Are you still using a fax machine? It’s hard to believe that this almost obsolete technology still has a place at the heart of many businesses. Some companies insist on receiving paper documents, which means the process of faxing remains important, albeit less used.
And if you think everything has to be high-tech to work – the 1988 protest in Tiananmen Square and 2011 revolution in Egypt were fuelled by humble fax machines.
Faxing does offer some advantages over email. The ability to easily generate delivery reports is often considered important and, depending on the type of document being sent, the legal status of faxes may be different to email.
Incredibly, some recent research suggests that there are 130 million fax machines still in operation globally and more than six million are purchased annually. To put that in some context, Apple sells about four million or so Macs each quarter.
In other words, to paraphrase Mark Twain – rumours of the fax machine’s death have been exaggerated.
For most businesses, scanning and email have supplanted faxing. But that doesn’t mean faxing has to be completely abandoned. There are online services that act as a bridge that allow you to send and faxes from your email. These gateway services aren’t free but if you faxing needs are only occasional they are less expensive than buying a fax machine.
If you need to send a receive faxes then online fax services such as eFax or UTBox are worth looking at. The prices vary depending on how many faxes you expect to send and receive.
eFax delivers inbound and outgoing fax services to your Mac and iOS devices. There’s a free 30-day trial that delivers the full gamut of their services including the ability to choose your own fax number and the capacity to send 150 pages and receive 150 pages of faxes. If you like the service, it costs $12.95 per month.
UTBox lets you port existing fax numbers to their service or choose your own number. Like eFax, there’s a free 30-day trial with annual packages starting at $59.95 if you pre-pay.
mBox is a reseller of eFax’s service but offers it up for $9.95 per month after a free 30-day trial. That cost reduction drops the sending allowance to 20 pages and receiving allowance to 130 pages.
If you still prefer to stick with pieces of paper or need to fax physical documents then it might be time to look at multifunction devices or small desktop scanners.
There are literally hundreds of multi-function devices to choose from that support faxing as well as copying, scanning and printing. Unlike most of the consumer models on the market, business and enterprise units will let you send documents to the device for faxing direct from user desktops.
Small desktop scanners like the Fujitsu ScanSnap 1300i (right) are handy as well. They allow you to quickly scan multi-page, duplexed documents straight to email so they can be sent out using fax gateway services.
Although email has made a huge dent into the use of fax machines (and post as well) we’re not likely to see the end of faxing any time soon. Many financial and legal institutions still prefer faxes. So, until then, we’ll need to ensure our businesses have access to faxing. It just might not be through the traditional fax machine.