SolutionBase: Turn your server into a fax machine with Windows Small Business Server 2003 Fax Service

E-mail and instant messages may be faster, but fax still reigns as a main way for businesses to communicate. Here's how to install and configure the fax service in Windows Small Business Server 2003 and how to send and receive a fax.

Even in this fast-paced world of e-mail and instant messaging, fax still reigns supreme for many communications tasks. Perhaps people just like the feeling of paper in hand, but in many organizations, the fax service won't be going away any time soon. As a part of both the standard and premium editions of Windows Small Business Server 2003 (SBS 2003), Microsoft continues to include support for this older, but heavily relied-upon technology. Here's how to install and configure this service in Windows Small Business Server 2003 and how to send and receive a fax.

Requirements and installation

To use the SBS 2003 fax service, your server must have a class 1 fax modem dedicated to the faxing task. Of course, you also need to make sure that this modem is connected to a suitable outside telephone line capable of both placing and receiving calls.

If you didn't install the fax service during the server installation, do so now. To install the fax service, go to the Add/Remove Windows Components option available from the Add Or Remove Programs Control Panel applet. From the list of components, select Fax Services and click Next. (See Figure A.)

Figure A

Install the faxing service.

When you click Next, you're asked whether or not you want to share the fax service's printer. Microsoft's SBS 2003 fax service works by installing a fax printer on the server, which is then shared out to selected users. Users install this printer and when someone wants to print a fax, he just prints to this shared printer and is then prompted for the fax information.

On the next screen of the fax service installation wizard, as shown in Figure B, you should opt to share the fax printer. If you decide not to, you can share it later on just like any normal printer.

Figure B

Share the new fax printer so people can use the service.

The appropriate files are then copied from the SBS 2003 CD ROM (you'll need the SBS CDs to install the fax service) to the server. These easy steps complete the installation of the fax service. No reboot is required.

Managing the fax service

The fax service is managed by a utility found at Start | All Programs | Accessories | Communications | Fax | Fax Service Manager. Figure C gives an idea of what it looks like.

Figure C

The Fax Service Manager

The Fax Service Manager is broken down into four sections: Devices And Providers, Incoming Routing, Outgoing Routing, and Cover Pages.

Devices And Providers

The Devices And Providers component allows you to configure your fax devices and determine whether and how they will answer incoming calls and whether they can make outgoing calls. For example, the modem that I have configured in my lab SBS 2003 machine is configured by default to just be able to send faxes. There are a couple ways to configure it to be able to receive faxes as well.

The first way is to use a shortcut menu. Just right-click your modem device (under Devices) and select either Auto Receive or Manual Receive. Auto Receive lets your fax modem answer every incoming call, whereas Manual Receive means you'll have to manually initiate the fax receive process. This is useful if you use a voice line to occasionally receive faxes.

You can accomplish the same thing by right-clicking the fax modem and selecting Properties from the shortcut menu, as shown in Figure D.

Figure D

Fax modem properties screen

You can also enable Adaptive Answering, if your fax modem supports this feature. Adaptive Answering allows your fax modem to determine whether or not an incoming call is a fax call or a voice call and to act accordingly. Not all modems support this feature, though. If your modem does, you can allow your fax modem to automatically answer calls and still share the line with voice services.

Until a modem is enabled for sending or receiving faxes, your fax service is a little useless.

Incoming routing

When a fax comes in, you can do one of three things with it:

  1. Send it to someone via e-mail.
  2. Store it in a folder on the server.
  3. Print it to a network printer for someone to pick up.

Option 3 is the way that fax machines usually work and, in this case, you turn your server, network, and printer into an integrated delivery system. The order listed above is the order of priority for incoming faxes.

To change the routing order, open Incoming Routing | Global Methods and use the up and down arrows on the toolbar to move the options up and down the list, a shown in Figure E. (What you can do with this once you have selected the order is discussed a little later in this article.)

Figure E

Change the routing order for incoming faxes.

