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Announcing full support for Exchange Online

Gareth Williams

o365Last month we released Zetafax 2014.  One of the major features was full support for Exchange Online, part of the Microsoft Office 365 cloud application suite.

Microsoft has been pushing Office 365 for some time.  Judging from the interest we have had from customers about our support with Zetafax 2014, and our preview release last summer, it feels like Exchange Online is starting to get traction with small and medium sized companies.

For our integration with Zetafax, we set our developers three key design goals.  I thought it would be interesting to report back on how they did.

Goal 1 – Fax confidentiality

Firstly, the integration had to keep faxes fully secure and confidential, and comply with industry best practice such as the US Heath Industry HIPAA confidentiality standard.

Many companies choose an on-premise Zetafax Server because of our strong focus on confidentiality.  The Zetafax CommsEngine is included in products from major software publishers (ISVS) for the same reason, including US Healthcare ISVs like McKesson.

Cloud fax services often rely on unsecure SMTP Internet email for submitting and delivering fax messages.  This rules them out for use in industries where faxes must be kept private.

With Zetafax, we integrated with Exchange Online using a secure web API rather than SMTP email.  All communication between Zetafax and Exchange Online is protected using industry standard SSL encryption – the same standard used by web browsers when viewing a secure web link starting with “https”.

All traffic is also initiated by the Zetafax Server, even for received faxes.  This further strengthens security.

Goal 2 – Support migration from Exchange Server

The second goal for our developers was to support existing Zetafax users who are migrating from an on-premise Exchange Server to Exchange Online.

Companies often choose to migrate in phases, initially moving a single mail domain or even a group of mailboxes within a domain.  For customers who are already using Zetafax with Exchange Server we needed to find a way of supporting these hybrid environments, so users did not need to change behavior or lose functionality as they moved system.

We achieved that by treating Exchange Online as a new email system type in Zetafax.  The Zetafax Server can be configured to connect to an Exchange Server or internal SMTP mail system as well as an Exchange Online system, enabling simple and transparent migration.

Zetafax includes an Outlook Add-in, to make it simple for users to send faxes from Outlook.  We have extended this Add-in so it can be used with Exchange Online and internal SMTP mail systems as well as Exchange Server, so that users do not have to change behavior after migration.

Goal 3 – Simple installation

The third goal we set was to make it quick and easy to integrate Zetafax with Exchange Online.  Simple installation has always been a key strength for Zetafax, and if you have tried setting up a trial Office 365 account you will know how much effort Microsoft have put into making that easy as well.

Some fax providers need changes to firewall settings, or require a user to configure a public web address (URL) for their fax server.  However that is slow to set up, often involving work by an external Internet Service Provider (ISP), and may cause difficulties with the company security policy.

We wanted to do better than that, and allow Zetafax to be installed with Exchange Online without needing any firewall or network changes.  Our developers achieved that by using outbound requests from the Zetafax Server to communicate with Exchange Online.

Faxes for sending are redirected to a reserved mailbox in Exchange Online.  The Zetafax Server retrieves these by polling the Exchange Online service.  Because all requests are initiated from within the company network (rather than from the public Internet), then most companies will not have to make any changes to their firewall or other network settings.

For most companies, this means that there is no need for any firewall changes to configure the connection, and you can usually set up a connection between Zetafax and Exchange Online in less than 15 minutes.

I’m really pleased with how well our developers have achieved the three goals we set them, and the customers and partners I have spoken to about this have been impressed as well.

You can find out more about the integration on our website, or by contacting our sales team in your country.

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