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Mix of Analog and Digital Fax Units Helps Control Data Control Its Costs.

Control Data Corporation has been a facsimile user for 10 years. Until recently, fax was used as an alternative communication system when telex and other media could not be used. Now, however, William Miller, Control Data's manager of corporate telecommunications services, encourages the use of fax as a primary medium. That's because the company has found facsimile to be extremely cost effective.

Why the turnaround? New fax equipment, explains Miller. "We transmit a page of information through our new fax system in less than a minute. Previously, it took us four minutes a page. This 75-percent reduction in transmission time is saving Control Data over $160,000 annually in the charges alone."

Founded in 1957, Control Data has always been an entrepreneurial-type company. It began designing and building "supercomputers" at a time when some industry experts were predicting that only six such machines could handle the computing needs of the entire world. Today, that business philosophy helps explain the diverse nature of CDC's business. It manufactures some of the most powerful large-scale computers--a Cyber 205, for example, recently performed 1.3 billion calculation in 1.66 seconds. It also has been involved in revitalizing depressed urban areas and teaching low-income families how to improve health with "wellness" programs.

In addition to medium and large-scale computers and "supercomputers," Control Data manufactures a line of peripheral equipment for its own and other manufacturers' systems. The firm's computer services include a worldwide time-sharing network, CyberNet, services for scientific and engineering customers, brokerage transaction services, credit verifications and loan processing. Other Control Data business groups include Commercial Credit Company; Arbitron, a large radio and television audience-measurement service; and Ticketron, a ticket sales and management service. Fax equipment is used in all of these various businesses. Extensive Networks

To serve the needs of its wide-ranging business operations, Control Data has created extensive private networks for data, voice and hard-copy communications. Miller explains that the Control Data Shared Network (CDSN) serves computer time-sharing customers and carries internal data communications. Voice communications are carried on the Controlnet system. Hard-copy documents are transmitted through a computer-based message system called Telememo, which is soon to be replaced with a new electronic mail system and facsimile network.

"Our fax machines operate almost as easily as a copier, at far higher speeds than keyboard equipment, and handle many documents that would be impossible to send otherwise, except by mail," Miller points out.

Miller says that Control Data set three main criteria for selecting new fax equipment: speed, compatibility and service. "Speed was necessary to bring telephone line costs down; compatibility across the product line was essential for allowing us to mix and match machines to the transmission requirements of our various locations. Underlying the success of our entire fax network was service capability that would keep downtime to a minimum."

Control Data selected Pitney Bowes as its supplier based on these criteria, and initially installed 130 machines. The system incorporates both analog and digital equipment, in four different models. Units range from the low-cost Model 8300, a CCITT Group 2 analog machine, to the Group 3 digital 20-second Model 8800. All of the units are tabletop machines that can be located almost anywhere. The dry thermal paper used by the units produces black-on-white images of text and graphics.

Control Data's prior experience with fax equipment had been with Group 2 and Group 1 analog machines--three, four and six-minute equipment. At an average telephone line cost of 35 cents a minute, Miller estimated that fax was costing at least $1.40 a page, not including the cost of labor to make the line connections, feed and remove documents, and confirm transmission. Because of the high per-page cost, facsimile was not encouraged as a communications medium. Large Cost Savings

Now, Miller estimates an average cost across the network of only 35 cents a page. With a volume of some 18,500 transmissions a month, the savings translate to $162,000 a year, based on the original installation of 130 machines. And this calculation takes into account the increased rental cost of these more-advanced facsimile products.

Automatic features of the new equipment save time, too. The earlier-generation machines required an operator to make the connection, transmit and then confirm receipt. Without confirmation, the operator could never be sure that transmission took place successfully. The activity logs in the new machines electronically confirm successful transmissions, so an operator does not have to "stand by" the units.

All of the fax machines in the system receive automatically. The analog 8400s, and digital 8600s and 8800s, also send automatically; trim copies to the size of the original; and can call, poll for documents and receive from other units during the same call, which saves on line charges. Automatic speed adjustment to match the capability of the remote sending or receiving machine is a feature all these machines share.

The digital machines also offer unique functions not available in the analog units. The 8600 operates at 7800 b/s (30 seconds per page). Messages can be secured so that the 8600 will terminate a call if the remote machine does not provide the correct security code during the handshake. An activity journal, which records the sender, time of transmission, number of pages and other data, as well as a date/time stamp, helps each site monitor usage.

