6 Reasons to Trash Your Fax Machine

Category: Fax

A reader says: “I am amazed at how many professional offices still insist on sending and receiving documents by fax. It's like they've never heard of computers, email or the Internet. I'd love it if you could give me a list of reasons why people should stop using old fashioned fax machines. I'll e-fax it to my banker, accountant and lawyer!” Good idea... here's my list!

Let's Stamp Out Fax Machines in Our Lifetime!

They're mechanical dinosaurs in a high-tech world. Fax machines are highly inefficient, expensive and wasteful, compared to the digital alternatives that exist. So why do so many offices still use them? It's a mystery to me.

If you're still clinging to an analog fax machine, here's a newsflash... the 80's are over! It's time to join the Internet fax age, which started about 20 years ago. Here are SIX good reasons to give that old fax machine the boot:

Cost: Consider the up-front price of the fax machine, a place to put it, a dedicated phone line, paper, ink, other supplies, and periodic maintenance. Not to mention replacing it every few years. (Want to save even more by printing less? See Save Time and Money with Alternatives to Printing.)

Fax Machine Dinosaur

Inconvenience: How much time is wasted on trips to and from the fax machine; waiting in line; paper jams; having to request re-transmissions? Sending a long document by fax is frequently problematic. Lost carrier, missing pages and garbled text can be maddening. And how many annoying junk faxes do you get? Fax machines don't have spam filters.

Security: Yikes, do you really want all those confidential faxes sitting in the paper tray where any passersby can read them? Even if you have a secure fax line, it has to be decrypted at the receiving end, and printed on a piece of paper.

Archiving and retrieval: Paper faxes take up space and organization time. It can be hard to find an old fax when you need it. They get lost and deteriorate, especially if you use a machine which spits out faxes from that shiny rolled paper. (I've worked in offices where the secretaries routinely made a photocopy of incoming faxes, just to have it on "real" paper.)

Portability: It can be difficult to receive faxes when you are on the road. Someone at home base must re-transmit a fax to you at a borrowed fax machine.

Readability: Every time you run a document through a fax machine, the quality of the text (and especially images) is decreased. Documents that were originally in color become black and white, which can make some parts of the text invisible or unreadable. The same thing happens on the other end when it's printed, photocopied, or re-faxed by the recipient. How many times have you seen faxes like this, and needed to contact the sender to clarify the text?

Internet Faxing to the Rescue!

Internet fax services do away with all of these headaches. See my article Free Internet Faxing Services to learn about various online faxing alternatives, and how to send a fax for free. You can even get a free INBOUND fax number that others with fax machines can dial to send you a fax. See my article Get a Free Inbound Fax Number to learn about that.

If you only send and/or receive a few faxes a month, these free services will do just fine. If you're going to be sending and receiving a lot of faxes, consider using one of the commercial online fax services. Here is how Internet faxing works:

To use an Internet fax service, you only need Internet access, an email account, and an account with the Internet fax service. You don't need any special hardware or software. When you register with an Internet fax service, you receive a fax phone number at which people can send you faxes. The number delivers fax transmissions to the service's servers, where faxes are stored as digital images.

Your faxes are delivered to your email inbox in one of two ways. A fax may be a digital image file attached to an email message, or the email may contain a link to the fax image file on the service provider's website. Either way, you are able to view your fax easily, even if you are traveling with a laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Fax services store your received faxes for varying periods of time, allowing you to search for old faxes by sender, date, and other criteria. Of course, you can also download the fax files and save them on your local computer.

Sending an E-Fax

Sending a fax is as simple as sending an email. You address an email to the recipient's fax number at the provider's mail server, e. g., 18005551111@myfax.com. Attach a file in one of the service's supported formats such as Word, Excel, PDF, JPG, etc. The service transmits your attached document to the recipient's fax machine via its fax servers. Some online faxing services make it even easier, with a simple web form where you can enter the fax number and type your message (or upload a document) to be sent.

If you need to e-fax a photo or an already-printed document, you'll need to convert it into digital format. An all-in-one printer with a scanner is best for that, but your smartphone camera will also work in a pinch.

Commercial Internet fax services typically offer a trial period of up to 30 days. After that, they charge as little as $5 to $10 per month to send and receive hundreds of pages. But don't forget the free alternatives! See my links above.

Excuses, Excuses...

With all the advantages of paperless, portable Internet faxing, it's hard to imagine why traditional fax machines are still around. The obvious question is "Why not just do away with faxing, and send attachments via e-mail?" It's free and encryption is available if needed. You can even sign documents digitally now. (See Are Digital Signatures Secure and Legal?)

Of course, there are still some professional offices that have yet to enter the electronic age. One of my doctors has a secretary that uses only a pencil and a typewriter. No fax machine, and of course, no computers! I think she also has a slate and a hunk of charcoal in a drawer for really important memos. Only the passage of time will bring those offices into modernity.

