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Fax server speeds communications.

Stevens Travel Management handles $75 million of travel business for its corporate clientele per year. Dealing with such a large volume of transactions requires significant data handling resources, including mainframe links, fare optimization software and client notification.

Agents in our various offices work at terminals which are connected via local gateways to the mainframe-based reservation system we subscribe to, Worldspan PARS. We have what we call a "robot" LAN at our central processing facility, which is also connected to the mainframe host, and thereby also to the remote offices.

This robot LAN is essentially a network of PCs acting as application servers. They run software we developed in-house, called Total Reservation Enhancement Systems (T/RES), which handles such functions as lower-fare searches, wait-list clearance and quality control.

In addition, we have a two-component fax solution that greatly streamlines our agents' ability to provide their clients with instant confirmation of their travel plans. The first component is the T/FAX robot, which monitors fax requests and formats reservation records into what we call a "Layman's Language Itinerary." The second is a network fax server running FACSys fax server software from Optus.

Rather than having to issue a print request from the terminal, wait for the print job to be processed, retrieve the hard copy, and then manually send it at the office fax machine (in addition to waiting on line there if other agents are using the fax or if the client's fax line is busy), agents can now send their faxes with just a few keystrokes.

The process works like this:

While working on a reservation, the agent invokes a program which presents a dialog box to obtain the necessary fax information (to, from, fax number and any cover sheet remarks) and then puts the record into a special fax queue, with a unique six-character identification string.

The T/FAX robot on the T/RES LAN reads the record from the queue, formats it into a Layman's Language Itinerary, and hands it off to the FACSys fax server.

FACSys sends the fax, re-trying automatically every three minutes for up to five attempts, and then records the result in a fax log, including the identification string.

T/FAX used the FACSys fax log and the identification string to register confirmation of transmission in the reservation record or, in the event of a failure (wrong number, busy signal), to alert the agent to the problem automatically.

The benefits of this simple system are numerous. Agents are more productive, since they don't have to leave their seats or interrupt their work flow. They don't waste time at the fax machine, and they don't have the frustration they used to because of busy signals, jammed paper and misdials.

The quality of fax that the client receives is higher, because rather than using the crude scanner of the fax machine, we're sending an electronic document.

It really impresses a client when they receive their fax while they're still on the phone with us!

Our robot LAN is a great way to give our remote offices the benefits of custom applications without incurring the expense of building our own WAN. We can also use inexpensive PCs, because each one has to run only one part of the process. This, in turn, gives us much more flexibility to quickly replace any of the workstations if they experience technical problems.

Because we use the NetWare operating system, we can also make use of the many available add-on products, like FACSys, to enhance our system.

Fax servers don't entirely replace fax machines. If agents want to send someone a copy of a document or brochure that isn't already on the computer, they still have to photocopy it and fax it the conventional way.

But for on-line data, there's nothing like a fax server to save time, improve quality and create accountability where none existed before. Unlike electronic mail or EDI, we know that every one of our clients has a fax machine.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Stevens Travel Management
Author:Anger, Paul
Publication:Communications News
Date:Aug 1, 1993
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