Product review: HP's Digital Sender: an all-in-one machine

Consolidation seems to be the name of the game in today's high-tech world, affecting everything from software to electronic devices. We've seen the convergence of the printer and the copy machine; isn't it about time to see a better and less expensive way of providing fax service to agency workers? This must have been Hewlett-Packard's thought when the company developed its recently released HP 9100C Digital Sender.

The Digital Sender combines the best features of several systems found in the workplace today. By integrating the power of e-mail, faxing and document scanning, HP has created an absolutely unique device that will save money for your agency workgroup. The most noticeable savings will come from utilising your agency's currently installed Internet mail server to e-mail documents rather than dialling domestic or international fax machines.

Although the primary use of the device is fax-to-e-mail distribution, the unit also can scan and copy to HP JetDirect print servers. Colour copying is available to workgroups with a JetDirect-connected HP Color LaserJet 4500 printer. The Digital Sender also can be configured to scan and send documents to networked computers or to third-party-networked fax servers. Installing the Digital Sender was extremely simple and took minutes to accomplish. HP provides a fast-track configuration manual for quick and easy setup and installation. Once connected to our internal Ethernet network via the integrated JetDirect card, we simply had to key in several parameters via the LCD control panel to render the Digital Sender operational. This included setting the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol information, the administrator account and password, and the TCP/IP address of our Simple Mail Transfer Protocol mail server. The Digital Sender also can be configured to use BOOTP or Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol for dynamic TCP/IP addressing, and it supports the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol.

We conducted tests by sending several black-and-white and colour documents via e-mail. The Digital Sender is capable of producing a scan resolution of up to 600 dots per inch at 24 bits and a scan speed of up to 15 pages per minute at 300 dpi at 1 bit.

To send a document, simply select the E-mail button and then use the LCD console to key in the destination address (or choose from a public or private address book loaded in the device) and subject. Next, raise the upper portion of the Digital Sender and place the document on the scanner window. Hit the send button and voila - the document is on its way as a Portable Document Format attachment.

The Digital Sender also can send multiple documents, both single- and double-sided, via the on-board Automatic Document Feeder system. The ADF can accept up to 50 documents on letter-, A4- or legal-size paper. The unit first scans the even pages and then the odd pages. Then it places them in the correct order in the final document.

HP includes three software packages with the unit. The first is HP JetAdmin software, which provides support for networked HP peripherals and the Digital Sender. Next, the HP Address Book Manager software provides an easy way to configure users, and it has listings of fax numbers and e-mail addresses from a Microsoft. Windows-based PC. Finally, clients can use the included Adobe Systems' Adobe Circulate software to receive and view documents sent to their computers from the Digital Sender.

Administrators must create a user profile in the HP Address Book for anyone using the Digital Sender. Registered users can take advantage of the public address books in the Digital Sender as well as create their own private entries using the HP Address Book software. They also have permission to send documents to their desktop PCs, modify entries in the public fax address books and access status messages for e-mail and fax jobs. Administrators can configure guest accounts, but guest users do not have access to options such as those listed above.

HP also provides quality documentation with the unit, including an in-depth administrator's guide, user's guide and getting-started guide. There also are 25 quick-reference guides that can be distributed to users in your workgroup. For more information, visit the Digital Sender World Wide Web site at www.digitalsender.hp.com.

John Marshall is the information systems manager for FCW Government Technology Group. He can be reached at john_marshall@fcw.com.

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HP 9100C Digital Sender Hewlett-Packard (650) 857-1501 www.hp.com Price and Availability: Available on GTSI's Enhanced Technology-1 contract for $US2899.

Remarks: The HP 9100C Digital Sender integrates fax, e-mail and scanning in one, easy-to-use device. The cost savings can be substantial if your users can convert to sending faxes by e-mail rather than long-distance fax. The unit also provides centralised scanning services as well as broadcast fax capability when connected to a network local-area network fax service. Finally, the HP 9100C acts as a copy device (black-and-white and colour) when connected to a network with HP JetDirect-connected printer devices.

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