Save money on phone lines with Windows Server 2003 Fax Service

By implementing the Microsoft Fax Service included in Windows Server 2003, you can increase employees' productivity by enabling them to fax documents straight from their desktops. This article explains the process.

I’ve always thought it was a little strange that Microsoft’s Small Business Server 2000 supported faxing through a shared modem, but that Windows 2000 Server did not. Fortunately, Microsoft has incorporated fax sharing into Windows Server 2003. The problem is that fax sharing isn’t very intuitive, and there are no directions to speak of. In this article, I'll guide you through the process of setting up a shared fax modem.

Setting up a modem
The first step is to attach a fax modem to your server and verify that the modem is functional. There really isn't anything special you have to do at this point; just select the Phone And Modem Options command from the Control Panel, enter your area code and any special dialing options, and then use the Add button on the Modems tab to install a driver for your modem.

Installing the Fax Service
Once your modem is set up, you need to install the Fax Service onto your server. This service is included in all editions of Windows Server 2003 except the Web edition. To install the service, open the Control Panel and select the Add/Remove Programs option. When you do, Windows will display the Add/Remove Programs dialog box. Click the Add/Remove Windows Components button and, after a brief delay, you'll see a list of all the various Windows components.

Scroll through the list of Windows components until you locate the Fax Services option. Select this option and then click Next. Windows will prompt you for your Windows Server 2003 installation CD and begin copying the necessary files. Installing the Fax Service will consume roughly 22 MB of hard disk space.

Create a fax printer
The next step in the configuration process is to create a fax printer. The Fax Service handles faxing much like it handles document printing. The document is spooled to a queue similar to that used for printing, but it is redirected to a fax instead of actually being printed.

Installing a fax printer is simple. Select the Printers And Faxes option from the Start menu to open the Printers And Faxes screen. This screen displays all of the currently configured printers. Now, right-click in an empty area of the window and select the Install A Local Fax Printer command from the resulting shortcut menu. A new printer named Fax will be created instantly. You can distinguish this printer from the others because its icon looks like a fax machine.

Now that you've installed a fax printer, you must share the printer so that remote users can send faxes through it. To do so, right-click on the fax printer and select the Sharing command from the resulting shortcut menu. You'll now see the Fax Properties sheet appear, with the Sharing tab selected. Select the Share This Printer radio button and then give the fax printer a share name. For the purposes of this article, I'll use the share name Fax.

While you're in this dialog box, be sure to check out the Security tab. By default, Everyone is allowed to print (or, in this case, to fax). The Creator/Owner is allowed to manage his or her own documents, and the Administrators, Print Operators, and Server Operators groups are allowed to manage documents, print, and manage the printer. While these permissions are almost always acceptable for printing, take a moment to make sure they're appropriate for your organization’s faxing needs.

You should also check out the Tracking tab of the Fax Properties sheet. This tab allows you to configure the fax printer to show the progress of faxes as they're sent or received. You can also be notified of the success or failure of sent or received faxes. Additionally, you can configure Windows to play a sound or open the Fax Monitor when a fax is sent or received. For now, click OK to close the Fax Properties sheet.

The fax client
So far, you've performed the minimum level of configuration on the server that will allow the Fax Service to function. The server is now capable of sending faxes locally, but some configuration on the client end is also necessary before the clients will be able to send or receive faxes.

Your first task on the client PCs is to install the Fax Service. If the PC is running Windows XP, the procedure is nearly identical to the one you used to install the Fax Service on the server. Simply use the Add/Remove Programs option in the Control Panel.

Once the Fax Service is installed, you must set up a fax printer. But instead of setting up a local fax printer, you'll be setting up a remote fax printer. To do so, open the Printers And Faxes window, and then click the Add A Printer link. This will open the Add Printer Wizard. Follow the wizard’s prompts to install a network printer attached to another computer. Finally, enter the UNC path to the remote fax printer that you set up earlier. Assuming that you named the printer Fax, the UNC path will be \\servername\Fax. Complete the wizard, and the client is ready to send its first fax.

Sending a fax
Your users can send faxes from any application they can normally print from. For example, suppose a user wanted to fax a Microsoft Word document. The user would open the document in Word and choose the Print command from the File menu. Next, the user would choose the fax printer from the list of printers in the Print dialog box and click OK. Word would launch the Send Fax Wizard. (The Send Fax Wizard is also accessible through the Start | All Programs | Accessories | Communications | Fax menu should a user want to fax a quick note from outside an application.)

The Send Fax Wizard would ask the user for the names and numbers of those receiving the fax. The user would enter this information manually or import them from Outlook’s Address book.

Windows would then ask the user to choose a fax cover. The user can select from a variety of built-in covers as well as use this screen to enter a subject line and a note to the recipient. The next screen would ask the user when to send the fax and what the fax’s priority should be. After entering this information, the user is given a chance to preview the fax. If everything looks good, the user would simply click Finish to send the fax.

Monitoring faxes
On a final note, I want to mention two consoles within the fax server: the Fax Console and the Microsoft Fax Service Manager. Both are accessible through the server’s Start | All Programs | Accessories | Communications | Fax menu.

The Fax Console is fairly simple, allowing you to view inbound and outbound faxes at a glance. It has four containers: The Incoming and Outbox containers let you view faxes that are currently being sent and received; the Inbox and Sent Items containers enable you to look at which faxes have already been sent and received.

The Microsoft Fax Service Manager is a bit more complex. Normally, you won’t have to touch this console, which is primarily used to route inbound and outbound faxes. For outbound faxes, you can use the Devices And Providers section to control which fax modems will be used. This section is already configured by default. The Incoming Routing section allows you to configure what happens to incoming faxes. You can have the faxes stored in a folder, routed through e-mail (as a TIF file), or printed. Through this console, you can also link custom cover pages to the Fax Service.

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