It’s hard to believe that in 2018 there are still some fax machines out there. The truth is, there are many industries out there that still need to send documents via fax (short for facsimile). One industry is health care because of HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) rules regarding medical patient privacy and confidentiality. Contracts still need physical signatures on them in most cases and some industries aren’t as regulated as health care but still, somehow use faxes when they might not need to.
The roots of fax machines date back to 1843 and in 1964, the Xerox Corporation introduced the modern, commercial fax machine. They become popular in the 1980s and 1990s in business but have started fading out, giving way to Internet faxing.
Even with HIPAA in place, there are ways to cut the cord on the fax machine. When you do that, no longer do you need to worry about buying new fax machines every few years, fax toner/ink and paper. This can save you lots of money in the long run while making managing documents received via fax much easier and more efficient for you and your staff.
Before You Cut the Cord
Of course, before you completely cut the cord on your fax machine, you can get an all-in-one fax machine instead of a stand alone unit. These machines combine a fax machine, printer, scanner and copy in one device. You can find them at any office supply store or online and they have been around for years.
When buying a machine, check ink usage and cost as that will end up being your largest expense in the long run. Many of these machines can now receive faxes and store them electronically for use on the network or send them to you via email. This, of course, won’t work if you need to comply with HIPAA since email cannot be guaranteed to be 100% secure (besides in internal networks with the correct configuration) or use strong encryption.
Electronic Fax Services / Internet Faxing
Email to Fax and Fax to Email to the Rescue!
When using these new services, you essentially get a fax gateway, which means the Internet world connects with the faxing (phone) world. Sending an email is as simple as sending an email to the phone number you want to use plus the ‘@’ sign and then the domain name your online faxing provider gives you to use.
When you receive a fax, it comes from a similar phone number. Replying to a fax is as simple as replying to an email. If you’re used to using email, then Internet faxing will be very familiar to you. There are even apps you can use to send faxes as well. It’s easy to fax documents and receive them. Best of all, you can store the files on your computer or network drive, saving printer ink and paper. Just make sure you have that data backed up if you need to retain those files/documents.
There are a number of electronic faxing services out there. They typically charge on a per page basis along with a monthly fee.
Scan and Email
Another popular option is to just scan documents to a file (like a PDF file) and then email the document to whom it needs to go. This option works fine but it may not be completely secure as a lot of email is sent “in the clear” and not encrypted part of all of the way.
If you do scan and email documents, you can usually scan them at about 100 dpi for decent quality that doesn’t create a file that’s too large. Be sure to mention in the email that a scanned document is attached so people know to look for it, of course.
Deciding to get rid of the fax machine (responsibly (“green”), of course) by going with an all-in-one type of machine or with an Internet-based solution depends on your needs. For most, small businesses, they need to send or receive just a few faxes a year. In that case, scanning and emailing works just fine.
When you do have a fax machine, you typically need a dedicated phone line for it and there’s a cost associated with having that phone number and line. Be sure to put that cost in your analysis as you decide what works best for you.
Do you have any thoughts or comments on this topic? Are there other things we should add to this article? Leave your comments and questions below and we’ll do our best to help you.