Case Study – The Complexities of the Simple Fax

Fax Machine


Josh O’Farrell at Spearline shares insights about fax communications.

While many believe it to be an obsolete piece of machinery with no role in the modern workplace, fax still remains one of the more commonly used forms of communication. One real-life situation illustrates the potential complexities of the “simple fax.”

A global organization had been experiencing long-term intermittent faults within their fax process. In a highly regulated space such as the medical sector, the situation had become critical when many months of effort to identify the cause and resolve the issue delivered no result. The organization turned to Spearline.

When it comes to problem-solving, network operations professionals will often prefer a “hard” outage to an elusive, intermittent fault. In this case, it is generally simpler to trace the observed fault to some defective source, whether a hardware failure or a software bug.

An intermittent fault will often present itself with some consistent pattern. However, in a large and complex network environment, the pattern and frequency are difficult to recognize.

Spearline provides global telecommunications assurance monitoring and testing through its Voice Assure SaaS platform, which offers the capability to monitor and test fax services.

This is vital for businesses where critical information is received or sent that has legal requirements for processing within stated timelines and other regulatory constraints.

The Environment

A global business process leverages fax communications, which are centralized in Asia. The process leverages inbound toll-free services worldwide to deliver fax messaging to a central fax server farm. Multiple carriers provide inbound services, terminating traffic on a central high-capacity trunk.

The Problem

Recurring faults had been reported and investigated with no conclusive root cause identified. Efforts to identify any workaround to reduce the frequency or eliminate the problem had failed. Multiple tickets with both the terminating carrier and the inbound service carriers were opened but inconclusive.

The Solution

The business used Spearline Voice Assure’s fax capability to create a test strategy generating inbound calls from Spearline’s in-country network PoPs, both fixed-line and GSM, across multiple international TFNs and DIDs where previous reports had trigger tickets and investigations.

Testing intervals were set to ensure incident capture around the clock, at key top- and bottom-of-hour points, and at mid-hour points.

Spearline’s platform reported on the successful handshake tones when answered on the terminating end. In the event of a failure, the platform provided a full call detail record (CDR) and an event recording (mp3 of the audio channel). With the robust testing strategy, problem incidents were indeed encountered and captured.

The Findings

While user-reported incidents can omit critical troubleshooting information such as originating-number, exact time of call, and more, the platform-generated CDR identifies the offending call to the millisecond, with rich information to enable productive problem-solving at the carrier end.

Armed with multiple event samples, with full CDR data, the problem-solving teams were able to identify that the fault was at the terminating carrier end. They quickly moved the focus from the trunk to a common circuit and specific channel which was responsible for the fault.

Any occurrences of that particular circuit/channel selected via the hunting schema resulted in a failed fax attempt. That single circuit was immediately removed from the trunk, reducing capacity directly, but removing the fault. The circuit was later reconfigured and returned to the trunk.

A thumbnail photo of Josh O’Farrell

Josh O’Farrell

Voice Assure’s fax support was instrumental in systematically building a body of evidence pointing to the root cause and resolving an ongoing mystery and source of immense operational frustration and business risk.

This excerpt was taken from our latest whitepaper ‘How reliable are fax communications?’ We examine the role fax plays as one of the most commonly used forms of communication across a wide variety of sectors, such as medical, financial and legal. We explore what sectors rely on fax communications, provide insight and discuss the vital role fax monitoring and testing plays, and ask how these sectors can be affected by insecure communications.

Author: Guest Author

Published On: 15th Apr 2021 - Last modified: 25th Jan 2023
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