We all tend to think of fax machines as quaint, 20th century products that became irrelevant when the Internet came along. But in reality faxes are still the most efficient way to quickly deliver a signed business document. As with most office tasks these days, you can do faxing over the Internet and in many ways it's more efficient than using a fax machine. So in this post we take a quick look at some of the electronic fax options out there.
I have to admit I've tried to route around faxes in the past, by scanning and emailing signed documents. But when it comes down to it, scanners are more of a pain than fax machines. So finally today I signed up to an electronic fax service, enabling me to send and receive faxes across the other side of the world easily.
Why electronic fax instead of faxing using a good old 'All-in-one' fax/printer/scanner machine? Well for one, it's more convenient for many people to send and receive faxes by email, which is what electronic faxing enables. Also, electronic faxing allows you to get an international fax number. And electronic faxing doesn't tie up your phone line. Bottom line: so many of the basic tasks any business has to deal with these days can be more efficiently done over the Internet; and faxing is no exception.
I asked the friends of RWW on Twitter today which solutions they recommend.
Several people suggested efax.com - and that's the one I signed up for, given that it has a 30-day free trial. It's $12.95 per month from then on, which is a bit of a premium on the other services mentioned in this post. But efax.com appears to be the market leader in this niche.
efax.com is a nice, simple web solution for faxing. There are no real 'web 2.0 frills' to it - no collaborating with other fax users, no rating faxes, no commenting on faxes, etc. It actually sounds a bit silly to suggest those features in this context. Because let's be honest, electronic faxing doesn't need any of the trendy 2.0 features - faxing over the Web is a simple and direct service that people will actually pay for.
$12.95 per month is about half the price of a basic Basecamp project management account. Although you could buy a fax machine for a one-off price of $100, so in reality you are paying a premium for the convenience of faxing over the Web.
What other electronic fax solutions are out there?
salimmitha tweeted that "the best one which i have used for ages is Maxemail - and you can easily get a US fax number - love it"
Dan And Jennifer said that "we've been using RingCentral for a few years, it's inexpensive and it just works; actually it's fax AND voicemail w / call forwarding."
Bill Mitchell suggested Faxzero.
Other options include send2fax.com, FaxMicro, smartFax, Data On Call, TrustFax and FaxItNice.
The pricing of all these services starts at around $10-15. There are a couple of free providers, but they put ads on your faxes - not a good look if you're running a business and using the service to send signed contracts. $10 per month seems reasonable for an electronic fax service and there's definitely still a business need for it.
Do you electronic fax and if so which service do you use?
UPDATE, 19 March 2009: We have updated our post to use the term 'electronic fax', rather than the term that was previously used, due to a legal letter we received.