If you clicked on this article, one of the following things is likely true:
- You are paying too much for your current fax service
- You need a fax service, but you don’t fax that often
- Your current faxing technology is outdated, expensive and slow, and you want to know if there is a better option out there (spoiler alert: there is!)
We can help in all three cases. This ultimate guide will teach you everything you need to know about using an on the go fax service, including pricing, how it works, who it’s for and why it will benefit your business.
Online Faxing: Background
To understand the flexible faxing options available to you in 2022, you first need to know about faxing’s history. Fax machines may seem like a dated 80s relic, but they are significantly older than you may realise.
Alexander Bain invented the machine that would become the fax machine in 1846. Bain’s Electric Printing Telegraph could take a handwritten message and transmit it over a line to a second machine. The machines used clocks to work in sync — one read the message while the other wrote it down. Bain worked on this concept for three years before it became a reality.
Frederick Bakewell later took Bain’s invention and altered it to transmit images. However, he didn’t bring it to market. That was Giovanni Caselli. Caselli built the world’s first telefax service between Lyon and Paris in 1865.
Over the next hundred years, countless inventors contributed to the development of faxing technology, including Shelford Bidwell, Henry Sutton, Arthur Korn, Édouard Belin, Rudolf Hell and Elisha Gray.
Though the international interest in faxing makes it challenging to say for sure, the first commercial fax machine was likely the Xerox Corporation’s 1964 Long Distance Xerography machine.
Online faxing was invented before the start of the 21st century, and online fax providers like eFax started to open their doors in 1997. Online faxing (sometimes called “efaxing,” “digital faxing,” and “virtual faxing”) and traditional faxing work in similar ways. However, there are some differences:
- Medium = online faxing transmits faxes over the internet while fax machines send faxes over analog lines
- Materials = you can send an online fax through most internet-connected devices, but you need a fax machine for traditional faxing
- Capability = online faxing services transmit many faxes at once while fax machines process one fax order at a time
So. What’s the case for online faxing?
Online faxing is:
Better For The Environment
The ink cartridges fax machines need have a high environmental cost. They require two and a half ounces to one gallon of crude oil in production, and they may take over 450 years to decompose. Paper currently takes up 26% of landfill space, and it takes 10 litres of water to make an A4 sheet. Already in 2022, over 3.5 million hectares of forests have been destroyed for paper production.
Online faxing has a lower environmental footprint, as though you could count the impact of the device you fax through, you would have bought it regardless.
Businesses with a traditional fax machine are on the hook for the ongoing costs of paper, toner, line connection fees, machine maintenance and repairs. These costs add up fast — costing the average business $1,259.76 per machine per year. For comparison, a custom starter plan with eFax starts from $24.95 a month.
Fax machine productivity crawls to a stop the second your machine shows the “line busy” signal or a small piece of paper gets stuck. Additionally, someone needs to stand next to the machine to receive faxes and file them. Online faxing requires very little hardware, and online fax providers file faxes automatically.
Online faxing works from most internet-connected devices, including mobile phones, laptops, desktop computers and tablets. This means you can send and receive an online fax from anywhere — home, work, the beach, etc.
Anyone can steal a fax from your machine, but they need your computer and faxing login data to steal your digital faxes. Additionally, online faxes are encrypted. We will dive deeper into this in the “Fax Security” section.
Fax machines require a lot of office space. They need somewhere to sit, a powerpoint, a phone line connection and space for fax storage. This lost space adds up fast in a small office. Online faxing doesn’t require any hardware outside your devices, so it’s less space-intense.
Online faxing also offers many features traditional faxing doesn’t. So let’s cover those next.
Fax machines are fairly stock standard. They take documents, transmit them and print them. Some machines keep a short history of your faxes, and others have speed dialling.
As online faxing is a digital technology, providers can offer more features to help small businesses fax better.