Outgoing routing

Outgoing routing is generally ready to go, since most of you will only have a single modem in your server. This option determines the order in which the modems will be used. Open Outgoing Routing | All Devices and look in the right-hand pane to get a list of available devices. If you have more than one device, you can change the order in which they are used by selecting the device and using the up and down buttons on the toolbar. This can be useful if you have multiple modems, with the first modem dedicated to faxing and a second modem connected to a line it shares with voice calls.

Cover pages

A lot of businesses use standard cover pages for faxing. You can configure your own specific cover pages for faxing by using the Cover Pages option in the Fax Services Manager. Alternatively, you can just use one of the four samples that is supplied with the service.

You can create a new cover page in two ways: Start from scratch, or create a new cover page using an existing page as a template. To start from scratch, right-click Cover Pages and select New from the shortcut menu. To use a current cover page as a template, right-click Cover Pages and select Copy From... from the shortcut menu. Next, choose the fax cover page you'd like to copy and click Open.

You can also edit an existing cover page by selecting Cover Pages. Right-click the cover page you'd like to edit and choose Edit from the resulting shortcut menu.

In any case, the Cover Page Editor opens. This program lets you create custom cover pages with fields available that are appropriate for a fax cover page. This program is a lot like WordPad, but includes an Insert menu that has a number of different fields, such as recipient name, sender name, date, etc. In Figure F, you can see a screen shot from this utility with the Insert menu opened up.

When you're finished with your changes, save them and exit the utility. You'll be able to use this cover page later when you send a fax.

Figure F

You can create custom cover pages.

Sending a fax

How can you easily send a fax using your new fax server? Simple! First, make sure that you are sharing the Fax printer device on your SBS 2003 server. Next, add this "printer" to each client machine from which you would like to be able to send faxes.

With that done, open up a document you'd like to send and print it to the fax device. The first time you do this, a client-based fax configuration wizard is launched. The first screen of the wizard asks for some personal information, such as your name, company name, address, etc. These fields are used later on to automatically fill out fax cover pages, so it's best to fill them out as completely as possible.

Figure G

The Fax Configuration Wizard sender information request page

On subsequent sends, the Send Fax Wizard is automatically launched and asks for recipient information, such as recipient name and fax number. Figure H shows a sample of this screen.

Figure H

The Send Fax Wizard recipient information page

There are a couple methods for adding recipients to your fax. If the recipient exists in your address book, you can look him up and add him directly from there. Alternatively, you can manually type the recipient's name and fax number, then click the Add button. In any case, just click Next when you're done.

On the next page, you can select a cover page to use for the fax. If you opt to include a cover page, type a subject and note to be added to the page. If you want to modify your personal information, click the Sender button and make the appropriate changes. When you're done, click Next.

Figure I

Would you like a cover page with that?

Next, you can schedule your fax to be sent either now or at some point in the future, such as when rates are lower or at some specific time. Further, you can specify whether this fax should go first by indicating its priority. Your options are high, medium, and low.

Figure J

Schedule your fax and select a priority.

When you're finished making these selections, you can see a preview of your fax, if you like. In Figure K below, I chose to modify my sender information so that the fields would be filled out.

Figure K

A preview of a fax

Receiving a fax

Earlier, you set up a number of fax routing methods to determine how incoming faxes are handled. Now, you need to be a little more specific and tell the fax service exactly where to send this stuff. If you don't, incoming faxes are just lost. That's bad.

Open the Fax Service Manager and select Devices And Providers | Devices | { your device } | Incoming Methods. In the right pane, a list of the available incoming options opens up. Notice in Figure L that each one is marked as disabled by default.

Figure L

Each incoming method is disabled by default.

To enable a method, open up its properties page (right-click the method and select Properties from the shortcut menu) and click the second tab from the left in the resulting window. For each method, a specific properties window lets you select the appropriate option. For example, if you open the Print method properties page and select the Print tab, you get a drop-down box that lets you choose an installed printer to which all incoming faxes will be automatically printed. (See Figure M.)

Figure M

Choose a printer to which incoming faxes will print.

For the E-mail Incoming method, you need to provide a valid e-mail address. Incoming faxes are then sent as TIF files to this address. For the Store In A Folder method, you need to provide a folder on the network to which incoming faxes will be stored as TIF files.