But the next time your doctor, lawyer, banker or anyone else asks you to send or receive a fax, tell them you'd prefer to use e-mail. Maybe we can get the dinosaurs marching in that direction. Do you have something to say about internet faxing? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "6 Reasons to Trash Your Fax Machine"

(See all 35 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

19 Dec 2014

I have recently had experiences where financial institution and medical institutions would accept a fax of a signed document but not a scanned and email document.

Also, Sony and a few others have gone back to using fax since all the hacking of their emails.

Someday faxes will go away.

Posted by:

19 Dec 2014

I deal with the US CIS. They DO have email. The CIS Service Centers have a "premium processing" unit. You pay $1225 extra, and get 15 day processing of your petition (only for certain types). When the CIS wants to send you a notification requesting additional documentation on a petition, then the fax. Even though they collect an email address on the premium request form -- all requests for additional evidence go by fax (unless you fail to provide a fax number, then they snail mail it). You may respond by physical delivery or by fax. And NOT by email. The only reason they use email is to confirm receipt and approval (and the notices are not "valid" for anything, you must wait for printed notices to arrive physically). This is quite frustrating.

Also re encryption, for medical records: I don't understand why password protection of the attached records (in a pdf format) wouldn't work. That could be mailed to the physician's office to permit them to open the emailed pdf document.

Posted by:

19 Dec 2014

MightyFax appears to be available for Windows 7.

I often paste a scanned image of my signature into Word docs, or into a PDF file, and send by email.
I've sent signed letters to my bank and broker via email and via their website's "message" scheme.

When will some hacker do us the favor of intercepting fax transmissions?

Posted by:

19 Dec 2014

I think one reason we have so much difficulty with govt. departments and such over fax and email comms is that they are cunningly covering their asses and refusing to put anything in print that they don't have to.

Here in Aus. it's glaringly obvious they much prefer telephone comms which impose much inconvenience on the customer getting through to the right person and leave you with no record of the conversation.

Standing up for hard copy does little good as after much delay you're likely to finally get merely pages of impertinent bureaucratic-code waffle.

It is literally a war we are constantly having with our own govts who are preying on us in fact. Having a fax machine is sometimes a useful extra weapon one can bring into action to defeat them.

Recently, for instance, I was unable to contact via their sole contact phone number as the 'on holds' were apparently of the order of half an hour or so and there was no email address provided and no web contact.

So I faxed them. And wrote at the bottom "You've been contacted, informed, please acknowledge receipt." and I sent it again and again until I did get an ack. Which took some time.

Posted by:

Susan Gawarecki
19 Dec 2014

Regarding signatures, I keep a jpeg of my signature that I can paste into an editable document and resize as needed. I then save that document as a pdf and attach it to an email. I suppose it could also be faxed as well.

I have my own company (run out of my house), but I will not give a fax number, because I don't want my phone ringing at all hours of the night. My past experience with faxes is that the vast majority are junk advertising.

Posted by:

19 Dec 2014

We use a fax machine BECAUSE of security of information. The fax machine is part of our computer's printer/scanner. It sits next to my the desk of the person who needs to receive it in an office used ONLY by that person. This individual control of the reception or sending of faxes is shared at all three of the locations sending and receiving our faxes. If we sent e-faxes or attachments to emails, they would NOT be secure. Notice how Korea was able to get copies of emails from Sony records??? Note the previous comment. Would you like your full credit card information bouncing around on a ton of email servers over which you have NO CONTROL?? I wouldn't.

Posted by:

19 Dec 2014

Keep your hands off my fax machine. I have a stand-alone fax machine & I'm keeping it. I've used the fax function in my 4-in-1 printers and it just doesn't work that well. If you use a fax machine only occasionally (once a day or so for me) you don't need a dedicated fax line as you can just send it over the same line as your phone (landline). And I can send all my long distance faxes free as I have unlimited long distance phone service. And I do know how to scan and attach to e-mail, which I do frequently, but there are some times when only a fax machine will do. And the recipient has to print out those attachments; why not just fax the doc in the first place? As others have pointed out, doctors and government agencies like to use faxes. Fax machines aren't expensive; I have a Brother laserfax for which I paid about $150--written off as a business expense. Works for me, Bob

Posted by:

19 Dec 2014

Regular faxing is no problem, for me. I have a Brother MFC Printer, which has a stand alone Fax, built in.
You just never know, when you will need to send a Fax.

When Hubby and I signed our lease, this was done by a service or computer program, called DocuSign. It was done by "email", but, it is a legal binding contract. So, I have done both, with my computer and MFC printer.

Since, I have done both methods, I honestly, can not say, one is better than the other. I personally think, both have their places in our business and personal lives.

