February 18, 2019 | Matt Gerchow For several decades, fax machines have been used to transmit copies of documents from one person or organization to another. This is considered to be a safe and secure way to exchange digital files. Fax machines are primarily used for business purposes, and faxes are considered a common form of business communication. Faxes were the first form of digital document sharing, but are they necessary today? This article will explore the history and uses of fax machines, ways to send a fax without a fax machine, and why you should consider sending your next fax from Gmail.Do We Still Need Regular Fax Machines?History of Fax MachinesTo learn about the evolution of the fax machine, we have to take a journey through history which begins before the invention of the telephone. Alexander Bain was the first to experiment with the idea of sending an image over a wire. His original invention involved synchronizing the pendulums of a clock to scan an image and then projecting to and from a cylinder. Frederick Bakewell improved on this concept by creating the first image telegraph. While the quality was not high, the concept was very similar to today's fax machines.The Pantelegraph was the first widely used invention that was similar to the fax machine. The Pantelegraph was an improvement on the first inventions because it regulated the pendulums of the clock to help synchronize the sender and receiver. This allowed for clearer images and introduced the fax process into the commercial industry for business communications. Continued iterations through the years moved the transmission of images to wireless capabilities using satellites (mostly used in maritime situations), the use of radio signals to send images, and the addition of color in the 20th century.While the inventors of the past laid the groundwork for this critical piece of business technology, the fax machine as we know it today uses a telephone line to transmit files. Officially, the process is called Facsimile. Introduced by the Xerox Corporation in 1964, Long Distance Xerography (LDX) gave companies the capabilities to transmit a letter in 6 minutes. Japanese companies continued to improve on the invention, continually iterating on the design to create smaller and faster machines.Technological AdvancesEventually, fax machines evolved into a computer-based model and used ethernet as a means of communicating between places and machines. However, as other technologies such as email and synchronous communication platforms continue to become prevalent, the need for a fax machine is becoming a thing of the past. Today, most people can share documents instantaneously with anyone in the world. Files can be attached to messages, emails, and all varieties of cloud-based communications.Reasons Faxing Is Still a Prevalent Business ProcessThe trusty old fax is not completely obsolete. In fact, data experts say that the use of fax for business communication is still on the rise. There are several reasons why this may be the case, including:Concerns over data security and information privacyOlder generations of the workforce who want to use the technology they knowThe ability to keep a paper trailRegulatory compliance of government agenciesLow cost and simplicityWays to Send a Fax without a Fax MachineWhile in the past, sending a fax meant sending an image of a document over a wire, today it doesn't have to include a telephone or wire of any kind. Modern technology allows for a fax to be sent as data over the internet. There are several ways to send a fax without a fax machine and still be received by a fax machine on the other side.Fax AppsThere are several mobile apps on the market which can facilitate fax communication. These apps allow you to enter the fax number where you want to send the fax and upload the document. It is a simple and easy way to use a mobile device to send a fax.WebsitesJust like the apps mentioned above, several websites have simple systems to communicate via facsimile. These websites ask you to fill out a short form and provide basic contact information. With this information, the websites build a fax based on a template. From there, the recipient will receive the fax on their fax machine.Subscription ServicesIf you are sending faxes on a regular basis, a fax subscription service will make the process easy and convenient. For a small monthly fee, you will be able to send a certain number of faxes each month. These subscription services are great when you need a definitive paper trail and have compliance regulations which must be followed.Fax from GmailIf you have a subscription service, you can use Gmail to send your faxes. This way, you can essentially send an email that will act as a fax. The email address includes the fax number of the recipient and the domain of the subscription service. The body of the email serves as a cover letter while the attachment serves as the primary content of the fax. When someone receives a fax from Gmail, they will think that they have received a regular fax from a fax machine.Why You Should Consider Sending Your Fax from GmailConvenienceOne of the main reasons you should consider sending your fax from Gmail is that it is convenient. You will enjoy the security and compliance benefits of a fax without leaving your seat to stand over a fax machine, type in the number, wait for it to dial, and then feed your documents through the scanner. You most likely already have the documents on your computer, so including them as an attachment is a much easier way to send a fax from Gmail.Easy ProcessThe process of sending a fax from Gmail is very easy. Once you have a fax service set up, there are no more steps involved than there would be if you were to send a regular email. Sending a fax from Gmail will take the complexities of the process out of the equation.The Difference between a Fax and a Regular EmailAs you consider sending your fax from Gmail, you may be wondering about the difference between a fax and a regular email. The primary difference is the recipient of the communication. If you are sending an email with an attachment, the recipient will also need to have an email account. If you send a fax from Gmail, it will look like an email with an attachment on your end, but the recipient will see a fax come through their fax machine with a cover letter.How to Send a Fax from GmailSending a fax from Gmail is a very simple process if you have all the information and accounts you need. Below, we will outline how to send a fax from Gmail.Login to Your Gmail AccountThe first and most obvious step to sending a fax from Gmail is to log into your Gmail e-mail account. If you do not have an account, you can easily create one for free at www.gmail.com.Ensure You Have a Fax Subscription AccountTo send a fax from Gmail, you must be registered with a fax subscription service. This service will facilitate the communication between your Gmail account and the recipient's fax machine.Start a New EmailClick the “compose” button to start a new email in your Gmail account.Enter the Fax Number as an Email AddressIn the “To” field of the email, you will enter a specialized email address as instructed by your fax subscription service. Usually, the format of this email address will contain the fax number of the recipient and the domain of the subscription service. It will look like firstname.lastname@example.org. Essentially, you will send your fax from Gmail as an email, and your subscription service will turn it into a fax to send to the recipient.Compose the Body of the Email like a Cover LetterWhen your recipient receives the fax from your subscription service, the body of the email will be the cover letter of the fax. This is good to know so that you can compose an appropriate cover letter.Attach the Fax to the EmailWhen you send a fax from Gmail, the actual content of the fax is attached as a file attachment to your email. This way, the subscription service knows how to transmit the information to your recipient.Receive Faxes to Your Gmail AccountJust like you can send a fax from Gmail, you can also receive faxes as emails in your Gmail account. Your fax subscription service can provide you with a special fax number. When someone sends a fax to that number, your subscription service will forward the content of that fax to your Gmail account.ConclusionFax machines may no longer be a necessary office supply, but sending and receiving fax communications is a business practice that won't go away anytime soon. People still use fax communications to securely and quickly transmit documents from one place to another. Faxes allow for a paper trail which is needed in most businesses. With the help of a fax subscription service, you no longer need a fax machine to send your important documents. You can directly send a fax from Gmail and save yourself some trouble of fighting with another fickle office machine.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.