Internet fax is a type of online service that gives subscribers the ability to send and receive faxes without a fax machine. Instead, access to the Internet and an e-mail account is all that is needed.
Modern modems allow home computers to transmit faxes.
To use an internet fax service, the subscriber signs up for a small monthly fee and is given a fax number. When a fax is sent to the subscriber’s number, the service accepts the fax, turning it into a file that is forwarded to the subscriber’s existing email address.
Acoustic couplers – which send and receive computer data over telephone lines – predated modern modem technology in the early days of Internet use.
To send an Internet fax, the subscriber creates an email. The fax content can be written in the body of the email and attachments are normally allowed. The destination fax number is entered in the “To” field, along with “@” and the name of the Internet fax service. For example, if the fax number was 1-555-234-5678, the email would be sent to [email protected] In the “Subject” field, the user enters the name of the recipient, “Attn: Mr. Wisegeek” for example.
A small toolbar, available for download from the Internet fax service, is used as a plug-in within the e-mail program. Clicking the “Send” button on the toolbar sends the email to the Internet fax service. Upon receipt, an automated program converts the email into fax format and then sends the fax to the number provided in the “To” header. The recipient receives the fax normally, through their fax machine.
This service can be very convenient. Among the many benefits, the assigned fax number is active 24 hours a day, so your account can accept faxes 24 hours a day. Compare this to using a fax machine, which relies on your phone system being free to accept faxes. For those who use a telephone line for faxing, telephone and dial-up, an Internet fax service is especially useful. Internet fax services also save paper and toner, and do not rely on a serviceable fax machine. All faxes are sent and received as files. They can be printed by choice, but it is not necessary.
Another advantage of an Internet fax service is that the subscriber does not need to be familiar with fax software or fax machines. The convenience of sending and receiving faxes using the familiar email interface appeals to many people.
One of the best features of internet fax services is that many offer toll free fax numbers for the US and Canada so that their customers in the US and Canada can fax free of charge. Sending faxes is also free for the subscriber as he only sends emails.
When researching Internet fax services, consider a service that offers a secure website. This provides a mobile “portal” to send/receive faxes while you are on the road or away from home. Confirmation of outgoing faxes should be standard so you can be sure your customer has received your communication. The ability to send to more than one fax number at the same time can also be valuable. Check the capacity of a page as some services may limit the amount of pages the subscriber can send/receive in a month.
Internet fax services vary in price so it will pay to shop around for a competitive deal that balances features and economy. Most services run between $10-$20 per month.