Here’s a list of some these features and what they do:
- Multiple recipient faxing = which lets you send a fax to many recipients simultaneously
- Unlimited storage = which stores your faxes digitally
- Tag and Search = which helps you organise your fax files so you can locate documents quickly
- Multiple users = which lets up to five different users fax from your account
- Address book = which remembers recent fax numbers and allows you to document regular recipients
- Fax templates = which help you create a custom fax document quickly
- Usage review = which tracks how many faxes you have sent and received
- Fax preview = which shows you how your fax will look before you send it
- Fax forwarding = which lets you forward a fax via email
- Electronic signatures = which lets you sign a fax without printing it (this feature also lets you save your signature)
- PDF converter = which can change your document’s file type
Online faxing can also transmit files in many formats traditional fax machines can’t, including mov and mp3 files.
We’ve mentioned several times already that you can send a digital fax through your work devices. Specifically, you can fax through these mediums:
When you sign up for online faxing, your provider will connect the email account you gave them to your fax number. This connection will let you send faxes from the comfort of your email inbox.
Most online faxing providers offer desktop fax apps that can send, receive and retrieve faxes for you. eFax’s desktop app is called “eFax Messenger 5.3,” and it works on devices with a Windows operating system.
Suppose you don’t have a Windows computer or don’t want to use an app. In that case, you can access your faxing provider through major web browsers like Google Chrome, Safari and Microsoft Edge.
Some providers also offer mobile apps. These apps let you transmit, view and create faxes like the desktop version. eFax offers four apps:
- The eFax App (for Android devices)
- The eFax App (for iOS devices)
- The eFax Corporate App (for Android devices)
- The eFax Corporate App (for iPads)
How Online Fax Numbers Work
Online fax numbers and fax machine numbers look identical, so you can use your current fax number to fax online (provided you port it to your new provider).
Fax numbers have three components, a country code like “61” for Australia, an area code like “07” for Sydney, and a local number like “98721838.” When you send an online fax, you string these three components together, like “610798721838.”
If you want a fax number in a location you don’t live in, providers like eFax can give you one.
At this point, you know the basics of how online faxing technology works, and you might be wondering, “how do providers protect online faxes against cyber thieves?” As we don’t know exactly how other providers do things, we will answer this question in the context of eFax.
When you send a digital fax, eFax protects it with the most robust security protocols recommended by the Payment and Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework.
Faxes are also encoded with Transport Layer Security (TLS) encryption, specifically, TLS 1.2. This means that if someone intercepts your fax (which is already unlikely), the fax will not be legible to them.
When you store your faxes, eFax protects them with 256-bit AES encryption. eFax also stores all data in Tier 3 data centres. Tier 3 data centres are among the safest and most reliable data centres.
If someone accesses your faxing system, you can see what they do, as eFax uses Secure User ID tracking to monitor activity. This feature works even if you have different users on your eFax account.
Because online faxing is cyber secure, it is compliant with HIPAA, GLBA, PIPEDA, PCI-DSS and SOX. eFax is also HITRUST CSF Certified.
Any business that needs to send faxes can benefit from switching to online faxing. This is especially true of businesses in these sectors:
- Medicine and telemedicine
- Real estate
- Aged care
If you want to see how online faxing works in action, read how a publishing company and an insurance company use it.
#1. Publishing Company
A multi-million dollar publishing company with over 1,000 sales staff uses online faxing to work remotely. Before switching, the company spent up to $40 a month per employee connecting a fax line to their home.
As the company transmitted over 20 million faxes daily, traditional faxing cost nearly half a million dollars a year. Faxing was also a productivity drain, and people frequently missed purchase orders as the high volume of faxes created chaos.
The publishing company switched to online faxing to save time and money. Purchase orders are now processed quickly, sales staff have more streamlined roles and people now have their faxes when they need them.
#2. Insurance Company
An American Fortune 500 insurance company uses online faxing to manage document transmission between clients, retirement homes, medical practises and independent agents.
Before switching to online faxing, agents handled high volumes of confidential documents by hand. This opened the insurance company to regulatory noncompliance (specifically, they were worried about violating the Healthcare Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)).
The insurance company switched to online faxing and now uses faxing to transmit documents between people. As online faxing is cyber secure, the confidential medical data in these documents is safe from bad actors.
Is Faxing Dead? What Research Says
Fax technology isn’t a popular topic of conversation, but it is ever-present in today’s world.
An estimated 43 million fax machines are still running worldwide, and people transmit 17 billion faxes every single year.
