April 11, 2005
Q: Is there a World Wide Web fax system that you would recommend (sending and receiving faxes via Internet)? — Brian
A: As ubiquitous as e-mail has become for conducting any form of business, faxing is still a major communication method for many. Using a scanner and creating PDFs (portable document files) to send documents as an e-mail attachment is just too technical or too cumbersome for many occasions.
The biggest problem with a paper fax for us "digital" types, however, is that it only exists on that piece of a "dead tree."
There are many advantages to having an electronic fax "service" instead of a fax machine. The first is that you don’t need a special phone line or a machine to send and receive faxes. You don’t have to buy special paper or replace toner or ink, and you don’t have to worry about lost paper faxes.
One of the best parts of electronic fax services is that they provide the ability to have incoming faxes converted to an electronic image and emailed to the recipient — a permanent digital record that can be electronically filed and printed at any time in the future. Get a junk fax, simply delete it just like junk e-mail and save the paper and ink.
During the dot-com boom when everything was named "e" something, a company called eFax launched one of the early Internet fax services. Since then hundreds of companies have sprung up to offer virtually every type of fax service you could need.
Which service is best suited for you depends on your needs and usage. If you don’t need to send or receive very often, don’t care if your assigned fax number is a long-distance call to your senders and don’t mind getting sent advertising, you can sign up for a free service such as the one available at www.efax.com.
Beware, however, that the agreement clearly states that you are agreeing to become a "recipient" of offers from their "partners" (read: A spam receptacle). But what do you want for nothing?
If you do more volume, want a local or toll-free number or various other options, than a pay service may be more suited for your needs. Most of them range from $5 to $15 per month based on the number of included faxes and other details.
Services like uFax (www.ureach.com) offer low base prices and a toll-free fax number and work without the need to install special software.
If you don’t want to have to use e-mail to see your faxes, you can check out services like www.faxesanywhere.com, which stores faxes via a secure Web page that can print them, send them to another fax or e-mail them.
If you decide to use a pay service, be sure to find out what their storage fees are for faxes left on their system or any other potential hidden charges. Also check to see how many pages are included in the base price and if both sent and received faxes are counted against your total.
If you narrow it down to a couple of companies, you may want to search Internet forums for feedback from users of the service just to make sure that they are working well for others.