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Grow Your Business Technology

Faxing (2.0) Is Still Essential For Many Small Businesses

Faxing (2.0) Is Still Essential For Many Small Businesses
Despite the proliferation of email, the fax continues to live on in most offices. / Credit: Fax Machine image via Shutterstock

Reports of the fax's demise appear to have been greatly exaggerated.

While email may have overtaken it in popularity, many businesses are still using faxes to connect with their customers and vendors.

Tim Dubes, senior manager of enterprise marketing for the online fax provider eFax, said faxes are still being used regularly, particularly for transactional documents, such as contracts, invoices, sales orders, billing alerts, legal notices, patient records and lab results.  He said the largest users tend to be organizations that are highly regulated, like those in the health, legal and financial industries.

Among the reasons Dubes cites as to why businesses continue to fax documents rather than send them in  emails include the need for an actual signature, proof that a document was received and time sensitivity issues. He said there can be a misunderstanding that scanning and attaching a document to an email is a replacement for faxing, but when any of the above conditions exist, email is not an option.

[For a side-by-side comparison of the best online fax services, visit our sister site Business.com.]

"An email log is alterable and there are too many security issues with email and encryption that the file attachment can be compromised," Dubes told Business News Daily "Fax technology provides the analog security and the 'least common denominator' factor that other document transmission methodologies don't offer."

Mike Meixler, founder and owner of GreenFax, said faxing has stayed as popular as it has, in part, due to the fact that it's the form of communication many older workers are most comfortable with.

"It's the old adage that it is hard for old dogs to learn new tricks," Meixler said. "People in their late 40s, 50s and 60s who are still doing business are used to when they have a paper document to send they want to walk up to a fax machine, stuff the paper in the machine and dial a number."

Scott Bergman, a broker with Bergman Euro-National, a real estate firm that specializes in the sale of vineyards, vineyard estates, large estate properties and winery properties, said his company sends and receives faxes on a daily basis. He said most of the vineyards that are being sold in California are by older landowners that have held ownership for generations. 

"These clients are not as comfortable with email or other 'tech' forms of sending documents," Bergman said. "They are comfortable with faxes, though."

While older generations may prefer the fax machine itself, Meixler said many businesses have evolved their ways of faxing in recent years.

"They are getting away from the clunky old fax machines that we know from 15 or 20 years ago and moving to hosted faxing solutions," he said.

These online fax services allow businesses to send and receive faxes via the Internet.

"Essentially it is a subscription service that allows users to send and receive faxes using the cloud, so only Internet access is necessary -- not telephone lines or dedicated machines as one might associate with traditional faxing," Dubes said. "Users can send faxes directly from computer applications, like email, Web browsers or even as a printer driver for personal productivity applications."

Evelin Goldstein, public relations manager for RingCentral, said businesses that have switched to online faxing see a variety of benefits, including eliminating the costs of dedicated hardware and phone lines to support each fax machine, the ability to send and receive faxes from anywhere around the world, and never encountering a busy signal, since the system is run entirely online.

"Your computer, smartphone or tablet acts as the fax machine, sending documents or images as faxes, and enabling these devices to receive faxes from anywhere," Goldstein said.

Andrew Zurbuch, president of HealthPlanBrokers.com, said despite only sending and receiving just a handful of faxes a week, he views faxing -- specifically online faxing -- as a valuable communication tool.

"Online faxing has brought the cost down dramatically versus landline faxing, which still makes faxing a viable option as a form of communication," Zurbuch said. "Its relevance hasn't been diminished, it is just not needed as much due to the advent and convenience of email as a business communication tool."

Not everyone, however, believes the fax brings much value to the office these days.  Valeen Bhat, founder and director of the mobile art studio Private Picassos, uses fax machines or online faxing less than five times a year and said she doesn't like sending them because she's never completely sure if the recipient got it.

"Email is much more reliable, as you can safely assume that your recipient received your email, unless you receive an error message," Bhat said. "A mistyped fax can go un-noticed for quite some time."

Despite how little use faxes may be used in some offices, Meixler said having a faxing option is still important to many companies. He said rarely is he ever handed a business card that doesn't include a fax number on it.

"They might not use it very much, but if you are in business you still need to have a fax number," Meixler said.

Rather than becoming obsolete over time, like many think will happen, Dubes believes faxing will keep evolving like it has been.

"I suspect that by the end of this decade a dedicated fax machine will be as rare in an office environment as a typewriter is today, but companies will still be able to fax thanks to the power of technology," Dubes said. "Certainly faxing will continue to change, but the concept of transmitting a facsimile of an original document to facilitate a business process will endure."

Originally published on Business News Daily

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer who has nearly 15 years' experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.