Home

Product and service reviews are conducted independently by our editorial team, but we sometimes make money when you click on links. Learn more.

Choosing an Online Fax Service: A Buyer's Guide

Andrew Martins
Andrew Martins
Staff Writer

Looking for an online fax service? Here is everything you need to know about choosing one.

  • While fax machines may seem outdated, faxing remains an important mode of information transmission in many industries.
  • Online fax services offer faxing capabilities without needing to purchase a separate machine or maintain a dedicated phone line.
  • Most online fax services offer monthly subscription models, as well as options to receive, send, archive and access additional tools to bring this "older" technology into the 21st century.
  • This article is for those looking for easy and affordable ways to send documents via fax when required.

It may not seem like a modern method of communication, but faxing is still a viable technology in 2020. Businesses of all sizes around the world still send and receive faxes, especially those that work with government agencies or are in the healthcare industry.

However, fax machines have largely been replaced by digital solutions, as scores of companies provide online fax services that allow you to send and receive faxes through your email account. Rather than having to print faxes and file them for safekeeping, you can store your fax messages securely in the cloud. Some services allow you to edit and digitally sign documents, further reducing the need to print them, which saves you money on machine maintenance, ink and paper.

If you or your company are looking to incorporate an online fax service into your office's workflow, here are some things you should keep in mind as you select a business faxing service.

If you're ready to choose a faxing solution, check out our online fax service recommendations, best pick reviews and comprehensive list of online fax vendors.

How Online Fax Services Work

For decades, traditional fax machines worked by translating scanned documents into an audio tone that was then transmitted over telephone lines. Businesses needed a separate phone number and a bulky machine to use this technology. Today, faxing can be done online – without a dedicated phone line and extra machinery.

Online fax services take a digital file and send it using a special email address that includes the recipient's fax number (e.g., 18005551234@vendorname.com) or through the vendor's website.

When sending online faxes, your service provider translates the uploaded documents into the proper format so the machine on the other end can read them and then sends them to your recipient's fax machine. Similarly, when receiving faxes, the service provider translates the faxed document into a digital format that you can read online, then delivers the fax to your email inbox.

Key takeaway: Online fax services involve sending digital files to a special email address or through the vendor's website. From there, the fax is essentially forwarded to the recipient's fax machine. When receiving an online fax, the recipient will do the same thing, and you will receive the faxed document in your email.

Benefits of Online Fax Services

An online fax service is a viable option for a small business for several reasons, but the main benefit is that it's inexpensive.

Keeps costs down

With an online fax service, there's no need to purchase, operate and maintain a separate machine with a dedicated telephone line. Without you having to print documents before faxing them, the process of uploading files directly to the service saves time and money while reducing paper waste. If your company sends faxes infrequently, it may not make much sense to invest in traditional faxing equipment. Plus, online fax services are typically inexpensive.

Convenient

You don't have to be in your office or near a fax machine to send and receive documents. Managing incoming and outgoing faxes with an online fax service is as simple as having access to a computer or installing an app on your smartphone or other mobile devices.

No extra equipment

Leave the phone line and bulky machine behind. All you need to send faxes online is a desktop or laptop computer.

Key takeaway: Online fax services allow your business to easily access this important mode of communication with little financial commitment.

Online Fax Features and Options

Along with the ability to send and receive faxes, online fax services usually offer several features to enhance their usability and security, though some features cost extra. Some of the most common features and options you'll find in an online fax service are:

Secure transmission

Faxes often contain sensitive information, and they are often regarded as more secure than email by multiple sectors, such as healthcare providers and government agencies. To safeguard your transmissions, most service providers include some form of data protection, including SSL or PGP encryption, as well as password protection. Some also comply with HIPAA. Some vendors charge extra for these features, so it's important to check before making a decision.

Toll-free or local fax number

Many online fax services offer a toll-free or local fax number. Most services offer long-distance and international faxing as well, though it often comes with an additional fee based on the destination country.

Storage and archive

Some services limit the number of faxes you can store, while others limit the amount of time a fax can be archived. Check the specifics of your service before committing to a plan.

Additional tools

Some services offer tools that make faxing easier and help it integrate with your business's current suite of tools. Some options include a mobile app, mobile alerts, integration with existing software like Microsoft Outlook, preset delivery times, electronic signatures, customizable cover sheets, the ability to fax multiple recipients at once, and the ability to forward incoming faxes to multiple email addresses.

Key takeaway: Many online fax services offer many of the benefits of a traditional fax machine, such as a dedicated number and secure transmission, while offering additional tools that make faxing part of the modern office.

Pricing for Online Faxing Services

There are many options to consider when adopting a faxing service for your business. How much you intend to use the service and how much you want to spend sending and receiving faxes are important elements to consider.