Posted by:

Craig B
20 Dec 2014

Bob, would you please comment on the security issues raised by e-faxes. I work for a financial adviser and we are very concerned about transmitting sensitive and confidential client information to our brokers using internet fax services. Most of the e-fax service companies we have looked at do not guarantee encrypted data transmission between end points. An "old school" analog fax between between my machine and my brokers fax machine, is encrypted and secure. Correct?

Our vendors and customers, do not want to go through the extra steps that are required to use encrypted email attachments. These require passwords that WE must create and communicating the passwords to the recipients is a problem unto itself.

Show me how to send an encrypted email conversation between two parties using two Google emails accounts (that can't be intercepted and does not require a password or some 3rd party account that requires a login/password), and we'll start a new company together.

Posted by:

20 Dec 2014

Security & hacking (for example Sony) and the NIS spying has even forced many intelligence agencies (Germany & Russia) to go back to snail mail and faxes in lieu of cell phones and email.

Posted by:

20 Dec 2014

In Japan Fax is still in use. Rather changing from Fax to E-Fax only changes are made in Fax machines such as paper and ink.

It is a part of the business community.

Posted by:

Alvah Harry
20 Dec 2014

I am rather negative toward faxes. PDF documents are much simpler to handle. Over the last 10 years, I don't remember a single office that did not have a scanner. As for encryption, that's just an excuse for not doing anything. There are multiple encryption programs that would work just fine. Pick one and be done with it.

Posted by:

Colin Bain
20 Dec 2014

In a busy Pharmacy, the faxed orders from docs are legally the only 'electronic'ones that are securely verifiable. Experiments in esignatures have not found their way to approval legislatively, or acceptably to governments and payers who want be able to audit paper.

Posted by:

20 Dec 2014

To Bert and the others concerning about violating HIPPA and other confidential information. My land-line fax number was a prefix difference to the fax numbers of both our local cancel center and school district's disciplinary office. Many of days my floor was covered by that pricey roll of paper.

I definitely did not need a fifty page health record of a dying person and my day would have been much better not knowing certain things about some children. Oh, and many times did you answer your home phone only to hear that grating fax chatter.

YES! let's get rid of those dinosaurs.

Posted by:

21 Dec 2014

The Pope prefers to fax back and forth for privacy and security reasons. With some of the church scandals you can understand why. Maybe we should hold off on the fax funeral or is it time for the last sacrament?

Posted by:

22 Dec 2014

I've actually gone paperless for just over a year. Ok, I still use toilet paper, but that is the exception. I just sold one of my houses and except for one document, which had to be notarized for which I not only had to sign, but I had to be present, everything else was via DocuSign. Email is also legally binding, not just faxes. If auditors want paper, that's generally their problem. i.e. if they want it, they print it. Please see: http://www.forbes.com/sites/oliverherzfeld/2013/12/09/are-your-emails-enforceable-contracts/

Posted by:

Frank Sargent
24 Dec 2014

Re: Faxes...

In general, paper still has the highest probative value: e.g., a registered or certified letter with a return receipt, physically tracked and signed for, every step of the way. Anything digital can be, and has been, faked or manipulated.

EDITOR'S NOTE: And anything physical can be lost, stolen, folded, bent, spindled or mutilated. See http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/03/21/17402238-mail-on-fire-after-postal-service-18-wheeler-crashes-along-florida-interstate

Posted by:

Frank Sargent
24 Dec 2014

Re: EDITOR'S NOTE: And anything physical can be lost, stolen, folded, bent, spindled or mutilated. See http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/03/21/17402238-mail-on-fire-after-postal-service-18-wheeler-crashes-along-florida-interstate

Good point, especially when the law requires the original physical document. I often use both physical and digital documents, one to satisfy the law, and the other for backup.

Posted by:

24 Dec 2014

We still use fax. Dedicated fax line and all. If a customer wants to do business by fax, I'm not going to turn down his money. It's not just faxes, it the entire throwaway march-of-progress culture. Being willing to accommodate technophobes, fossils, and ludites is a huge business advantage - and not just customers - vendors, and even employees, too. Some of the most knowledgable, highly intelligent people in many fields (the people with 20, 30 or more years of experience) are not computer literate. Many of them don't want to be, either.

I'm all for progress. Here's the thing - if you limit yourself, you are limiting yourself. It doesn't matter whether it's limiting yourself by not adopting the new stuff, or limiting yourself by not learning how to handle the older stuff that has been superseded, but is still lingering. You are still limiting yourself.

So by all means - every one dump your faxes. Cut yourselves off from whole chunks of the market - those of us who are able to maintain backward compatibility will be happy to take those market shares with less competition.

Posted by:

27 Dec 2014

I was just scanning through the notes posted about fax machines. BobD mentioned Mighty Fax that could be used with Windows 7 computers. I just put in their webpage and found their domain name is up for sale.


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