Protus sends faxes as e-mail attachments

For Asset Management Associates Inc. (AMAI), a consulting company in Toronto, privacy is a very important issue.

The firm performs high-profile, private institutional money management in both Canada and the U.S. for customers like insurance companies or pension funds, according to the company’s president Ken Wallace.

“And privacy is not only important for our customers, but it’s actually a matter of law for what we do,” Wallace said. “We have to have everything absolutely private and confidential, and I have to have a secure way to receive information. Even my own employees are not necessarily privy to that information.”

Wallace heard about a service that had already been launched in Ottawa, but not yet in Toronto, and he was so intrigued that he contacted the vendor of the service.

Ottawa-based Protus IP solutions had been offering fax services to over 40 countries around the world since 1997, but had just begun to offer its new Fax-to-Email service in select Canadian cities. The IP-based service allows customers to receive faxes as attachments to e-mail messages through a private Fax-to-Email number.

Protus set Wallace up with an Ottawa-based number, where the service was already available, until it was launched in Toronto last November.

Customers who send faxes don’t care if they are dialling a 416 or 613 area code, Wallace said. And the service allows him to not only retrieve his faxes confidentially, but from anywhere he happens to be.

According to Olwyn Walter, vice-president of marketing at Protus, the service offers significant savings.

“The recipient just pays their standard monthly fee of $6.95 a month,” she said. “Which is cost-effective, when compared to the cost of a business line, which is $40 a month, or a residential line of $20 a month just for the telephone line.”

There is also a small charge should the customer go over 100 pages of fax, she said. But the company is looking at revising that number upwards. Protus is also looking at creating a “pricing package” which would allow the company to bundle services, and is assessing what types of packages would be best accepted, she said.

Olwyn Walter added that the sender has no way of knowing that the fax being sent will be transferred to an e-mail attachment. It is just a fax phone number like any other, and any long distance charges that might apply when dialling would be incurred by the sender, just as in any other case.

Protus offers several types of IP fax services for business customers, including Protus Fax Broadcast, which allows users to get information out to thousands of fax or e-mail destinations. As well, Protus offers Web-to-Fax, Email-to-Fax, Desktop Fax and Fax-to-Fax services.

These “are more sophisticated services to meet the North American market needs,” said Alan Walter, president and CEO of Protus.

AMAI’s Wallace subscribes to the Protus service that allows him to send e-mails to fax machines, for clients who don’t have e-mail.

“I have an older banker in Europe that does not have e-mail,” Wallace said. “I can send him HTML files directly from the Web to his fax number, and it’s set up that way.”

For mobile workers who travel or work from home, the Protus Fax-to-Email service makes sense, according to one analyst.

“If you’re in various places, you might work out of home sometimes, sometimes at the office or you may be a salesperson or an executive who travels around a lot,” said Lis Angus, the executive vice-president of Angus TeleManagement Group, based in Ajax, Ont.

She believes the service makes it a lot easier for these workers, who won’t have to give out several numbers for all the places they might be going. Instead they can just give out one number, where they can always be reached.

“I think it’s really best-designed for that kind of situation where you want to be able to give a single number to people, and never-the-less receive it wherever you are.”

But, said Olwyn Walter, Protus is targeting the services at all businesses, and not just mobile workers.

“It is a very economical way for people, or for small offices or home offices to establish the appearance to the outward world of having a dedicated fax line, because faxes coming into these lines will never incur a busy signal,” she explained. “The network is designed and optimized to ensure that this is essentially a never-busy fax number.”

Alan Walter said local area fax numbers are now available in five Canadian cities, including Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver. And there are plans to move into other cities across the country, such as Winnipeg and Quebec City.