February 25, 2019 | Matt Gerchow Technology is continuing to make everything in life easier, including how we do business in the office. Memos used to be faxed between departments before email took over modern memo systems, and today, companies are sending more and more documents they used to send over the fax machine via email to get it digital copies to their destinations faster. This development leaves business owners questioning whether they should keep a dedicated fax machine on site when technology makes it possible to send a fax online?What Is Online Fax?Online faxing is a process in which incoming faxes are changed into emails and outgoing emails are changed into faxes. Any document you can attach to an email can be sent as a fax online, including scanned images, PDF documents, and Microsoft documents.How to Send a Fax OnlineOnline faxing is a service hosted by many online businesses. You don't need any equipment or special software; you just sign up for a subscription to a third-party online faxing service, which will change your outgoing emails into faxes and your incoming faxes into emails for a fee.You need three things to send your first fax online.An Internet connectionThe ability to receive and send emailAn online faxing subscriptionWith online faxing, you receive faxes the same way you always have. The subscription service you sign up with will assign you a fax number for a nominal fee. The sender dials your number to send you a fax as usual. Once the online fax service receives the fax, it will convert it into an email attachment and forward it to you. It really is that simple. Just sign up with a online service provider and you'll be well on your way to sending or receiving your first fax online.Advantages of Online FaxConvenienceThere are many reasons to fax online rather that send a traditional fax, the first being convenience. There is no equipment nor software required for online faxing. If you can send and receive emails, then you can send and receive faxes.The Green OptionIf you fax online, you're reducing your carbon footprint and taking your business “green.” Online faxing is paperless needs no other equipment other than your computer or smart device.OrganizationIf you are receiving multiple faxes per day, then you need to make sure you have a decent filing system in place to store those faxes so you can easily find them when you need them. Instead trying to keep up with looseleaf paper, set up an organization system when you create your account to fax online. You can even sync is so your current filing system on your computer can become your online fax filing system. Or you can store all of your faxes in one location if you sign up for a Cloud service, then all of your faxes are available at the push of a button from anywhere in the world.Mobile FaxingIf you can send and receive emails, then you can send and receive an online fax. This is true for all of your mobile devices, not just a desktop computer. Many online fax service providers also offer web apps that let you scan documents with your device's camera so you can send them from your mobile device.Affordable and ScalableWith no added equipment or software to buy, the only cost of setting up your online fax account is the monthly subscription fee. These nominal fees are often much lower than the cost of paper and toner for a business that sends and receives many faxes. There is also no maintenance to pay for, which can be costly and time consuming for your business if you're relying on a traditional fax machine.E-Sign DocumentsWith so much business being done online today, many documents that require signatures can now be signed electronically. This saves you from having to print anything and saves everyone involved both time and money. You can even sign documents electronically on most mobile devices!SecuritySecurity is almost always important for anyone who sends a fax online. Most online faxing hosts use encryption systems such as OpenSSL to ensure that data is safe and secure. No one except the person who sent the fax and the person who received the fax can read the contents of a fax, and because there is not a fax machine sitting in an office, no errant eyes will ever scan those pages accidentally.Disadvantages of Online FaxRedundancyMany business, such as doctors offices and legal practices, will always require a person's actual, hand-written signature on legally binding paperwork. This means that these types of business and practices cannot fully rely on an online faxing service, and they must still deal with traditional fax machine equipment.If this is the case for your company, sticking with the tried-and-true methods of standard faxing may be the best option for you, and you don't have a need to sign up with an online fax subscription. Using both a fax machine and an online fax service will double the cost of your faxing needs instead of saving you money, which is a big reason people look into setting up their fax online systems.Technology FailureWe don't like to think about our technology failing us, but it has happened before and it will happen again. Whether it be a general power outage or an internet outage, relying on an off-site service is just one more thing that can go wrong. With a regular fax machine, if your power and phone line are active, then your ability to fax is active. For an online service, if there is a hiccup in your internet connection, or if the power at the service provider's base of operations goes out, then one of your lines of communication could be put on hold.Storage CapacityAs much of a pain as it can be to sort through and store all of those looseleaf faxes, as a business owner it's important that you do your best to store all of them so you have an accurate record of your communications. With an online fax provider, each plan limits how many faxes it can store and for how long it will store them.This may have a simple solution, such as forwarding the faxes to a Cloud service for more permanent and easy-access storage, but then you are looking at higher monthly costs if you are not already paying for that service for another reason. This could be more inconvenient than it's worth if your business relies a lot on communication via fax.Monthly SubscriptionStandard monthly subscriptions work pretty well for most businesses that send and receive a substantial amount of their communications via fax each month. Most online faxing providers include packages of about 300 pages per month, and at this level, setting up an account to fax online can be a real money-saving move. However, if your business relies on fax communications for most of its everyday business procedures, then you will pay more per sheet and online faxing may end up costing more for the business.Research RequiredJust like signing up for anything else online, it's important to do your research before signing up for a service that will charge you every month. We recommend a cost-benefit analysis to make sure you spend your money wisely, and you must compare the different plans to make sure your business gets exactly what it needs from the service. If you sign up for something that does not meet your requirements, or if you end up with a service you do not need, then you might be locked into your contract for a service which you are not able to use. You have to do what's best for your business.You Know Your Fax MachineWhen debating whether to sign up for an online fax service, it may come down to what kind of technology you and your employees are most comfortable with. Signing up for a service like online faxing can be an intimidating process if you are not technologically savvy and have no one to teach you how it works. If you know how your fax machine works, what it takes to keep it running, and how to file a fax hot off the press, you might not want to change your system. Fax machines have been around for decades, and sometimes familiarity with a system beats out less expensive or modern alternatives.ConclusionFor companies that do fewer than 300 faxes per month, online faxing can offer a less expensive option with many added benefits, such as the ability to send a fax online from anywhere in the world via your smart device. However, if your company is one that relies on hundreds of faxes per month or requires handwritten signatures to do business, a more tradition fax system may prove more useful. Whether you decide to send a fax online is ultimately up to you and your business needs.Matt GerchowMatt Gerchow is an author, marketer, inventor, husband, father and yoga enthusiast. He enjoys travel to distant lands , fine wine, time with his family and dinner with friends.