Online Fax Services
As an alternative to traditional fax machines, which transmit faxes over analog telephone lines, many businesses now have the option of using an electronic fax (e-fax) service, which transmits documents over an encrypted Internet connection. E-fax services allow you to send a fax through an online account or through your email by attaching the document you want to fax to an email message. Then, the e-fax provider’s online processor sends the message and attachment to any indicated recipient’s fax machine.
Likewise, an e-fax user receives faxes as email attachments, usually in PDF format, or also in digital format through the user’s online account. Most e-fax providers give each user an individual local or toll-free number, which looks like a traditional fax number. When someone sends a fax from any fax machine to your designated number, the e-fax processor automatically turns the fax into an attachment and sends it to you in an email. Many e-fax services are also compatible with mobile devices such as cellular phones and PDAs.
Advantages of Electronic Fax
Electronic fax completely eliminates the need for physical fax machines and paper faxes. For many businesses, this means substantial savings from equipment and maintenance costs for fax machines, paper, toner, and IT contracts. Furthermore, for businesses that maintain a separate phone line for their traditional fax machines, e-fax allows you to save on telephone company bills. For smaller businesses that share a telephone and fax line, using e-fax means the sender will no longer receive busy signals when you’re switching between lines.
Another big advantage of e-fax is that the user can send and receive faxes from anywhere in the world. Because e-faxes are transmitted over the Internet and can be sent and received from any computer or mobile device, the user is not tied to any physical location, but can use fax from any location with a computer and Internet connection. Furthermore, even if your computer is not on, a fax sent to you will not receive a busy signal, but will be waiting in your inbox the next time you turn on your computer.
An added bonus of using e-fax is that all of your faxes can be digitally edited, signed, forwarded, and stored. This eliminates the need for physical storage and paper filing. Because e-faxes are sent over secure encrypted Internet connections and only show up in the inbox of the intended recipient, e-fax also resolves the privacy problems that can arise from shared physical fax machines.
Choosing an E-fax Provider
There are a number of e-fax providers to choose from. eFax.com is one of the most prominent and widely-used e-fax providers, but a number of other companies, including RingCentral.com and Phone.com, also offer e-fax services, either individually or as part of a package with other services such as virtual phone numbers.
eFax® is a leading online e-fax provider. It has more than 11 million subscribers and offers local and toll-free fax numbers in over 3,500 cities and 45 countries around the world. As described above, eFax® works by turning every fax sent to your designated fax number into an email attachment, and then sending the email to your eFax® online account within minutes. Every time you get a fax, eFax® will send you an email or mobile alert. In addition, eFax® is compatible with Microsoft Outlook and most other popular email providers. Therefore, instead of having to log onto your eFax® online account to access your faxes, you can simply choose to have all of your faxes sent directly to your personal email inbox. Similarly, you can also send all your outgoing faxes directly from your personal email account.
Every eFax® user has access to a free, downloadable eFax® Messenger software, which allows you to create, edit, highlight, and add notes to any fax document. You can also create a personal electronic signature stamp to be attached to faxes using this software. All fax documents created, received and sent are automatically stored in your online account for 2 years. In addition, you can save any fax as a regular PDF document for permanent storage in your personal computer.
eFax® has several plans that accommodate businesses with varying levels of faxing needs. For larger businesses with 10 or more employees, eFax® also offers eFax® Corporate, which customizes your personal e-fax plan tailored to the needs of your business. For businesses that are switching from an already-established fax number, eFax® allows you to transfer existing fax numbers to use with your eFax® account.
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RingCentral, like Phone.com (below), offers e-fax services in addition to their virtual phone services (link?). Therefore, you can subscribe to their e-fax services either separately or as part of a package. For RingCentral users who are already subscribers to their RC Mobile Business plan or any RC Office plan, the e-fax service is already included in the virtual phone package.
RingCentral’s e-fax service is functionally very similar to that provided by eFax®. The user sends and receives all faxes as attachments either through their online control panel and/or to a designated email or mobile account. RingCentral also provides free software and a FaxEditor tool with which you can edit your fax, add texts and graphics, create custom cover pages, and create a custom electronic signature. Furthermore, RingCentral’s software allows you to block junk faxes in the same way your email provider blocks junk email messages.
One unique aspect of RingCentral’s e-fax service is that it can be integrated with any Microsoft Windows application, such as Outlook, MS Word, or Excel. Once you sign up for their e-fax service, a fax icon will appear on the toolbar of any MS application. Using this icon, you can send a fax directly from any open application, instead of having to close the document and then email the document as an attachment.
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Phone.com also provides e-fax services as part of selected virtual phone packages. However, Phone.com offers e-fax only as an included feature of its virtual phone service, and does not offer separate e-fax plans. Subscribers to the Virtual Office, Home Phone Plus, and Virtual Number plans can all send faxes under their plans at no additional charge, but only Virtual Office subscribers can receive faxes.
Because they come as part of a virtual phone package only, Phone.com e-fax features are very basic. Faxes can only be sent through the Phone.com online control panel, and cannot be sent directly from external email accounts or applications. Furthermore, the software does not allow you to edit faxes within the program. If you want to edit a document, you must do so in an external application. Finally, to receive a fax, you must have a separate line for fax only.
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About The Author
Robert Kowalski is a seasoned incorporator and business filing specialist with over 10 years experience consulting emerging companies with their business filing needs. Robert served as the chief editor and one of the top contributors to Answers @ MyUSACorporation.com.