The Best Online Fax Services of 2020
Updated: March 26, 2020
Although faxing may seem outdated, many businesses still need this service. Instead of investing in a traditional fax machine, the preferred option is an online fax service. To help you find the service that's right for you, we spent weeks researching, evaluating and testing dozens of online fax services. We scrutinized pricing, features and ease of use, among other things, to find the best solutions for various business needs.
You can see the online fax services we think are best below, along with the typical cost structures of these services and the features you should look for. You can also learn about what to look for in an online fax service in our buyer's guide.
Additionally, read what actual users have to say about what they look for in an online fax service and what they like about the service they are currently using.
Our Best Picks
Like many subscription-based services on the internet, online fax vendors charge a monthly fee. When considering adding an online faxing service to your overall monthly costs, it's important to determine how much you intend to use the service. Most companies limit their service tiers based on the number of sent and received pages in a month.
According to our research, we found that most companies charge a base fee, which ranges from $5 to $50 per month, with the higher-cost service tiers offering a more robust feature set. Depending on how much you're willing to spend per month, you may be limited to sending and/or receiving a handful of pages to thousands of faxes per month. If you send or receive more pages than your monthly allotment, you will usually have to pay additional fees that range from 3 to 12 cents per page.
Some companies offer a pay-as-you-go option. Under that style of plan, users pay a one-time fee per fax sent. Generally, these online fax services are only for outgoing faxes; if you need to receive faxes, you'll need to look elsewhere.
Since faxing is still widely used to send sensitive documents to customers or vendors in foreign countries, some services offer international faxing at an additional cost. Prices generally vary by location, but potential users should be prepared to pay anywhere from 2 cents to a couple of dollars or more for each international fax sent, depending on the country you're faxing documents to.
At a macro level, nearly every vendor in the online fax industry provides the same service. Regardless of whether you need a HIPAA-compliant provider or you occasionally send a fax, how you ultimately transmit your messages remain largely the same. Therefore, it usually comes down to the features a service provider can offer your business when deciding on a platform.
Through researching numerous online fax services, we found that the following features usually served as a way to differentiate one company from another. If present, these features generally help simplify the online faxing process and provide the tools necessary to ensure your messages get where they need to go.
Proprietary app support: Nearly everyone these days has a mobile device in their pocket that's capable of handling complex tasks with the tap of a finger. Online fax companies can often leverage the computational power of a smartphone by offering an Android or iOS app so users can send and receive faxes no matter where they are. In some cases, these apps let users view, edit, sign and send faxes regardless of where they are in the world as long as they have a working cellular or Wi-Fi connection.
Encryption: Data security is an important thing to require from any online service, but it's especially imperative in online faxing. Since faxes often contain sensitive information, strong forms of encryption, like SSL and PGP encryption, can be used to protect that data. Data protection is so important to some industries, like the healthcare industry, that specially crafted online fax services that cater to federal guidelines are often offered by online fax companies for a slightly higher cost.
Dedicated fax number: One common feature that online fax vendors often include in their service tiers is the use of a toll-free or local fax number. In addition to choosing your fax number, some companies sell long-distance or international fax numbers, though the price will vary in either instance. If you already have a dedicated fax number, many services also allow users to port their old number over to the new service.
Cloud storage: One major downside to traditional faxing is that paper documents are finite things. If you accidentally trash or lose the only copy in your possession, then you're out of luck. Through many online faxing services, however, users can safely store copies of every fax they send or receive in the cloud. Some services allow their users to tag faxes with keywords, making them easily searchable files that can be recalled at a moment's notice. This feature usually comes with limitations, such as how many pages you can store at once or how long those files stay on the server.
Email-to-fax support: Many online fax companies have web-based platforms and applications for users to send and receive digital faxes. While that method works for most, some companies also allow users to send and receive online faxes through their preferred email client. While not specifically built for the service, most people are already well accustomed to sending and receiving emails, so translating those same actions into sending and receiving faxes makes for a more seamless experience. To send a fax via email, the user usually has to turn the recipient's fax number into an email address, such as email@example.com. In that example, the numbers would be the recipient's fax number, and the "@onlinefax.com" would be replaced with the online fax service provider's domain name.
- International faxing: The ability to send faxes to international recipients is another option many online fax services offer. Since files would be sent great distances, many vendors that offer international faxing charge a per-page fee based on where the recipient is located. In addition to sending and receiving international faxes, some vendors sell international fax numbers to their users for an additional fee.
