Communicate Better

Published Date
01 - Sep - 2005
| Last Updated
01 - Sep - 2005
Communicate Better

The PC has come a long way over the past decade or so. What started out as a glorified calculating machine and word processor has now taken over our lives.

And in no place is this more evident than at work. A lot of SoHo setups will not be able to function if you take away the computers. So many business opportunities have sprung up just because of the PC!

But we know all this...

What we don't realise is that some uses of the PC have been forgotten. Modems, for instance, are no longer used by most businesses in cities, thanks to increasing broadband penetration-indeed, Internet connections are mainly LAN-based now.

Convergence, also, has play-ed a role in reducing the number of peripherals you had to connect just to accomplish simple tasks such as printing or scanning documents. Enter the Multi-Functional Device-earlier the jack of all trades, and now master of all too!


Whether it is businesses exchanging e-mails across the world, or the person sitting next to you at work sending you a joke about the boss in the form of an IM message, it's all communication.

The largest library in the universe, the Internet, is based on communication; the lowest common denominator of technology, e-mail, is also based on communication.

Again, we know this...

The PC is powerful, and combined with a worthy tool such as a basic MFD, can do a lot more than we allow it to. Most of us never use our PCs to their full potential. For example, we still have fax machines in our offices, which print a lot of junk faxes on expensive fax paper. Why?

Though there may be hundreds of similar or even better software available today, WinFax was once the most popular fax software. In the time of modems, not too long ago, WinFax saved us many a pretty penny on fax paper and even fax machines!

Modems were then a must, and 56.6k voice, data and fax modems were the in thing. Since you needed a phone line and modem to connect to the Internet anyway, spending a little extra and buying WinFax, and getting fax 'send' and 'receive' capability as well, just seemed logical. In fact, since it was made by Symantec, the makers of Norton Antivirus, it gained the trust of many people in India!

The beautiful part was that you could preview faxes on your computer screen and choose which ones to print and which to delete. Zero paper wastage, and no important documents being printed on that horrid fax paper.

There are probably many of you who have cursed the fax paper's short lifespan-pull out a file of faxes after about six months, and all you see is blank paper! WinFax let you use your little inkjet printer to
print faxes for storage-this was probably its biggest selling point back then.

Today, however, we have fax-enabled MFDs. These MFDs print faxes on normal paper, and are even capable of storing up to a couple of hundred faxes when paper runs out. In addition, some MFDs allow you to fax a document right from within the document's software itself, so even the prints of faxes to be sent are not needed-this means more paper saving!

Those SoHo offices that do not want to buy an MFD, but still want a fax alternative and the savings it brings, can opt for software such as WinFax.

However, even though it does the job perfectly, keep in mind that the last release of WinFax was in 2001, so you might want to try other products as well.

If you run Windows XP, you can use its inbuilt fax capability-all you need is a modem and a printer. You can download a detailed 'how to' at

Voice Communication
Most modems available for the past five years have been voice, data and fax capable. If you use a headphone and microphone combination headset, your modem can eliminate the need for phone extensions altogether.

Though it sounds easier to just give everyone a phone, you will have to spend money on buying an EPABX that has voice-mail and other advanced features built-in. Majority of the people would rather invest in, or have already bought, a very basic EPABX system that only allows you to transfer calls.

Using your PC, you can set up a call centre-style phone and voicemail system-and that too for free!

There are plenty of fax and voice-mail or answering mach-ine software available for free for Windows. The advantage of software-based answering machines is that each person can specify individual actions for incoming calls. Some software also allow you to ignore calls from specific numbers, and are even customisable to the extent of having different voice-mail announcements for different groups of numbers.

So, say you've stored phone book entries in the software, and have a caller ID. It may sound stupid to use the standard "Leave your name and number" message for recognised users. Instead, you can use a different message-such as "Hi, I'm busy right now, but I have your number and will call you back ASAP!"

Software such as CallCenter ( allow you to add voice-mail and an answering machine to your basic phone setup, so you never miss another call again, and also have customised voice-mail messages for each employee

The options are numerous, and the beauty of the system is its customisability on a per-user basis. So each user can record his or her voice-mail message and have individual-specific rules. And of course, all this works out a lot cheaper than buying an advanced EPABX that costs over a lakh (and is not as customisable).

Sure, there are some drawbacks, such as having to keep the system on in order to use the phone extension, but most of us have our computers booted up as long as we're in office anyway!

Some may even prefer to put existing modems to use in conjunction with the standard phone to get the best of both worlds-when you receive a call, use the phone; when you're away, the computer answers the call using voice-mail!

Other Communication
Your PC is already equipped to use other forms of communication, such as e-mail and video conferencing. Services such as Skype ( and efax ( have made it easy to make long-distance phone calls and faxes respectively, for cheap, using the Internet.

If your business needs you to frequently make calls or send faxes abroad, you should seriously consider using these services. Even individuals can save a lot using such services.

For SoHo businesses, costs are always important, and each penny saved is a penny earned. Yet you have to keep up the impression of being a professional company, no matter how small your business is.

We hope some of the hints provided here can help you do just that, and we look forward to hearing about your personal experiences. Write in and let us know!

Team DigitTeam Digit

All of us are better than one of us.