Internet Fax Features
If you are still using your old fax machine then you really are missing out on the wealth of features and functionality offered by modern internet fax services. With usually no or low start-up costs, low subscription fees, and a wealth of providers competing for your custom, it’s just a matter of picking the right one for your business needs.
While the details can vary from provider to provider, the features you will typically see offered include the following:
Choice of Fax number
This is pretty much exactly what it says, and is a standard feature designed to address a major concern among businesses who are worried about whether they can keep their existing fax number. Options include:
- Keep your existing fax number – to do so is simply a matter of contacting your on-line fax provider, who will be happy to handle the entire process for you. Known as porting, the fax company contacts your local telephone operator and notifies them of the switch, which can then take up to three weeks to come into effect. There is usually a porting fee for this service. If you later opt to change your fax provider you should be able to transfer the number again without any hassle, although it is always worth checking with your provider to make sure of this
- Multiple fax numbers – because the fax connection is over the internet and is not reliant on having any phone lines installed (or on needing any extra equipment, software, etc.), then there is no limit to how many numbers you can have. This is great for giving your company a virtual presence world or nation-wide as you can use a combination of local, toll-free and different area codes to give customers optimum, low cost access to your services
- Toll-free number – this feature is not always available, so if it is important to you be sure to check it is offered by your chosen fax provider, and that is it available in the country (or countries) you wish to offer this service to your customers form. North America based companies, for example, often offer toll free fax numbers within U.S. and Canada
- Local fax number – most fax companies lease large amounts of local numbers form telecoms companies around the world, and can offer a local fax number for a very wide range of locations. Do be sure to check that the company you sign up with covers the local areas you are interested in, and remember that since the fax company has leased the number, it belongs to them in the event of you changing providers.
Receive and Send Fax by Email
As we move towards the dream of a paperless office, this standard service is a simple and fuss-free way of receiving and sending faxes through your standard email boxes.
Receiving a fax
Basically, whenever someone sends you a fax, whether using a conventional fax machine or fax-by-email, an email will appear in your in-box that lets you view the fax as an email attachment, or view it from your web-based internet fax account. This allows the same range of features and functionality usually associated with email, such as:
- Easy forwarding to any, and as many recipients you want (via fax number or email address) without the need to print out the fax
- Point and click printing
- Access to your faxes from anywhere you have internet access
- You can edit or annotate a fax before forwarding it
- Some companies offer optional phone alerts when you receive a fax
Sending a fax
This allows you to send faxes from your usual email account or web-based fax portal, and is just like sending an email except the recipient will receive it as a fax message. Features include:
- The ability to send a fax from anywhere you can send an email from, including from your smart-phone and from within any application (see below)
- Designate who can send faxes using your fax number
- Easily attach a fax cover sheet
- Forward the fax to as many recipients as desired (also known as fax broadcasting)
Fax from any application
Again a pretty standard feature, this lets you “print to fax” from any application that has a “Print” option. A special print driver needs to be installed, but this is easy to do and once installed sending a fax is as easy as making a print-out.
Online Fax Storage
Using an on-line fax service eliminates the need store and file reams of printed paper faxes for future reference. Every fax you send or receive is automatically archived, and can be easily accessed through your personal web-based fax portal. This has many advantages, including:
- No more filing tasks – everything is done automatically
- Access your faxes anytime and anywhere you have internet access
- Files do not degrade as they are in electronic, not physical form
- Files take up no physical space
- Files can be easily transferred to your local hard disk, forwarded to someone else, backed up onto USB stick, etc.
- Automatic delete – this is useful as there are usually fees associated with storage, whether it be by the number of faxes stored or the length of time faxes can be stored. Automatic delete is a handy way to avoid unnecessary charges.
Web Based Fax Management
When you open an internet fax account you canlog in to your secure, personal web portal (also known as your dashboard or control panel) from where you can manage your account and configure your preferences.
From your web-based portal you will be able to perform many useful tasks such as:
- Organize your account – create new folders, rename folders and files, move files between folders etc.
- Import or build up an address book – with contact’s email and fax addresses
- Access billing information – see remaining faxes left within your monthly limit, change or update credit card and address information etc.
Configure fax preferences
Customize the way in which you send and receive faxes:
- Choose how you want to receive inbound faxes – whether you want them sent to your email inbox, how you want them stored, etc.
- Choose how you want your faxes to be sent – what delivery notifications you want, coversheet design, fax resolution, security options, electronic signature, etc.
- Internal distribution – forward sent faxes to other employees.
Online fax services are inherently more secure than using traditional fax machines. No more will you have sheets of paper churning out of the office fax machine for all to see, as every fax is delivered to the mailbox (either personal email or on a secure web portal) of the intended recipient(s). In addition to this, the actual transmission process is always encrypted so the fax cannot be intercepted en route. This encryption comes in various forms:
- SSL (Secure Socket Layer) – this basic encryption comes as standard on all internet fax accounts, and should provide more than enough security for most non-sensitive information. It does however have vulnerabilities, and may be susceptible to a determined cyber-attack. If you are concerned about security then you should probably consider beefing up it up with one of the options below
- PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) – this is the best known public key encryption system and works by matching public and private keys. Users upload their public key to their fax server so that all fax messages they send are encrypted, and only those who have been sent the private key can decrypt and read the fax. This is a very secure way to fax directly to a recipient’s email address. Other forms of public key encryption also exist, and provide similar levels of security
- VPN (Virtual Private Network) – this creates a direct encrypted “tunnel” to another computer down which you send the fax (and any other information). Both computers need to be set-up to use this service but it is very secure, and is best deployed between two locations (such as branch offices) that regularly exchange faxes.
In addition to encryption, your on-line fax account is password protected so no-one can access your stored faxes. Less important, but can save you time and irritation is automated spam/ junk fax filtering which, like similar email filtering systems, works to ensure that you are not troubled by unwanted and unsolicited faxes. These filters can be adjusted to suit your needs, with white / black lists etc.
Fax services receive and send faxes from your email account or web based portal, and are therefore platform independent, working equally well from within Windows, Mac OS, iOS, Android, and most other platforms. “Fax from any application” does require a specialized software program but most internet fax providers support all common operating systems.
Fax review and comparison websites are a great way to get an overview of the different levels of service and payment plans available, but do not always reflect the most up-to-date information available. We therefore recommend that you carefully scrutinize the terms and conditions on the original internet fax service provider’s website before signing up with them.