What Is Online Faxing?
Online faxing is the method of sending and receiving faxes in a digital format through your internet connection right from your computer or even mobile device. The process converts your documents into data packets in order to transmit almost any file that can be attached to an email. Traditional faxing requires a dedicated phone line, and can only send or receive a s ingle fax at a time. Online faxing removes the need for dedicated fax machines and accompanying phone lines. Users can instead send faxes through a web-based GUI or even directly from their email. Unlike generic file sharing, online faxes are still legally recognized and binding documents - just without the headaches normally associated with standalone fax machines.
As is the case with any hosted service, the heavy lifting of online faxing is handled through your provider so you don’t have to. Through easy to use GUIs, directly through email, or even integrating existing VoIP services with a fax machine, sending and receiving faxes can be done from almost anywhere in the world. No more are the days of crowding around the office fax machine waiting for your document to roll in. Previously, VoIP services relied on codecs to compress and decode data only optimized for voice communications – unable to be processed by standard fax machines. However, the T.38 protocol now makes virtual faxing possible to send documents and other data through your standard internet connection.
How Does Internet Faxing Work?
An internet faxing service works much in the same way that traditional faxing of paper documents would. The main difference lies in the use of a web based Graphical User Interface (GUI) as opposed to a physical, dedicated fax machine located in your office. An online fax service is fairly simple and usually follows a standard three step process:
- Open your email or the dedicated web GUI and type in recipient’s fax number as well as a designated domain provided by your faxing service.
- Attach the document you want to send; some services allow you to include a message to be faxed as a cover letter.
- The recipient then receives the document and cover letter as if it was a standard fax.
On the more technical side of the equation, the hard copy file you upload or scan into your computer will be converted to either a PDF or TIFF image file type and attached to the email being sent, which will arrive in the Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME) – the internet standard that allows emails to support non-text attachments. The data is transmitted via the TCP/IP protocol to allow for secure, long distance transmission and even the ability to verify if your fax has been received.
What Are the Benefits of Online Faxing Services?
Internet faxing takes an otherwise almost outdated process and converts it into a modern medium that utilizes our standard internet connections. Removing the reliance on standard phone lines and old school fax machines, the benefits of online faxing are fairly easy to see on the surface.
- No Need for Standalone Hardware or Software
Online faxing completely removes the need to have a dedicated fax machine with its own dedicated phone line. Less things required to make the process happens means less things to go wrong, and this is especially true for hardware. Without a dedicated fax machine there will be less need for maintenance and repairs, less clutter around the office, and even greater mobility for your workers.
- Increased Mobility
Because internet faxing utilizes either a web-based GUI, your own email account or even smart phone apps, faxes can be sent from anywhere in the world as long as you have a stable internet connection. If employees are travelling or on the go, or even working from home, hours will no longer need to be spent tracking down a working fax machine just to send or receive one single document. Online faxing also allows users to send and receive more than one document at a time, and even send a document to multiple recipients.
- Added Confidentiality
Faxes sent to an email account are far more private than just the public fax machine used by every worker in the office. Or that public fax machine in your hotel. Faxes are used mainly for legal documents, in which confidentiality can be of the highest priority for users. With everyone delegated to your own private email, it’s much easier to ensure your files are seen only by your eyes.
- Reduced Phone Costs
Without the necessity of a stand-alone phone line, and any charges from your phone company associated with sending faxes, it’s a no-brainer that your phone costs will go down. Most online faxing services offer a subscription based program to allow for unlimited faxes sent and received at one monthly cost. Other services charge per fax, but can be less than a dollar a page. The only cost beyond these would be your standard internet subscription.
- Simultaneous Faxing
Shedding the dependency on a fax machine and phone line and instead moving to the internet allows for simultaneous faxing. Send or receive as many faxes as you need at the same time, and each one will turn up as its own individual email to keep everything neat and organized. Less time spent faxing means more time spent being productive.
- Email Focused
Online faxing fully integrates into a preferred e-mail address to keep things private, organized and most importantly, paperless. No longer will you have to track down an open and working fax machine as every fax you receive will find its way directly into your email inbox. Sending faxes can be done directly through email as well, just send an email with the recipient’s phone number and supplied domain name in the address line.
Internet Faxing Brings a New Level of Simplicity
Internet faxing makes faxing just easier, and this ease of use is unparalleled by standard fax machines and the old process of faxing. Through intuitive web GUI’s or even right from your email account, internet faxes can be sent in a matter of seconds. With the ability to simultaneously send and receive faxes and well as send one fax to multiple people at a time the process has never been simpler.
