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Law firm reduces costs with networked fax.

Leaving your desktop computer to send a document by fax, with the fax machine typically located in another part of the office, results in wasted minutes of productive time.

For our Jacksonville, Fla.-based law firm, Smith Hulsey & Busey, efficient employee productivity--from the secretaries and paralegals on up--is the lifeblood of our business. Productivity translates into the ability to manage clients and deliver results, all within specific time constraints.

With this in mind, we set out to streamline several administrative functions, such as outgoing phone calls, word processing, E-mail and fax, into an integrated system for billing. While a majority of our work is automated through PCs, we've relied on a number of manual steps to complete everyday administrative tasks, which are redundantly executed throughout each working day by the firm's employees.

In addition, we wanted to consolidate the inherent costs of separate incidentals, such as paper and toner, into one net expense. We were eager to find a system that would not only manage today's functions, but also provide a bridge for future requirements, such as voice and character recognition, without incurring large hardware and software expenditures down the road.

Lastly, the ideal solution would take advantage of our existing LAN-based (local area network) technology to send electronic documents directly from one PC to another, as well as from a PC to a fax machine. We looked to the firm's Futurus E-mail software as the user interface to send any number of documents generated in our word processing program--WordPerfect 5.1--instantly while maintaining the exact format in which the documents are created.

We needed a product that could fulfill these requirements and run on our existing Novell NetWare network, and selected Fremont, Calif.-based OAZ Communications' NetFax Server family.

Our systems integration configuration includes Novell 386 3.11 network software run on two 486 file servers, which maintain 2.5 GB of hard disk space; 100 nodes are attached to each server.

Integrating network fax into the firm's systems environment was easy since compatibility wasn't an issue. The network fax configuration is built around a 386 CPU with a math co-processor that digitizes the document to fax conversion speed. A 180-MB hard drive stores the fax temporarily until it is sent. NetFax system manages the actual fax transfer and utilizes a network card to log onto the network.

Now, we have one dedicated phone line for fax transmission. Fax users have access to a directory with various search paths.

Our Futurus E-mail package, called Right Hand Man 2, serves as the user interface and also interfaces with fax software and Novell's Message Handling System (MHS).

Separate, but related to the system, is our Equitrac. It is a stand-alone PC-based system linked to the firm's AT&T System 75 PBX. The PC receives data from the PBX and prints call accounting reports. Equitrac tracks each fax sent to our clients and allows us to bill the client for faxes.

The biggest benefit of a networked fax system is increased efficiency and the ability of our employees to handle a greater workload. For example, our administrative associates no longer have to leave their PCs and stand in line to use the fax machine.

Within the next fiscal quarter, we will start producing final documents on our letterhead paper and implementing the attorney's signature directly in the word processing environment. This capability will decrease paper flow and save additional expenses in office supplies.

We also plan to experiment with direct inward dialing fax delivery to the node via E-mail from other law firms with the same or different programs.

Beyond this, the next logical step will be to use a networked fax configuration to carry text, images, sound and video over an enterprise network environment.
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Title Annotation:Smith Hulsey & Busey
Author:Gibbs, Jon
Publication:Communications News
Date:Aug 1, 1993
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