Although email predominates these days, there are still many companies that require fax service in order to do remote business. But, fax machines can cost hundreds of dollars up-front plus hundreds of dollars a year in telephone bills. Is there a better way? There is an online fax service, also called eFax.
Get Fax Service For Your Home or Business Without The Fax Machine
For a small monthly fee of about $10 (varies by provider), you can send and receive faxes with nothing more than an Internet-connected computer. Faxes can be sent by email or by visiting a website. Received faxes will be delivered directly into your email inbox.
What You Need to Get Online Fax Service
The only requirements are a computer and an Internet connection, but for full-service faxing, you may need a few other things.
Many faxes are forms to be filled out, signed, and returned. To do all that the old-fashioned way requires a printer to print the form from your online fax service and a scanner to scan in the form after you complete it. But, if you don’t have a printer or a scanner, you can avoid the expense of buying one, simply open the fax as an image in an image manipulation program.
The image manipulation programs I suggest are all free for Windows and Linux users-OpenOffice.org Draw works great for filling out forms, Inkscape will make it easy for you to create a signature (and save and resize it for future use), and if you have problems, GIMP will edit anything.
If you’re lazy, you can also edit faxes as BMPs in Microsoft Paintâ€”but be careful, Paint has a very limited ability to undo mistakes.
After opening the fax in whatever program you choose, use the text option to fill in the form with neatly-printed text; then use the pen or paint brush to sign your signature. Save the new document and upload it to your online fax service.
Too complicated? Look for a cheap $100 printer and scanner combo and fill out faxes the old-fashioned way.
The Best Online Fax Service
The best online fax service for you depends on what you plan to use your fax service for, but here’s a sample of some of the best plans available. Note: the prices listed below are for faxes sent to and received from the US and Canada. Other rates may apply for faxes sent to other countries.
- Fax.com accounts start at $9.99 a month and include your own private number with 300 incoming or outgoing pages a month. For an extra fee, you can get a toll-free number.
- eFax.com delivers faxes straight to your email for easy reading. Accounts start at $17 a month or $14.13 a month if you pay yearly. You can receive 130 incoming fax pages and send 30 pages a month.
- Send2Fax.com offers email-based fax service with a toll-free number starting at $8.95 a month with 150 incoming or outgoing faxes a month. Send2Fax also offers a plugin for Microsoft Office 2007 that allows you to fax a document from within Microsoft Word or Excel.
- SmartFax.com is the cheapest provider listed here, with accounts starting at $6.95 a month for either a local phone number or a toll-free number. Included are 250 incoming or outgoing faxes per month.
- myFax.com delivers faxes straight to your email, but also lets you send faxes from any email-capable deviceâ€”computers, iPhones, Blackberries, and even networked copy machines. Accounts start at $10 a month and include 500 incoming or outgoing pages a month.
How To Send a Fax By Email (For Most Services)
Almost all of the online fax services listed above let you send a fax by email using the same simple method. Here are the six easy steps:
- First, convert the file you want to send into a supported format. The most commonly supported formats are PDF, Microsoft Word, OpenOffice.org Writer, Microsoft Excel, OpenOffice.org Calc, Microsoft Powerpoint, HTML, Postscript, JPEG, TIFF, and BMP
- Open your email program and in the To: field, enter the address firstname.lastname@example.org. Replace the number with the fax number you want to fax to; replace example.com with the domain name of your fax service. For example: email@example.com.
(Warning: make sure you send the email from the email address you used to create your account on the fax service site–otherwise your fax won’t go through.)
- To send a cover letter, enter the subject of your cover letter in the email Subject: field. For example, ‘Dave– Here are those documents your requested.’
- Don’t type anything in the email body. Anything you do type won’t be sent.
- Attach the document you want to send. Most companies let you attach up to four documents to a single email fax.
- Click send.
As soon as your email finishes uploading to the fax service provider’s server, their computer fax machine will dial the number you indicated and start sending the fax. It will probably take a few minutes to send several pages, but when the entire fax is successfully delivered, you’ll receive an email confirmation.
If you know someone with a fax machine, or you work in an office with a fax machine, you should try sending a fax to that number to make sure you understand how everything works before an urgent matter requires you use your online fax machine.
How To Receive a Fax By Email (For All Services)
Every online fax service offers email fax delivery. The instructions are super simple:
- When you sign up for an account, the online fax service will give you your fax number. Give this number to anyone who might want to fax you something. I put my fax number on my business card and my website.
- Wait for someone to fax you something.
- As soon as their fax machine hangs up, your fax service provider will send you an email. Often these emails will come from firstname.lastname@example.org where faxnumber is the other person’s fax number and example.com is the name of your fax service provider.
- The actual fax will be an attachment to the email you receive. It will almost always by a PDF file. Open this file in Adobe Acrobat Reader and start reading your fax.
- If you need to edit the fax in order to respond, see the instructions above about what you need to get online fax service working.
About the author:
David A. Harding is a Linux Professional Institute certified system administrator and freelance writer with over 10 years experience working with Linux. He’s been published in over a dozen magazines and has given over 50 presentations about Linux–including two Software Freedom Day keynotes. Dave always loves to hear from readers and can be reached at email@example.com.