Faxes are so 1980s. Who faxes anymore? Well, lots of folks do. Business offices. Small companies. Large companies. And why? Well, let's say your doctor needs to fax you a copy of your latest lab results. Or your financial analyst asks you to fax a document authorizing a certain transaction. Snail mail is too slow. And email isn't secure. So that leave us with the decades-old but still reliable fax.
But I don't have a fax machine, you say. How can I send or receive a fax? Here comes the Internet to the rescue. An array of Web-based services exist that can send or receive faxes without much effort. Let's take a look.
Send a Fax
Many Web services can send a fax to any number you choose. Typically, sending a fax is free if you're transmitting a small number of pages. Sometimes the fax service places an ad on the cover page promoting itself. If you need to send more pages or don't want an ad cluttering up your fax, you'll usually have to cough up some money. Alternatively, some services charge you a monthly fee, and many offer a 30-day or 60-day trial.
Assuming your fax is in hard copy format, you'll first need to scan it. You can typically save the scanned document as a PDF or TIF file, though a PDF is more universal.
FaxZero is simple to use. Enter your name and contact info and the name and fax number of your recipient. Attach the document you wish to fax; FaxZero accepts Microsoft Word docs or a PDF file. Choose to add a cover page if needed, type the confirmation code displayed, and click the button to send your fax.
In response, FaxZero emails you a confirmation message with a URL. Click that URL to confirm your fax, and FaxZero delivers your fax to your recipient. Finally, you'll receive an email telling you whether your fax was successfully delivered or not.
FaxZero is free if you only need to send three pages at a time, limit yourself to five faxes per day, and don't mind the FaxZero ad on the cover page. For $1.99 per page, you can send as many as 25 pages at a time without a cover page ad.
Other fax-sending services to consider are: GotFreeFax, MyFax, and Faxx.us.
Receive a Fax
A variety of sites can send you a fax by assigning you a virtual fax phone number. The faxed document reaches you via email, typically as a TIF image or other graphics file. Some services use a proprietary format for the document and provide free software for viewing it.
eFax offers a free version through which you're assigned a virtual fax number, though not a toll-free one. You can receive up to 10 faxed pages per month. You can view the faxes through the free eFax Messenger software, which allows you to zoom in and out of the file, print it and save it as a generic TIF graphic. EFax also offers more expensive paid plans if you need to receive more faxes.
Other fax-receiving services include RingCentral and FaxBetter.
Disclosure: PCMag's parent company is owned by j2 Global, which runs eFax.