend? Budget for it is ~$500 max.
posted by aeschenkarnos to Technology (2 answers total)
Best answer: I wouldn't pipe up if anyone else had, but I hate to see questions go unanswered.

There is no magic bullet to fax detection because fax machines are fairly stupid -- they just beep intermittently until something beeps back at them or they time out. So there is no way to know if something is a fax until one of you beeps at the other. If I was in your shoes I would set up an Asterisk server. It seems like it would be possible to have Asterisk answer every call, listen silently (or maybe keep playing a ringing tone, who knows) for a fax and then either forward the call to the fax machine extension or a voice extension (optionally your cell phone after hours). Asterisk can also easily direct calls based on caller-id. One hitch is that fax machines don't work with audio compression, so you will need to pick your codec carefully.

Asterisk is free, the analog POTS hardware is cheap but the time and skills to set up a system if you can't do it yourself are costly.

Sorry this isn't more helpful but I don't think there is an easy solution.
posted by ChrisHartley at 8:58 AM on November 19, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks, I'll look into it. :)
posted by aeschenkarnos at 6:08 PM on November 22, 2008

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