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[ The PC Guide | Troubleshooting and Repair Guide | Obtaining Technical Support | Using Automated Technical Support Systems ]

Fax-back Servers

A wonderful invention, a fax-back server is an automated system that allows you to tell a remote server to fax specific documents back to you at your home or office. These systems are much like the automated phone-based systems except that you get a faxed document as a response instead of a recorded message. These can contain much more detail of course, along with graphical illustrations. Some fax-back servers contain hundreds of different documents.

Here's how fax-back servers work:

  • Access the System: You dial into the server. Many companies offer accessing the server as an option when you call up their technical support lines.
  • Select Your Documents: Each document on the server has a numeric code associated with it. You enter the code for each document; most systems will let you request more than one document. How do you find out what the codes are for the documents you want? Well, some systems list them for you if you choose the correct menu item, but better than this is the index document. The system will tell you the code of a specific document that contains the codes of the other documents on the server. You get that sent to you once, and then use it to access any other documents you may need later on.
  • Enter Your Fax Number: After you have chosen your documents, you tell the system your fax number so it knows how to send the files to you. Some systems will also let you enter an extension number so if you are in an office, the file will be routed to you appropriately.
  • Wait for the Documents: Usually only a few minutes after you hang up, the documents you requested will appear on your fax machine. Some servers can take substantially longer, however, especially during busy times. If your machine is busy most systems will try again later, but they will give up after a period of time.

Fax-back servers are great, but I think they will eventually head the way of the dodo due to the proliferation of detailed manufacturers' web sites. It's usually more economical to disseminate information and documents over the Internet than to be faxing documents all over the place. The 'net also avoids the other main problem with fax-back servers: people who don't have fax machines or fax modems.

Next: Manufacturers' Web Sites

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