While the past technologies seem to start to be extinct, fax machines are still keeping their ground. For many reasons, faxing just can’t seem to die. One of which is the fact that many small businesses still need to send and receive faxes to communicate with vendors, customers, clients and partners. The ability to communicate and transfer documents via fax can boost productivity and add a level of professionalism to one’s brand of business.
Fortunately, technology not only improves what is current. It also bridges the gap between the past analog to the digital future. You no longer need a bulky, outdated fax machine or a dedicated landline in order to fax thanks to cloud-based faxing.
Cloud-based faxing allow you to send and receive faxes through your email account, as well as store those faxes digitally. Most services offer a low monthly subscription fee to enjoy a reliable and secure way to provide online faxing solutions. Most online fax service offer practically similar pricing and features, but there can be significant differences between vendors.
When you’re choosing an online fax service, it’s important to note the number of outgoing and incoming faxes that are included in the monthly price, as well as any overage costs that might apply. Also, ensure that any company you select has a solid track record and a responsive, accessible customer service department.
Before anything else, you ought to know how online fax services actually work.
How online fax services work, and why people are using it often
Many of these cloud-based providers allow users to easily fax online, Google and Nextiva as the frontrunners. However, how do they actually work?
Online fax services essentially digitize a huge part of a faxing process. Also, there are a number of ways to send a fax using an online fax service: by special email address that includes the recipient’s fax number (i.e., firstname.lastname@example.org), through the vendor’s website or with a mobile application.
Once you create the documents you want to send in a word-processing program (like one of the staple desktop application Microsoft Word), they can scan and upload paper documents. When these documents are uploaded, the online fax service translates the document so that a fax machine can read it, and then sends it via a phone line. Fax machines don’t just accept documents. Email faxing services convert these documents (from any file type!) to information that is readable even by analog fax machines.
When you sign up for an online fax service, you’ll receive your own fax number, which others will use to send the documents to you. The service then converts the incoming documents into a digital format and sends them directly to your email address. For the sender, it’s as simple as dialing your chosen fax number, just as that person would do if you had a fax machine.
Opting for online fax services nowadays is a very viable option to share documents and information for practically any purpose. Primarily, the reason a business might contract with an online fax service is to keep costs down, particularly if it’s a company that faxes infrequently. Convenience is another factor since businessmen don’t have to be in their office or near a fax machine to send and receive documents.
Managing your incoming and outgoing faxes with an online fax service is as simple as being near a computer or mobile device.
Features and options
Like most businesses, the selling points of online faxing services are the added features and extra options.
Convenient features include mobile alerts, integration with Microsoft Outlook, preset delivery times, digital signatures, customizable cover sheets, the ability to fax multiple recipients at once and the ability to forward incoming faxes to multiple email addresses.
As for its security feature, it includes SSL or PGP encryption and password protection to guard sensitive information. Most services offer these features, but it is important to check ahead of time and find out whether or not they cost more.
Another common option offered by providers is the use of a toll-free fax number or a local fax number. Most services also offer long-distance and international faxing as well, though it often comes with an additional per-minute fee on top of the subscription cost.
Choosing Online Fax Service
When choosing the cloud-based faxing service to tender, it all boils down to the cheapest option that will provide the best features. While most online fax services offer similar feature options and pricing models, no two are identical. Here are some tips that will help you decide:
Know your needs: Knowing the volume of faxes you’ll need to send and receive each month is first priority. This information is your key factor in determining which vendor and plan is the best fit for you. If you only need to send and receive a few faxes each month, a pay-as-you-go plan might be a good choice. If your business is much more fax-oriented than that, it’s best to pay a higher fee that includes a larger package of free faxes.
Get recommendations: It’s not enough to just take a vendor’s sales representative word and use it as the basis of your choice. Make sure you talk to other business owners who use online fax services and see which ones they recommend. While there are many competing vendors, finding recommendations from other entrepreneurs is a great way to narrow down your choices.
Personally contact the providers: Using the intel you got from recommendations, it’s now time to contact the top contenders on your list to get a sense of the service you can expect. It’s always best to observe how a company handles the initial call from a prospective client. Is the call representative up-front about all the applicable fees and the included features? Is the rep willing to spend the time to explain how the service works? Is he or she overly pushy and aggressive in trying to make a sale? Is the representative friendly and attentive? These are all questions worth asking before choosing a vendor.
Understand the fee structures: It’s best to always ask for a detailed breakdown of all monthly fees and any additional costs, including setup fees, long-distance and international fees, and overage costs. Understanding the fee structures is crucial when you’re trying to estimate what your total monthly costs could be. This is mainly because some vendors may offer low rates, but then sneak in additional, hidden costs. Reputable vendors are straightforward about their fees, no matter how they are structured.
Request free demos: The top-of-the-pack fax services almost always offer a free product demonstration. Take advantage of this offer to test out the service before you sign up. A demo allows you to find out which service is the most user-friendly, because there can be vast differences between two seemingly similar services. You can easily identify between the best and the worst service providers by seeing their product demos first-hand.
Know about their customer: Much like any other service-providing business, customer service is very important. Before you have a problem, you would want to know that the vendor’s customer service department will be there for you. You would also want an immediate resolution when you do have a problem. In this regard, find out what the vendor offers in terms of customer support. As a rule of thumb, service providers should have a good customer support to be considered legitimate.