The 8600 and 8800, besides adjusting their transmission speed automatically among Group 1, 2, and 3 machines, have built-in telephone line error-detection software that adjust their operating speed downward on a noisy phone line to compensate for poor line conditions.

In addition, the 8800 can function as a system controller, as well as a high-speed fax machine. Its automatic dialer can be preprogrammed to call and poll from a list of up to 50 different numbers, facilitating routine communications, especially during off-peak hours when line rates are lowest. Nearly All Sub-Minute

Miller says that the new equipment they selected is totally compatible across the product line--"a big feature in attaining flexibility in a fax network." Today, Control Data has installed more than 200 fax machines, and will be adding more. "Normally, when you try to mix digital and analog equipment, you're usually talking three-minute transmission at best," Miller says. "But with the network block skip feature, we can transmit or receive from the analog 8400 to the digital 8600 and 8800 in less than a minute a page. That means that almost 90 percent of our network can operate sub-minute without paying the higher cost of digital machines in every location." National Diagnostic Center

Miller also explains, "When we were looking at fax suppliers, we were concerned that service would be provided by the equipment vendor, not a local dealer or a third-party agent. Experience to date has not only proven the service commitment, but also the reliability of the equipment. Pitney Bowes indicated that we would average not more than one failure per machine in any year of operation. In the first 90 days, most of our problems on the first 130 machines installed were operator-related, and we simply phoned the Pitney Bowes National Diagnostic Center. Over the telephone, the technicians at the center listened to us and told us how to address the common operator problems. In actuality, only nine machines required on-site service in the first six months, and the diagnostic center quickly dispatched customer engineers to the sites. The average service response was only four hours for most of our locations, and they even are able to provide same-day service in the most remote locations." Smooth Installation

Service actually began before the fax machines were installed, according to Miller, with a nationally coordinated installation and training program tailored especially to Control Data's needs. Installation of the initial 130 machines took only three and a half days. "Installation was so smooth that there was absolutely no adverse impact on our business," Miller says. "Our users were switched to the new equipment without inconvenience because the installation was coordinated so well."

Operator training was conducted by local Pitney Bowes customer engineers as each machine was installed. When the installation was complete, the customer enginner faxed the Control Data facility code number of the machine and its serial number to Miller, providing him a continual update of the locations that were on line in his new fax network.

Fax capability for transmitting a variety of documents, at high speed and in their original forms, has broad application in Control Data. Teleconferencing, for example, is used extensively--over 500 conferences per month are routed through the corporate teleconferencing center in Minneapolis. Many more are held that are not routed through headquarters. With high-speed fax in all major locations, each participant can have a complete set of last-minute, updated upport documents for discussion.

Other uses include:

* Financial services (McCullough Leasing and Commercial Credit) use fax to transmit loan applications, deeds and other legal instruments complete with reuired signatures. Control Data's Home Owner Centers use fax to ensure that up-to-the-minute interest rate changes are in the hands of lcoal loan officers.

* Using fax, Arbitron surveys television market areas in the evening and has a complete rating analysis of that evening's TV programs at an ad agency by noon the following day. Computers in Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco input to a mainframe in Washington, where the data is assembled. The report is faxed to Los Angeles for verification and analysis and then is summarized and faxed to the client agency. Weekly ratings are also faxed to local newspapers for the mid-week publication of the prior week's "top 10" TV shows.

* Manufacturing operations fax engineering drawings, schedules, inventory control reports and change notices among different plant and office locations. The high-resolution mode of the fax units can resolve 203 lines per inch for reproduction of detailed drawings.

* Error-prone documents, such as annual reports and other statistical documents, can be transmitted in their original forms, without rekeying. Time-Critical Data

Many documents involved in Control Data businesses are time critical. Miller has found the journal and time-and-date stamp features of the fax equipment especially useful in tracking such material, as well as for establishing usage patterns. "Our fax units," Miller explains, "have an alphanumeric facility code number. With this feature, we cannot only establish the date and time a document is received, but also where the document originated, the number of pages involved and, most important, the time required for transmission."

Miller now actively promotes facsimile communications and expects that fax will play an increasingly important role in Control Data's communications system. "Fax has versatility that other media cannot match," he says. "And fax has finally become a very cost-effective option."
COPYRIGHT 1984 Nelson Publishing
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Publication:Communications News
Date:Jun 1, 1984
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