What do you think of when you imagine using a fax machine at work? Is it paper jams? What about loud dial tones and pesky busy signals? Or does the thought of even having to operate a dedicated fax machine in 2019 simply seem foreign to you in the age of email and digital file sharing?
It may seem like sending faxes through a dedicated machine and landline has gone the way of the dodo, but many businesses still use the technology. Whether it's through personal preference or regulatory guidelines, the need for companies to send and receive faxes is here to stay.
That doesn't mean your business needs a bulky piece of equipment just to send the occasional document. Anyone with a stable internet connection, modern internet browser and access to an online fax service can send, receive and store documents without leaving their desk.
Check out our best picks below to find out what an online fax solution can offer your small business and which ones are worth your time. Also, be sure to read our buyer's guide to find out what to look for in an online fax service.
Our Best Picks
We spent numerous hours researching the online fax industry's major players to find out what they offer small businesses. Here's how we whittled down the field and selected the best online fax services in 2019.
Locating the Best Services
We began our research by compiling a list of vendors that offer online fax services. We searched for companies online and scoured other lists and reviews of popular vendors. We also added to our list vendors that contacted us asking to be considered. In total, we collected more than two dozen services to examine.
Choosing the Best Services
After collating our list of potential vendors, we combed through their websites to find out about their pricing and features, among other important data points. When available, we participated in webinars, watched tutorials and sent sample faxes to get a feel for how a service stacks up against its competitors. We used this criteria to narrow our list to the following finalists: BestFreeFax, FaxBetter, GotFreeFax, HelloFax, InterFAX, mFax, PamFax, PayGoFax, RingCentral and SRFax.
Researching Each Service
Once we'd selected the finalists, we posed as a potential customer and reached out to each service. Whether our conversations took place over the telephone or email, we evaluated how each company handles customer interactions. We asked each customer service representative the same set of questions, including ones about features and pricing, making sure to note how each interaction went down.
Analyzing Each Service
The companies we selected as our best picks deftly combine affordability, features and ease of use, rating higher in our testing than others. We used the following data points to evaluate each online fax provider: ease of use, variety and features of plans, pricing structure, fax limits and overage fees, mobile access, international and toll-free faxing, and contract requirements. Vendors with unclear fee structures, low monthly page allowances and other limiting factors didn't make the cut.
Online Fax Service Trends to Watch
Despite the common perception that business faxing has been made obsolete by email and other forms of instant communication, online faxing is expected to grow into a $2.4 billion industry by 2022, according to a report by Arizton. That growth will be largely driven by North American and European companies, many of which are in the highly regulated healthcare and financial industries. The shift from conventional fax machines to online faxing will continue to be motivated by reduced upfront and maintenance costs, scalability through a SaaS model, and a desire for more automation in day-to-day operations.
As the industry continues to grow and smaller players enter the mix, expect larger corporations to step in and buy out the competition. One example of this is J2 Global. As a major player in the online fax services space, J2 Global has acquired more than a dozen online fax providers. The multinational media company also boasts holdings in digital media properties like IGN and Ziff Davis B2B.
While owning multiple companies in a single space isn't necessarily a bad thing, you should take care before selecting a J2 Global company. If you run an online search for this business, you'll find numerous consumer complaints about unfair billing practices, poor customer service and almost scam-like practices. These have earned the company and its holdings an F rating with the Better Business Bureau. Customers also report these problems on other forums, including ConsumerAffairs and the Complaints Board.
For these reasons, we implore you to take caution when dealing with a company owned by J2 Global. Several of these companies are still on our vendor list, but we have noted in the descriptions when J2 Global is the parent company.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does online faxing work?
Online faxing works one of two ways, either through email integration or a web-based client.
With most service providers, fax-to-email and email-to-fax are how users send their faxes digitally. Through this method, you can send digital attachments through your email client – usually by typing the recipient's fax number as part of a special email address. Faxes can also come into an email inbox if a service has all incoming faxes at a certain number forwarded to the user's email address. Email-based faxing can also happen through integration with existing programs like Microsoft Outlook.
Web-based clients, on the other hand, use forms and upload prompts on a proprietary website to handle incoming and outgoing messages. Much like with the email solutions, any faxes going to a provided fax number will go to the client's dashboard. Files and faxes can then be downloaded and viewed.
While these two options are the most common, some companies provide other solutions, including ones that integrate with physical fax machines to bridge the gap between traditional and online faxing.
What are the benefits of online faxing?
Perhaps the most touted reason to adopt a faxing service is to reduce office costs. An office fax machine can require constant attention. Regular maintenance, ink and toner costs, and dips in productivity as employees stand around a machine while they send or wait to receive faxes are eliminated when the entire process can be done online from a person's desk.
Fax providers often allows you to store your sent and received faxes online. For some businesses, especially ones with regulatory requirements regarding faxing, it can be a lifesaver to store messages digitally instead of printing out the documents and stuffing them in filing cabinets. Some service providers make the faxes searchable so you can easily find them later.
Companies looking to go green could also find online faxing beneficial, as each message is transmitted over the internet and stored in the cloud. With no need to print documents, there is less paper waste.
What should you look for in an online fax service?
The easiest answer to this question is "it depends." The faxing solution that will work best for your needs depends on how much you intend to use it and what features you require.
Good fax service providers will feature a combination of these three things: secure incoming and outgoing fax capabilities, an easy-to-use interface or integration with existing services, and stellar customer service.
As trends in the online fax industry shift over the years, so do our best picks. Since our previous winners are still viable options for any small business looking for an online fax service, our past reviews remain available online.
Previously, Nextiva vFax was our best pick overall for small businesses, thanks to its affordable plans and litany of key features. Likewise, we listed RingCentral as our best pick for multiple users after learning of its ability to cater to larger work groups.
Ready to choose an online fax service? Here's a breakdown of our complete coverage: