Faxes are a mixed digital tool. On the one hand, faxing documents is insanely antiquated; on the other, the chances for hacking or widespread exposure — even accidental leakage of sensitive data — is minimal, which is why various major industries still use it for secure messaging. The good news is, for those who must, sending a fax is easier than ever with countless new options.
What is a Fax?
A facsimile (aka fax) machine is a secure tool to transmit an image from one location to another, traditionally using analog telephone lines. A user can feed one or several sheets of paper into a fax, type in the phone number of another fax, and send images of documents or photos to that distant location.
First created in 1846, though the modern fax arose in the 1960’s and used the telephone network to scan and send imagery. The fax became a common sight in US offices in the 80’s and 90’s and eventually fell out of general use thanks to the internet age.
Who Uses Faxes
While anyone can buy and use faxes, faxes remain in use with several large industries due to both their security, U.S. laws and various resistance to systemic upgrades. According to FaxCompare.com, real estate agents and realtors, government agencies, healthcare companies and banks still use faxes. For many, “modern” law (modern in that it was modern at-the-time) allows and also requires facsimile transmissions of key data.
In 1996 Congress passed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). In Title II of the Act, privacy and information security guidelines are set which have made fax transmission one of the only methods secure enough for sending health records electronically.Top Industries Using Fax, FaxCompare.com
Author’s Note: Note how long it took for Congress to mandate a technology that would soon be made obsolete.
Buy a Fax
Believe it or not, faxes can still be bought at most office supply stores. Physical machines still require an analog phone line — part of their security — and can allow your small business to send and receive faxes. Walk into many rural small businesses, or low-overhead small businesses, and many may still try to use their faxes for transferring key bits of information. Sometimes that’s designed as a cost-saving measure, other times it’s based more on the comfortability of the business owner or his staff with existing technologies.
Going to a Store
For those who don’t want to pay the costs to own a fax, you can drive to many large office supply chains and pay to use theirs. They have their own cover sheets you can often use and will charge you per-page to fax. Office Depot/Max offers $1.50/page pricing for their fax services. For business owners (or any individual, really) who doesn’t understand faxes and doesn’t trust online services, these services offer you the chance to have a trained professional help you fax your necessary documents.
Online Fax Services
Online fax services have popped up across the internet to feed the disparity between people who are comfortable with sending secure online data and companies either hamstrung by unevolved laws or afraid of risking customers’ personal data to the interwebs.
Features and Benefits
Fax services often allow users to fax with a variety of methods, ranging from scanning and sending from your smartphone to uploading PDFs on your PC, reviewing your own fax history, using email as your send/receive, selecting between local, national and international phone numbers and managing by mobile app.
Users can take advantage of subscription services like efax.com, myfax.com or hellofax.com where you can fax from your computer or smartphone. Pay a single fee every month (or year) and you can send up to a predetermined number of pages, maintain a categorized and tags archive, send to/from emails and more.
Services like faxzero.com even offers free faxes with high limitations, such as FaxZero branding on the cover page, a max three pages and cover sheet, and up to five faxes a day. Others like FaxFresh.com charge for a single-use fax with options.