Some sectors, like healthcare, still rely on fax machines. Research from the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) shows that faxing or mail is the “main method of sending letters” between healthcare workers. This study looked at 164 doctors and medical staff.
Interestingly, 105 of the participants (roughly 72%) want to send more letters electronically. But this process isn’t always as smooth as it may seem.
The United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) has been fighting the Axe the Fax debate for the past few years. The NHS runs over 9,000 fax machines, and medical offices struggle without them.
The Japanese government has a similar issue. Faxes are still popular in Japan, as the average one-third of households own one (including 40% of people aged 50 to 79 and 38.9% of people aged 80+). Businesses and government workers also use faxes professionally. However, fax machines are expensive and not cyber secure — so they are a liability.
Both the NHS and the Japanese government are right in wanting to replace fax, and the way forward lies in online faxing.
COVID-19 and Faxing
COVID-19 may have pushed the Axe the Fax debate forward several years, as pressure on fax machines showed that they couldn’t adapt.
For example, in New Brunswick, Canada, medical staff used fax machines to transmit COVID-19 test results. As they couldn’t transmit faxes fast enough, roughly 1,500 faxes piled up, and people waited days for results. This was previously a problem in Toronto until Toronto Public Health introduced a new system that only sent 10% of test results via fax machines.
In Austin, Texas, fax machines slowed COVID-19 reporting and case tracking significantly, as fax machines couldn’t handle high volumes of document transmissions. As a result, COVID-19 reporting staff were left with stacks of papers to sift through to track COVID-19 results.
But this isn’t just an issue in North America, as Japan struggled with faxing and COVID-19, too.
Research shows that 60% of businesspeople went to the office to get a fax, sign something, or get a printout. This contact may have contributed to COVID-19 spreading, as people were forced into crowded public spaces.
The On The Go Fax Model
Online faxing uses a slightly different model to traditional faxing. When you get a traditional fax machine, you usually expect to keep your service the same for the machine’s life.
Online faxing is more flexible and is more “on the go” than “on the hook for the next decade.” When you sign up with an online faxing provider, you select a plan tailored to the size of your business, the features you need and how many faxes you need to send monthly (we will cover these plans in “Pricing”).
If you send or receive more faxes than your plan allows, you simply pay $0.10+ per page (depending on where you are faxing).
You can choose to renew your plan monthly or yearly, so you can always alter your service as your business evolves. Additionally, you can add or drop users and fax numbers.
Flexible Faxing Benefits
Taking an on the go approach to faxing has many benefits for your business:
- It will save you money
- You aren’t locked into a plan, so you can change if needed
- It accounts for fluctuations in your monthly faxing habits
You can also use your fax service to fax internationally without jumping through extra hoops.
Many different groups, including big businesses, small businesses, sole traders and individuals, use on the go faxing. Naturally, there are many flexible plans to match each group. These differ between providers, so let’s use eFax as an example.
Small Businesses and Individuals
If you transmit less than 2,000 faxes a month and don’t need eFax Corporate features, these on the go fax plans will suit you:
|Plan||Plus||Pro||Premium||HV 1000||HV 2000||HV 4000|
|Cost||$16.96 monthly (or $169.50 yearly)||$18.95 monthly (or $170.55 yearly)||$23.95 monthly (or $215.55 yearly)||$37.95 monthly (or $341.55 yearly)||$73.95 monthly (or $665.55 yearly)||$144.95 monthly (or $1304.55 yearly)|
|How many pages you can send||150 monthly||200 pages monthly||300 pages monthly||500 pages monthly||1000 pages monthly||2000 pages monthly|
|How many pages you can recieve||150 monthly||200 pages monthly||300 pages monthly||500 pages monthly||1000 pages monthly||2000 pages monthly|
|Cost of additional fax page||$0.10 per page||$0.10 per page||$0.10 per page||$0.10 per page||$0.10 per page||$0.10 per page|
|Average daily page allowance||7 pages||10 pages||15 pages||25 pages||50 pages||100 pages|
|Free trial?||No||Yes — 30 day free trial||Yes — 30 day free trial||No, but you get three free months||No, but you get three free months||No, but you get three free months|
Medium and Enterprise Businesses
eFax offers several plans tailored to larger businesses. These plans have low volume and high volume options designed for businesses that don’t send and receive an even number of faxes.
eFax also offers a custom plan from $24.95 monthly. You can customise this plan to the number of faxes you need to transmit.