In our research, we found that nearly every online fax solution operates on a monthly subscription model. Base fees range from $5 to $50 per month, with varying tiers of service providing different features. This price usually comes with a set amount of incoming and/or outgoing faxes ranging from just a couple of pages a month to thousands of pages. If you send or receive more pages or faxes than your monthly limit, companies charge overage fees ranging from 3 to 12 cents per page to your account. Some services charge one-time setup fees, which range from $10 to $25.

As an alternative to a plan with a monthly fee, some faxing services offer a pay-as-you-go plan. In this model, you don't pay any monthly fees, but instead pay for each fax you send. Naturally, this type of plan makes the most financial sense for entities that don't send many faxes each month.

Since faxing is still widely used to send sensitive documents to customers or vendors in foreign countries – including technologically advanced locales like Japan – some services offer international faxing capabilities at an additional cost. The price varies by location, but be ready to pay anywhere from 2 cents to a couple of dollars or more for each international fax you send, depending on the country you're faxing your documents to.

Key takeaway: Most online fax services cost anywhere from a few dollars to $50 per month. Some services charge overage fees or one-time setup fees as well.

Online Fax Service FAQs

If you still have unanswered questions about online fax services, you're not alone. Below, we've answered the three most common questions about this technology and how it may help your business.

Is there a free online fax service?

There are several free online fax services available, including FaxZero, PamFax, and Microsoft Office's built-in faxing tools. However, these free services may limit the number of pages you can send or receive each month. They may also charge additional fees, such as a per-page faxing fee. Additionally, many paid services offer full free trials you can take advantage of.

What equipment is needed to send faxes online?

All you need is an internet connection and a device to connect to it. Online fax services don't require the same equipment you used in the 1990s, like a stand-alone fax machine and a dedicated phone line. Simply open up your laptop, log in to the online fax service of your choice, and send your documents.

Fax or email: Which is better?

It's less about which is better and more about which is best suited for your business's needs. While fax and email may seem like very similar services – especially now that faxing is conducted online – some key differences keep the two services separate. The biggest difference is with security: Faxing is generally regarded as more secure and less likely to be hacked than email, which is why industries that deal in sensitive information, such as healthcare or government bodies, still fax.

How to Choose an Online Fax Service

While there are many fax service providers to choose from and the details of each may look similar, there are a few key points to keep in mind when choosing a fax solution for your business. Here are some tips to help you evaluate faxing services and find the best option for your business.

1. Assess your needs.

Knowing the volume of faxes that you need to send and receive each month is key to finding the right service provider. If you don't send a lot of faxes, you can choose an inexpensive plan with a lower monthly fax limit. Conversely, if you have a lot of faxes to send, you'll want to spend a few dollars more for a higher limit so you can avoid overage charges. Some vendors offer "corporate packages" for businesses that send a high volume of faxes each month. Consider what you would feasibly send and receive in a month and choose a plan that fits.

2. Contact vendors.

Reaching out to vendors is a good way to evaluate not just their product, but their customer service as well. Pay attention to how customer service representatives discuss company offerings. Are they upfront about the costs? Do they succinctly explain the included features? Are they obviously trying to push you into a sale? It's important to know how you'll be treated if things go sideways, and getting some one-on-one time over the phone can help illustrate how that would go down.

3. Understand fee structures.

Hidden fees and unexpected costs are the worst. While most online fax service providers we examined listed their pricing model on their website, it sometimes took extra digging to find out about other charges, such as setup fees, long-distance fees and overage costs. Be sure to learn all about the costs, both advertised and hidden. Even if the company doesn't require you to sign a contract or long-term agreement, it will hold you liable for all fees – including those you unwittingly incur.

4. Request free demos.

Most online fax providers offer a free product demonstration or trial period. Take advantage of this offer to test out the service before you sign up. A demo allows you to find out which service is the most user-friendly, because there can be vast differences between two seemingly similar services. You won't know which is best unless you try it out for yourself.

Key takeaway: When selecting an online fax service, be sure to assess your needs against what the vendor offers. Get clarity on the vendor's fee structures. If you still have questions, give them a call or request a free demonstration of the service.

 

Image Credit: junce / Getty Images
Andrew Martins
Andrew Martins
Business News Daily Staff
Andrew Martins has written more than 300 articles for business.com and Business News Daily focused on the tools and services that small businesses and entrepreneurs need to succeed. Andrew writes about office hardware such as digital copiers, multifunctional printers and wide format printers, as well as critical technology services like live chat and online fax. Andrew has a long history in publishing, having been named a four-time New Jersey Press Award winner.