What is Online Faxing?
We are all familiar with the ubiquitous fax machine. It has been an office fixture for over two decades and provides the means to send printed documents instantaneously over phone lines. Today, particularly with document scanners common in offices everywhere, sending documents electronically—even printed ones—seems an attractive alternative to land-line fax machines and their associated expense.
Online faxing integrates a longstanding physical document technology into today’s electronic office. In fact, once a document is scanned (or sent to an online fax account), sending it via email accomplishes much the same task—the end user can print the document if need be or leave it in its electronic form. Online faxing allows you to receive and send faxes electronically, receiving them as TIFF or PDF files and sending them as the same. People using an online fax service do not need a fax machine or unnecessary paper, though they will need a scanner if documents they want to send are in paper rather electronic form.
Essentially, online services provide you with a fax number through which you can receive hard-copy faxes as email attachments. Likewise, you can send documents to other fax numbers from your own, thus allowing you to communicate in the “language” of faxes from your computer platform. (Skype performs a similar function for phone users.)
Read this article for more on cloud computing and fax.
Completing the Transition to Paperless Communications
In many cases, documents are faxed because they require something that can’t be done with electronically transmitted correspondence, usually a signature to validate a legal agreement. “Signing” is still the most important step in just about every business transaction, and signing still requires a piece of paper and a pen.
Online fax services are most useful in this respect: they bring this final component, the signed and valid contract, into cyberspace, thus completing the transition to a paperless office communication system. As email replaces paper memos and letters, and online research and archiving replaces photocopying sources, online fax services put the most important documents in the office—sales contracts, legal documents, and anything else requiring a signature—into an electronic form. Since scanners have been around, this step has been possible, but online fax services allow you to accomplish this task in real time, without having to waste valuable hours running hundreds of pages through a scanner, then saving those pages, archiving them, etc. With online faxing, the document is simply filed electronically.
The Role of Online Fax Services
To get a fax number for electronic access, you must sign up with one of the many online fax service providers that have popped up on the Internet. The services of the providers vary, but a few standards exist among the legitimate ones:
• They will assign you a fax number, either toll-free or local depending on your preference.
• They provide online storage of your faxes, so you can access them from everywhere.
• They offer customer service, ranging from 24/7 support to support during normal U.S. business hours.
Despite these similarities in offerings, big differences exist in important areas—how much online storage is available, how many pages you get each month, and of course, price. To get the right plan for your situation, shopping around is a must.
Click here for more on types of online fax.
Online Faxing Pros and Cons
Faxing through an online faxing service provider affords the user several important benefits, including the ability to:
• Access and send faxes from anywhere via online storage and electronic transmission
• Avoid unnecessary printing, which leads to a greener, less-cluttered workplace
• Cut equipment and supply expenses, as the need for a fax machine (plus ink and paper) disappears
However, online faxing does present one significant challenge: security. By putting all your faxes onto your computer (or into the online environment in general), you open these important documents to the same kinds of threats that your email is susceptible to: interception and theft via computer worm, root kit, etc. And, given the frequent importance of faxed correspondence, you are setting yourself up for problems if you don’t maintain strong electronic security protocols after switching to online faxing.
Click here for tips on protecting your online fax system from spam.
Different Ways You Can Send Faxes Online