Faxes Hanging On
Business analysts who thought faxing would largely be irrelevant by now may be surprised to see fax machines and Web-based faxing services continuing to serve as an important way for many small and large businesses to exchange documents.
Although email is probably used more often than fax machines, faxing remains an important business communications tool, especially for documents that may be too large for emailing, or may contain sensitive information that the sender would prefer not to send via the Internet.
Business owners have a choice for faxing between a physical fax machine or an "e-fax" application that sends and delivers documents as email attachments.
Many small businesses that rely on traditional faxes do so either with a dedicated fax machine or with a multi-function device that also serves as a printer, scanner and photocopier. Once a business expands beyond a solo entrepreneur or two or three employees, using dedicated machines for specific purposes generally provides more efficiency and durability.
Some offices using multi-function or dedicated fax machines may choose to devote a phone line specifically to the machine; others may choose to have their fax machine share a line with a phone extension (software integrated into the machine helps it identify the type of call).
Law firms, medical practices and real estate offices are among the types of firms that generally continue to rely heavily on exchanging information via fax.
E-Fax Gaining Popularity
While many small businesses continue to rely on faxes, a growing number are replacing their fax machines with e-fax applications that send and deliver faxes to email inboxes over the Internet.
E-fax applications offer a number of potential advantages over traditional fax machines, starting with the convenience of being able to receive a fax directly into your email system. Incoming fax documents are automatically converted into PDF format and delivered via email, so they can be printed or stored electronically.
Another potential advantage of e-faxing is that you can receive documents anywhere you have Internet or email access. If you are outside your office, receiving a fax electronically is more convenient than heading to a hotel business center to retrieve a fax or waiting for a document to be slipped under your door.
Because an incoming fax is delivered as a PDF, you may be also able to read it on a wireless handset.
Sending an e-fax is basically the same as printing a document -- when you install your e-fax software, you create a new printer driver on your PC or network. To send a document, you access the e-fax software in your print menu and enter a destination number. The document is then uploaded to your e-fax service provider and faxed to its destination.
Most e-fax applications can send a variety of file formats, including word processing documents, spreadsheets, PDF files, presentations and images.
E-fax service is generally available from a variety of providers for a monthly fee, plus a per-page charge for sending and receiving faxes.
Proponents of e-faxing say it offers an economical alternative to dedicated fax machines because it does not tie up a phone line or use printing supplies. In addition, because e-fax service providers offer storage of incoming documents as an additional feature, using an e-fax service provides a form of online backup for documents you receive.