An added benefit of utilizing web-based interfaces and even mobile smart phone apps is the level of mobility they bring. As long as your computer or phone is connected to a stable internet connection faxes can be sent directly from your smartphone on-the-go. Remote workers, or traveling employees can stay connected and in the loop without the need to track down a working, old style fax machine.
Online Faxing Features to Look For
- Scheduled Delivery
Make sure all your faxes are getting where they need to go on time with the ability to schedule a specific delivery time. Online fax service providers should make the international exchange of documents easy, and scheduled delivery ensures your message will land at the right place in the right time zone.
- Electronic Signature
With fax still used as a principal method of exchanging legal and binding documents or contracts, its imperative to have the function to digitally sign your any form you may have to send out or receive. Through the web-based GUI portals or even the smartphone mobile apps provided by online faxing services, users can digitally sign their name before the fax is sent to ensure a legally binding document.
- Group Faxing
One of the major benefits of online faxing is the ability to send or receive multiple faxes all at the same time. Taking this one step further with a unique feature known as group faxing, users can blast out a single fax to as many recipients as necessary all in one shot. Thanks to the intuitive portals and apps from your faxing service provider, group faxing is simple and generally won’t cost you anything extra.
- International Faxing
As noted previously, one of the major benefits of internet faxing is the flexibility the service offers, especially when it comes to sending documents and data internationally. Because you don’t have a dedicated phone line to deal with, and your data does not transfer through the PSTN, there are no extra costs or headaches associated with international faxing – just like an email you can send anything anywhere.
- Number Blocks
Unwanted spam is the worst, and keeping the clutter out of your email inbox can be a full-time job in itself. With all your faxes coming into your email inbox, it could be easier to become overwhelmed rather quickly. Thankfully, the much needed function of number blocking is offered by some service providers for your online faxing account. Create a whitelist of allowed numbers, or a blacklist of specifically blocked numbers to help cut down on the number of unwanted faxes.
To keep your files and documents extra secure, it is important to look for a provider that offers not only outgoing, but even incoming fax encryption. Some providers even enable SSL-secured web communications with their GUI portals to satisfy every level of protection at every step of the process. This way, your private information can be uploaded onto the web portal and still remain secured until it can be encrypted for the faxing process. Encrypting incoming faxes also ensures anything you receive cannot be read by unwanted eyes.
- Fax Alerts on Mobile
If having faxes sent directly to an email inbox of your choosing isn’t enough to satisfy your level of connection, most providers also offer the ability to receive fax alerts directly on your mobile device. Not just through the mobile smartphone apps that can be used to send faxes, but users can also receive alerts of incoming faxes and verification of received faxes directly through their texts, as a standard SMS message. Utilizing the TCP/IP protocol to transmit your fax data allows for verification that the recipient did in fact receive the fax.
- Custom Cover Pages
When faxing a sensitive or complex document, it is sometimes necessary to include a cover sheet prior to the document itself. Service providers of online faxing make this function possible by either simply including a message directly within the email itself and attaching the file – the service will convert your message into a cover page and your attached file into a faxed document – or even through the smart phone mobile apps, desktop apps and web-based GUI portals.
- Local and Toll Free Numbers
A fair number of internet fax service providers can supply users with either a local number or even a toll free number for faxing services. All online fax services will provide users with a dedicated faxing number upon establishing service, and the selection of a toll free or even local faxing number can help your business keep the same professional or local presence associated with your phone lines.
Final thoughts for Online Faxing Service Shoppers:
Internet faxing promises a dramatic reduction in the cost of faxing, as well as the time and effort required to fax. With some providers charging on a per-fax basis, and others on a subscription model, it’s important to take a close look at exactly how users will be charged, and for what they will be charged.
It is not uncommon for the subscription services to include a laundry list of hidden and extra fees undisclosed at the time of sign up. Some providers will even limit the number of incoming and outgoing faxes that are allowed per month in your subscription package. If your service functions with a limited number of sent and received faxes, it is also possible the provider will charge overage fees for when you go over that predetermined limit.
While long distance faxing is made easy through an internet connection, another good point to take note of is any extra costs or fees that might be charged for specifically international, or even simply long distance, faxing. Of course, with all hosted services, customer service is absolutely key, as when things go wrong it’s not on your end, but the providers. Ensuring the online faxing provider you decide to utilize has a solid, and responsive customer service can be key to maintaining your faxing service.
Some internet faxing providers will even offer a free demo, or trial period for their service. You can generally establish an overall understanding and feel for the service through these demos and trial periods, so it could be beneficial to try them out before you even think about putting your credit card down. This also offers a way to test out the provider’s customer service and full list of features.