Big hair. Cabbage Patch Kids. Padded shoulders. Faxing. These are all things that were popular in the 1980s that today make us wonder what we could've been thinking. Right?
Not quite. While the first three may (thankfully) have been tossed on the scrap heap of bad ideas, faxing remains a vital part of the business world. Despite the widespread popularity of that '90s invention - email - faxing is still used on a daily basis by real estate agents, insurance brokers, medical personnel, construction companies and their suppliers, lawyers, truckers and many other small and large businesses to send documents quickly and securely.
One thing that has changed, however, is the way faxes are being sent and received. While a fax machine was essentially the only choice back in the '80s, today more and more users are opting to use an Internet fax service (aka fax by email). And for good reason.
Internet fax services are far more suited to the way business is conducted in the new millennium. Need proof? Following are some examples of the things an Internet fax service can do that a fax machine can't.
- Let you go mobile. When you use a fax machine, you are pretty much tied to wherever the machine is located. If you're out of the office and an important fax comes in, you either have to go back to the office to get it or have someone forward it to another machine that's closer to where you are. With an Internet fax service, though, faxes are sent and received through your email account - which means you can view inbound faxes anywhere you can get an Internet connection. And on any device, including your smart phone.
- Improve privacy. Fax machines generally sit in a common area since they're usually shared by an entire department or office. If you receive a fax, it sits there in that common area where anyone walking by can read it. Not exactly the picture of security. Because Internet fax services deliver faxes directly to your email in-box, the information they contain is kept private. They also allow you to send faxes from your desktop instead of a common area where anyone passing by can see the information. That's something to keep in mind particularly if you're faxing medical, financial or other information protected by the law.
- Increase security. Faxes are already a secure means of sending documents between two parties. But a good Internet fax service adds an extra layer of security by encrypting messages, preventing them from being intercepted by unscrupulous parties. This added encryption is an advantage over sending documents via email as well.
- Keep a team informed. Fax machines are a one-to-one proposition: the document goes in one machine at the sending end and comes out in one machine at the receiving end. If you're working with a team and everyone needs to see the document, someone has to make and distribute copies. If some of the team members are out of the office at the time they won't see it until they get back. Internet fax services allow you to specify simultaneous delivery of faxes to multiple email addresses, assuring everyone has the information they need in a timely fashion no matter where they are.
- Keep faxes organized and available. Fax machines generate paper faxes that can get mis-delivered, buried on a desk, mis-filed, smeared, destroyed or thrown away. Once the fax is gone, obtaining another copy can be difficult. Because Internet fax services deliver electronic files, faxes can be stored on a hard drive or server where they can be pulled up quickly anytime they're needed. A good Internet fax service will also archive faxes for several months to a year, providing an extra backup as well as an additional means of accessing faxes while you're out of the office.
- Reduce cost and environmental footprint. Operating a fax machine can be expensive. There's the cost of the machine itself, plus a dedicated phone line, the cost per call if it's on a toll-free number, paper, toner and electricity to keep it ready to send and receive faxes 24x7. An Internet fax service eliminates nearly all of those costs completely, and limits paper cost to the faxes you choose to print - all for just a few dollars a month. As an added bonus, the paper, toner and energy savings also help you make your office a little greener.
Let's face it - fax machines are just so 1980s. If you're still using one, it's time to put it in the attic next to your legwarmers and that copy of The Breakfast Club on VHS and move to an Internet fax service instead.
Steve Adams is the vice president of marketing for Protus, a provider of communications tools for small-to-medium-businesses and enterprise organizations, including the MyFax (www.myfax.com) internet fax service; my1voice, a virtual phone service; and Campaigner, an e-mail marketing solution. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.