Sharing a line with your FAX
The monthly cost of a business telephone line in our area runs around $40, which adds up to a whopping $480/year! I don't know about you, but I don't have that kind of money to burn, so I always recommend to customers that they try to share one of their voice lines with their fax machines.
Before going further, let me say that there are situations where a dedicated fax line is best: if your fax is running all day long, you will probably need a dedicated fax line.
However, if your fax machine spends long periods idle, you may a be a good candidate for fax/voice line sharing.
How does it work
There are two ways to accomplish fax/voice line sharing. The first uses the fact that modern fax machines all generate a CNG (calling) tone that allows certain kinds of hardware (called CNG detectors or FAX detectors) to distinguish between voice calls and fax calls. This specialized hardware answers incoming calls on the shared line, decides what kind of call is coming in -- fax or voice -- and routes the call accordingly.
Numerous manufacturers have made FAX detectors, some more reliable than others. We sell the MultiLink Stick which is American-made and has a 3-year warranty. We have installed these for many of our local customers and have found them to be outstandingly dependable.
The other way to share a phone line between FAX and voice usage is with a gagdet that works with your telephone company's distinctive ringing service. You pay a few dollars a month for the service, but it's much less than the cost of an extra line. With the service, you get an additional telephone number on the same physical telephone line. When a call comes in, the line rings differently, depending on which number was dialed. So you assign one number to voice calls and one to fax calls. You then use a distinctive ring detector, which routes the call appropriately depending on which ring pattern it hears.
As with CNG detectors, we find the MultiLink SR3 to be the best distinctive ring detector.
How do I decide which method I prefer?
CNG detection has the advantage that there is no additional telephone company cost to use it. However, it is not fool-proof. Not all FAX calls will be properly identified by the device, although the device's over-ride feature makes this a minor problem.
Distinctive ringing detection has the disadvantage that you have a monthly telephone company charge. However, it has two advantages over CNG detection: first, it works on 100% of incoming calls, even if CNG tone is not present or difficult to hear. Second, it can be used for other purposes as well, since it supports up to 3 (or, in some phone company's areas even 4) different ring patterns. For example, you could set up 3 distinctive ring numbers on one line and use a distinctive ring processor to route incoming calls to one of 3 answering machines, set up for 3 different lines of busines.
Is installation difficult?
The answer is "It depends..." With both types of line sharing, the detection device needs to be installed ahead of ALL phones or other devices on the line in order to have optimal, user-friendly operation. If you have a home office and the line you want to share only appears in that office, then you can do the installation yourself, simply by plugging cords in. However, if there are other phones or an answering machine on the same line, you will most likely need to install the device at the interface.
Will these line sharing devices work with a commercial phone system?
Yes, definitely; we hook them up all the time in front of commercial phone systems. The device needs to be installed on the line before it enters the system unit (KSU).
Note that, if the line to be shared is part of an incoming hunt group, it should be the last line in the hunt group for proper operation.