In the age of Instagram, e-signatures, and video calls, the fax machine — whose direct roots date back to 1843 — seems a tad obsolete. The very idea conjures images of cowboys on horseback racing against sleek autonomous vehicles across the freeway.

But against all odds, facsimile technology persists. In fact, a surprising number of businesses, fields, and even entire countries can’t seem to function well without it that fax services continue to evolve alongside wearables, AI, and mobile apps.

Depending on your generation, you might laugh at the sight of this quaint office equipment or relish the nostalgia behind it, but author and technology historian Jonathan Coopersmith believes fax machines will remain useful in one form or another well into the future. In his book, Faxed: The Rise and Fall of the Fax Machine, Coopersmith traces the science behind facsimile technology, the multibillion dollar market it spawned, and its impact on modern culture.

Top reasons people in the 21st century still fax documents

While they may not be as ubiquitous as they once were, fax machines continue to be indispensable in the health, financial, legal, manufacturing, and government sectors. There are still millions of fax machines in frantic operation around the world, with IDC recently reporting that in contrast to the common notion that faxing will die a natural death pretty soon, fax usage in the corporate world will actually grow in the years ahead.

Wait … What?

In its 2017 report, Fax Market Pulse: Trends, Growth and Opportunities, the decades-old business intelligence firm even went as far as concluding that fax will remain a “vital communication tool” relied upon by businesses of all sizes and in all industries, and will play an “important role within organizations as they embrace digital transformation.”

Among IDC’s key findings are:

  • Fax communication remains an alternative, widely used, preferred, or mandatory method for transmitting documents such as trade confirmations, loan applications, patient health information, claim forms, contract bids, expenditure forms, purchase orders, shipping notices, and invoices.
  • Fax usage will shift from traditional to cloud-based variants (i.e., online fax).
  • Fax usage is expected to grow by an average of 25% over the next two years.
  • Organizations continue to use fax because their customers and suppliers require them to do so.
  • Simplifying fax processes and accessibility drives usage growth.
  • Fax is a trusted method of secure communication/document exchange.
  • Organizations continue to invest in their fax infrastructure to serve customers better or expand to new markets.
  • Nearly 40% of surveyed organizations have consolidated their faxing processes to a single solution.
  • Nine in ten of fax users reveal they already have integrated their fax systems with other applications (ERP, CRM, document management, etc) or technologies such as email to make fax easier to use.

Online Faxing as Next-Gen Evolution of Facsimile Technology

So, yes — based on emerging business realities and against popular opinion, fax communication will be around for the long haul. And by integrating current technologies such as cloud computing and email in its functional design, online fax will fit right inside any digital workplace, modern home, or business space.

Fax communication has already evolved for today’s computing environment, with many providers now offering fax servers, email fax, and other cloud-based fax services. New fax-based solutions have enhanced accessibility and offer excellent user experiences. Some are bundled in comprehensive packages that include VOIP phone services which can dramatically reduce phone bills and centralize all your communication processes in one place.

Fax has become a crucial element in the business workflows of customers and suppliers. Any company that ignores fax will be unable to fully cater to these customers and suppliers. Having an online fax system enables any modern business to continue servicing these segments. Moreover, online fax speeds up the transmission of important documents and helps reduce or prevent errors.

Given those benefits and business cases, you may opt to use and integrate online fax into your digital workflow. To do that, you can either use a traditional fax machine plus a fax bridge or just a printer/scanner connected to a computer. Either way, you can easily send and receive fax documents via email and a simple application on your computer. Online fax offers additional benefits:

  • You can easily digitize and archive fax messages instead of maintaining hard copies of every fax document you send or receive.
  • Most services adopt top-notch encryption and security protocols.
  • You can send faxes from any authorized device, including your tablet and smartphone.
  • Most services allow for international fax transmissions without extra costs.
  • Some services come bundled with expense-busting VOIP phones services.

How do you use online fax?

Using online fax is as simple as picking up a phone or writing an email. When you sign up for an online fax service, you’ll be provided with a dedicated phone number for fax as well as an online fax app linked to authorized emails to manage the entire process. There might be slight step variations depending on the online fax service you use, but the general process will be similar across services.

For example, to send a fax online —

  1. Scan or locate the document you want to transmit. To locate, just browse for it on the cloud or on your device storage.
  2. Run the online fax service app.
  3. Enter the number and recipient [attention] name.
  4. Enter any optional information you want on the designated field. This often serves like a fax cover sheet for traditional fax transmissions.
  5. Upload the document. Most online fax services allow for different file formats but PDF is generally the default.
  6. Click SEND. (You’ll immediately receive confirmation on whether a fax was sent or received.)

To receive online fax —

  1. You’ll receive an email message with an attached document.
  2. You can preview the document, store it in the cloud, or get it printed immediately. No need to wait endlessly for a traditional fax machine to slowly print out the document line by agonizing line.

How much does online fax cost?

Nextiva’s pricing matrix will give you a general idea of the monthly cost of online fax. Nextiva’s online fax service has been ranked by Business.com as its Best Pick in the industry for affordability, service level range, and available features.

  1. Single User ($4.95/month) | Up to 500 fax pages per month.
  2. Small Business ($12.95/month) | Up to 1,000 fax pages per month.
  3. Business Pro ($29.95/month) | Up to 3,000 fax pages per month.

Basic features, capabilities, and support for all plans include —

  • Online portal
  • Fax by email
  • Fax by mobile device
  • Access fax anywhere
  • Always on, never busy
  • Fax machine support
  • Number transfer
  • No PC required
  • Cancel anytime

Conclusion

Online fax bridges traditional business practices and the new digital, cloud-enabled workplace. It eliminates incompatibilities with high-tech systems and the need for clunky hardware.

By combining the familiarity of the phone and the convenience of email, online fax empowers businesses with higher levels of accessibility, efficiency, and productivity. They can still exchange documents with customers, suppliers, and other contacts that use traditional equipment — but they also gain greater confidence in addressing any communication challenge that lies ahead.

There are many options to choose from and you can start by reviewing what’s available on the market. Whichever service becomes your final choice, signing up for online fax future-proofs your business and helps it transition more seamlessly into a fast-paced digital environment.