If you don’t know which plan is right for you, visit the eFax Pricing page here and select “help me choose.” eFax will walk you through a quiz that can match you to a suitable plan. Alternatively, you can compare eFax plans to eFax Corporate plans here.
How To Send a Fax
The process of faxing online is very easy and takes only six steps:
- Log into your faxing service
- Click “new fax” or “compose”
- Click “attach” and select your files (if the files are very large, you may need to send them separately)
- Press the “to” bar and type your recipient’s full fax number (including their country and area codes)
- Fill in the cover sheet
- Click “send.” Your provider will encode your fax, transmit it and decode it in your recipient’s inbox.
If you are sending a fax via your email, you need to make two small adjustments:
- Add “efaxsend.com” (or equivalent) after the fax number (so “[email protected]”)
- Type anything you want to include in the cover sheet in the body of the email. Your fax provider will turn this into a cover sheet automatically.
How To Receive a Fax
Your faxing provider receives faxes for you, files their contents and notifies you with a message.
To find a fax, open your faxing service and click “inbox.” Your fax will come from the email address “[email protected]” (or equivalent, if you have a non-eFax provider) and will carry the subject line “Fax Received From (Sender’s Number).”
If you would like to forward your fax, you can do so by pressing “forward.”
Online fax services don’t print your faxes like traditional fax machines, so where do they go?
Your provider sends your faxes to secure, centralised data centres outside your device so they won’t take up storage space. You can access your documents via your fax system.
Your faxing provider stores both the faxes you send and the ones you receive in cloud-based storage.
You can still print your digital faxes like regular documents and file them if you want.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How Do You Use an On The Go Fax Service?
To use an on the go fax service, you will need to sign up with a provider and redeem a free fax number. Once you have a number, you simply log into your fax account, start a new fax, add your recipient, attach your documents and click “send.” On the go fax services offer monthly and yearly plans, so you can tailor your service to your needs.
How Much Does an On The Go Fax Service Cost?
The cost of on the go faxing depends on your provider, your security requirements and how many faxes you transmit monthly. As an example, eFax’s plans start from $16.96 monthly for 300 faxes and scale up into the thousands for large enterprises.
What is a Desktop Fax?
“Desktop fax” is just another way of saying “online fax.” Online faxes are transmitted via the internet from faxing programs that run through your web browser, desktop app or a mobile app. Other synonyms for “online fax” include “virtual fax,” “e-fax,” “digital fax” and “internet fax.”
How Can I Send a Fax From My Email?
The process of sending a fax via email is similar to sending an online fax via another method. You simply open the email connected to your fax account, start an email, add your document and select a recipient. The only thing you need to do differently is adding “@efaxsend.com” after your fax number (or the equivalent if you have a different provider).
Will a Fax Go Through After Business Hours?
If the fax machine is on, you can send a fax to it outside business hours. However, as no one will receive it, you likely won’t get an answer until the next day. If you are faxing digitally, you will have no issue sending and receiving faxes. Online faxing servers operate 24/7, 365 days a year.
Can I Fax a 1300 Number?
You can fax a 1300 fax number if you add “@efaxsend.com” (or equivalent) to the end of the fax number. 1300 faxes are toll-free, as the owner of the number pays for all faxes. If you would like to set up a 1300 fax number, eFax Corporate can help you here.
Get Up and Go Fax With eFax
Online faxing will replace traditional faxing, as it is more flexible, safer, more efficient, cheaper and better for the environment. The on the go capabilities of online faxing help businesses work smarter with features like digital signatures, automatic cloud storage and email faxing.
If you are looking for an online fax provider you can trust, try eFax. eFax serves over 11 million customers worldwide, including nearly half the world’s Fortune 500 companies and 20% of ASX 100 companies in Australia. eFax is future-proof, NBN-friendly and flexible as your business grows.
If you’d like to try eFax for yourself, redeem a free 30 day trial to eFax corporate. Or, call eFax’s support team on 1800 243 308 for help deploying eFax.