Just the Fax
Virtual fax services are a great service that everyone can benefit from and there are plenty of choices based on your needs (and frugality!). There are free services that usually are receive-only and will send the fax as an attachment.
- Cognibox Assistant
- J2 Connect
- Pongo (job-hunter/resume specific)
- RingCentral Fax
Most of the services have free trials, and I fully recommend that you try a couple of them out before settling on one since you’re probably going to make this a “permanent” solution for yourself.
There are various things to consider to determine which fax-to-email service is the best for your needs:
- Yes, you’ll need to receive faxes, but will you have to SEND faxes as well? Why do I ask? Because there are a couple of good RECEIVE-ONLY services that are basic in nature and free such as eFax, J2 Connect and eFax. And perhaps you can get away with utilizing these free accounts.
- Do you need a local telephone number for your inbound faxes? All of these service providers offer the ability to get a “local” area code + prefix in most parts of the country. This way, your fax senders won’t be confused and it can look like the fax number is to a machine in your office or home.
- Do you want a toll-free number for the inbound fax number? Utilizing a toll-free number for your business (or personal use, like 1-8XX-CALL-KENNY) provides an instant polished, “large biz” image. And most business owners don’t really know that setting up a toll-free line is EASY, free in many cases (no set-up fees), and low in cost (like NO monthly fees and rates as low as $0.025/minute). For a fax line, it’s a no-brainer to get one since you don’t get charged if that number isn’t used and the rates are so long + how many minutes of inbound faxing do you really utilize? C’mon, if your fax machine is tied up a full hour’s worth each month (that’s a lot of fax pages!), it comes out to a whopping $1.50/month. Here’s the REAL TIP: DON’T sign-up for any paid toll-free numbers with the viritual-fax services (which are usually relatively expensive). Instead, secure your own toll-free-stand-alone account with a phone company so that you can keep that number even if you decide to get another internet fax service — and you can also utilize the free accounts that they offer. Plus, the email-to-fax services usually charge 2x-5x for the per/minute usage fee of that toll-free number — totallly unnecessary.
- In which file format do you want your faxes to arrive? This is an important decision. Some services send the fax scans in a proprietary format with which you must use their own proprietary downloadable software application in order to read the fax. This is ok, but can be a pain in the neck – especially if you’re traveling and trying to read it on someone else’s computer (or a public terminal) where you don’t want/can’t download new software to read the fax you just received. Some other services give you the attachments in .tiff format which is a pretty universal graphic format or even as a PDF file. And keep in mind what types of files are readable on your PDA/phone if you use it to read your emails as well — that way you can even read your faxes on the go!
- What files formats will you be SENDING as an outbound fax? Not all electronic-fax services are created equal. Most allow you to send a fax to a recipient by way of email + attachment and/or their website interface. More importantly, these services allow you to simply attach a file to your email and it will automatically be converted into a fax document at time of transmission. So you should think about what file formats are supported by the service you will utilize — do you work mostly with Excel documents? Graphic files? Powerpoint presentations? Word documents? Are you faxing invoices — what file formats are created with your accounting program? etc.
- Do you need any other messaging features with your e-fax service? There are of course tons of other features that you can upgrade to go along with your fax service such as: voicemail-to-email, VOIP, call management – ring blast, conference calling, etc. You might want to look into “messaging suites” or “virtual assistant” services like GotVmail
One thing to note is that although these services allow you to gain a private fax service – one where you fax document won’t be sitting around on a fax machine unattended until you pick it up, security is always an issue when utilizing the internet for sending and receiving electronic data of any sort. If your need is for a fully private/confidential service where there is no chance that a 3rd party may be able to view the information, you are probably best to go with a traditional PHYSICAL fax machine. My suggestion would be to get an UNLIMITED VOIP line for $199/year from SunRocket (that’s only $16.50/month basically) and use that as a dedicated fax line.
In the end, the electronic faxing services are all great ways to gain access to faxing capabilities whenever you need it. If you have any experiences to share about specific viritual fax services, or have more to add to the list, please leave a comment here.