The reasons for which a small business would need to use an online fax solution depend largely on that company's needs. To understand why some small business owners have transitioned from traditional faxing to online faxing, we reached out with business owners who have already made the switch.
One common theme among people who opted to make this change was the need for better efficiency. Ryan Turner, co-owner of 3Prime Web Solutions, said his team decided to use MyFax when they realized traditional faxing was frivolous.
"Managing a traditional fax machine seemed ridiculous to us," he said. "Having to segment the phone number, or, worse, get a dedicated line seems wasteful."
While Turner said his company is looking to switch services to more accurately fit its faxing needs, he said they have "never had an issue with [online fax]." "We create documents and upload them to fax," he continued. "It's much easier to work with than the fax machines I remember."
Alex Kovalenko, director of IT recruitment at Kovasys, cited the extra costs associated with a dedicated telephone line just to fax documents as the main reason his company dropped its traditional fax machine.
"We no longer need to pay a separate line for faxes, which would cost us around $40 to $50 a month when online fax only costs around $10 a month," he said.
Where many companies transition to online fax for the cost reduction, entrepreneurs like Matt Schmidt, founder of Burial Insurance Pro, said he needed something that was easy and accessible to everyone on his team.
"Our faxes now come into our email system and can immediately be downloaded into our sales system," he said. "This also allows us to immediately send off the documents to the appropriate party without any further scanning or downloading."
Environmentally conscious businesses are also leading the charge to online faxing, since there's less need for ink and paper when files are transmitted digitally. Torben Lonne, diver and co-founder of online magazine DIVEIN.com, said his company uses RingCentral because of its smaller impact on the ecosystem.
"The amount of paper generated by fax machines is completely unnecessary nowadays where we can digitize everything," he said.
How Does Online Faxing Work?
Traditional faxing and online faxing are two similar office functions that operate in completely different ways. For decades, traditional faxing worked by using a dedicated fax machine to convert scanned documents into a digital audio tone that was sent over a dedicated telephone line. The data would then get to another traditional fax machine, where it turned that data into a facsimile of the original document. The need for extra machinery and a separate telephone line, as well as ink and paper supplies, drove up traditional faxing's operating costs.
In comparison, 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.
Trends to Watch
Email, SMS and digital file transfers may be the modern equivalent of sending a fax, but you would be remiss to sell the online fax industry short. According to a report by Arizton, online faxing is expected to grow into a $2.4 billion industry by 2022. Most of 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 software-as-a-service 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. Major companies like J2 Global, which owns many key companies in the online fax industry, are constantly making moves to purchase and merge services into a single umbrella of brands.
A growing trend among tech companies of all stripes is the push to comply with the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and other consumer data protection legislation. Of particular interest for many services is the California Consumer Privacy Act, which went into effect at the beginning of 2020.
Given the borderless nature of the internet, online fax companies are left wondering how to react to the new legislation. It's a similar situation to the GDPR, where some or all of the rules may not necessarily apply, but companies have to at least be aware of the rule changes.
J2 Global Warning
As a major player in the online fax services space, J2 Global has acquired more than a dozen online fax providers. While owning multiple companies in a single space isn't necessarily a bad thing, you should take careful consideration 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 issues 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 suggest you take caution when dealing with a company owned by J2 Global. Several of these companies are on our vendor list, but we have noted in the descriptions when J2 Global is the parent company.
Frequently Asked Questions
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 allow 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 you depends on how much you intend to use it and what features you require.
Good fax service providers feature a combination of three things: secure incoming and outgoing fax capabilities, an easy-to-use interface or integration with existing services, and stellar customer service.
We spent numerous hours researching and testing various online fax solutions, including the industry's major players, to find out which ones were best positioned to help small businesses. The following is how we whittled down the field and chose the best online fax services in 2020.
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 who contacted us asking to be considered. In total, we collected more than two dozen services to examine.
Choosing the Best Services
After compiling 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 these 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 phone 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 transpired.
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.
As trends in the online fax industry shift over the years, so, too, 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 Fax was our pick as the best overall service for small businesses, thanks to its affordable plans and litany of key features. Likewise, we listed RingCentral as our best pick for multiple users because of its ability to cater to larger work groups.
Ready to choose an online fax service? Here's a breakdown of our complete coverage: