If you still have a traditional fax machine that uses a telephone line, PaperlessChase.com recommends you take it out back with a baseball bat and smash it. Having spent a lot of time standing around fax machines and reading the entire U.S. Labor Code off the wall while waiting for the fax machine to dial up, that sounds good to me.
Instead, using any one of the many available online fax services, you can either (1) email your fax as an attachment or (2) send a fax through the service’s web site. (Or, (3), many fax services allow you to take a picture of a document with your phone and send it as a fax from your phone.) Incoming faxes and confirmation of outgoing faxes arrive in your email inbox.
In general, faxes sent point-to-point on a traditional fax machine are more secure than online fax services, except for fact that anyone with access to the receiving fax machine may see the fax you send. As between sending a fax via email and sending it through the service’s web site, the latter is usually more secure: email protocols don’t encrypt email (making it easier for third parties to eavesdrop or alter the email), whereas most fax services offer SSL encryption. (Note, however, that if the recipient’s fax is really an email inbox, then you end up with an email of your fax getting sent regardless. To avoid having faxes sent to your email, versus just to your inbox on the fax web site, you have to enter an invalid email address for receipt. Another consideration is that the fax service may not store faxes on its site in encrypted form.)
Nevertheless, email is routinely used for all but highly sensitive documents, due to its convenience. In the end, the degree of security you feel necessary for your faxing needs is a judgment call for you to make.
How to Choose?
FaxCompare.com is a great site to help you sort through the different options in the fast-growing and competitive field of online faxing services. I recommend reviewing FaxCompare’s online reviews before selecting a fax service. According to them, a market standard fax service offers:
- $9.95 per month (cheaper if you pay for one year upfront). No startup fee. No hidden fees.
- 300 pages (incoming and outcoming combined) included. $0.10 for overage pages.
- 24/7 customer service.
- 30-day free trial.
As far as I can tell, most services also offer you the option to get a local fax number, and a toll-free fax number.
I tried out a handful of services based on FaxCompare’s reviews, and couldn’t tell much difference between them, so I signed up for the cheapest option. Some of the available services include:
- eFax – One of the most popular fax services, and one of the more expensive. I have not tried this service myself, but PaperlessChase.com vouches for its reliability.
- MetroFax – This is the service I ended up going with for the time being. At $7.95/month, with 500 pages included and $0.03 for overage pages, and no activation fee, it is one of the cheaper services on the market. It allows you to send faxes through its web interface or via email, and also has a mobile app. According to FaxCompare.com, its customer support is very knowledgeable and swift. They have an address book and I like the cover page they have for you to attach to your faxes. They are distinguished from some of the other cheap alternatives by the fact that they support 10 users on one account, allow for faxing to up to 50 recipients at a time, allow you to preview faxes before they go out, and store faxes for one year.
- SmartFax – At $6.95/month, this is another one of the cheaper fax services I tried out, though they offer only 250 included pages, compared to MetroFax’s 500, and they charge $0.08 for overage pages, compared to MetroFax’s $0.03. I liked both their interface and the cover page they send out with faxes. I have yet to see if any of this will make a difference to me in my use of a fax service, but the following are additional factors behind my decision to choose MetroFax over SmartFax: SmartFax only allows for two users per account, allows for faxing to only one recipient at a time, does not allow you to preview faxes before sending, and stores faxes for only 30 days.
- HelloFax – HelloFax is another popular option with a very user-friendly interface. The distinguishing feature of HelloFax is that it allows you to sign faxes electronically, which almost tempted me to sign up for its paid version (it has a free version that includes a small number of faxes). HelloFax also syncs seamlessly with Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, SkyDrive and/or Evernote (though some of the other services, like MetroFax, also sync with one or more of these services). Price ranges from free to $40 a month. The standard professional rate is $9.99/month, with 300 pages included and $0.10 for overage pages. HelloFax does not allow you to preview faxes and allows you to send faxes to only one recipient at a time. I also was not a huge fan of the cover page they include with faxes. (It didn’t include enough information, and didn’t look professional.)
- MaxEmail – This service offers voicemail as well as faxing service, and also distinguishes itself by the fact that it allows you to broadcast faxes to hundreds or thousands of recipients. I didn’t need either of these features, so I decided against this service, which costs $9.95/month and has a $10 activation fee.