Replacements for Fax Machines

Would you like to free up some desk space by retiring either your stand-alone fax machine or multi-fuction printer which has faxing capabilities? Or, if you’re paying for a dedicated fax line, would you like to reduce you phone bill by dropping that line? If so, here are a few alternatives you could consider. I’m surprised that faxes haven’t faded away completely. I’m convinced that it’s because many people don’t know how easy scanning can be. Personally, I find that I only need to receive or send at most a handful of faxes each year, but in some fields, especially healthcare, faxes seem to be going strong. One reason faxing is so strong in the healthcare field is the need to comply with HIPAA or other laws. I highlight HIPAA-compliant Internet fax options below. Whether your faxing needs are light or heavy, here are some alternatives for you to consider.

Option 1

This is the easiest option to setup but not necessarily the most cost-effective or convenient. You could out-source your faxing needs and use a FedEx Office store or, if you live in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, a business like Sip and Ship. Both of these businesses will let you send or receive faxes and charge you a fee per page.

Option 2

Sign up for an Internet fax service like Faxaway or RingCentral. I have experience using both of these services. When you sign-up for a Faxaway account you’re assigned a fax number in the 206 (Seattle-area) area code. For a monthly fee of $1 you can receive unlimited incoming faxes and send faxes at a cost of about 10 cents per page. Faxes sent to your fax number are forwarded to you as email attachments. You can then save the attachment and open it on your Mac. Print a copy if you’d like. I like to receive my faxes via email since I can then save them or forward them easily. You also send faxes via email by using the fax number as part of  the email address, for example, 12065551212@faxaway.com. Faxaway is a good option if you’re a one person business with very light faxing needs.

If your business has a few employees or you have heavier faxing needs, then one of RingCentral’s plans might be a better fit. You can sign-up for a free trial account to test RingCentral. Their entry-level plan costs $8/month which gives you a local or toll-free fax number and 500 pages of inbound or out bound faxes. RingCentral provides a Macintosh application which you install on your Mac. You use this app to both send and receive faxes. This application also makes it easy to send documents as part of your fax, but it unfortunately doesn’t tie into your Mac’s Address Book application. Therefore, you’ll need to either enter your fax numbers by hand or by using “copy and paste”. Your RingCentral fax service can easily be shared by several people. In a future Tech Tip I’ll write about how you could use RingCentral to replace your existing phone system.

If you’re in a business that needs to comply with HIPAA regulations or other security or privacy regulations then you could check out Sfax or InterFAX. These companies fax services cost more then the previous Internet fax services I mentioned. I haven’t personally worked with this companies to know how user-friendly they are.

[Update: October 2016. Since I wrote this article four years ago I’m sure the landscape of online fax services has changed considerably. For more current information, check out this Tidbits article about SRFax and other Internet faxing options.]

Option 3

This is my favorite and most commonly used solution. When a person asks me to sign a document and fax it back to them, I simply ask if I could scan it and return it to them as an email attachment. With rare exception, the person is perfectly happy to receive the document as an email attachment. In a previous Tech Tip, I talked about how I much I love my Fujitsu ScanSnap document scanner. It turns a pile of pages into a PDF which I can then easily attach and send via email. I like this method since I then have a digital copy of the document on my computer if I need to refer to it later on. Also, I have a more detailed paper trail than if I’d sent a fax since my sent mail folder will have a record of when I sent a document and to whom.

Hopefully, one of these options will be a good fit for your faxing needs.

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