It’s a modern day dilemma for a small business: with 99% of all visual communication coming to your business through email or online, how can you justify the expense of having a fax machine and a separate phone line for that one customer a year who prefers this mode of communication?
The good news is, there are alternate options to traditional fax lines. The bad news? Well, choosing the right option for your business can be a little tricky. Here are some faxing suggestions with their associated pros and cons:
Efax.com | This is the online service I use to receive faxes. I signed up for the free account. Pros: you can immediately receive a fax number and successfully receive faxes after downloading their easy-to-use software. Cons: With the free account, the area code for your fax number will likely be a long distance number, and you won’t be able to send faxes or receive faxes greater than 20 pages in length. Fine print: you can get a custom number and send/receive faxes with larger page lengths if you upgrade. Their lowest-grade plan starts at $16.95/month, with a $10 start-up fee.
SimplifyFax.com | This is an online subscription service starting at $7.95 per month for a local number and $10.95 for a toll-free number. Pros: you can receive an unlimited number of fax pages and send up to 250 outbound pages for no additional fee. Cons: After your 250 pages, you pay five cents per page to send.
Faxaway.com | This is also an online subscription service. They have an initial $10 set-up fee and after that, it’s $1/month. They bill by transmission time to send, versus per page. Pros: receive an unlimited number of faxes for the monthly fee. Cons: Unless you’re living in Seattle, you’re likely to have a long-distance number. Also, transmission rates can be confusing to determine: they’re based on distance more like traditional phone lines. In this modern world, this seems antiquated to me!
Land lines | If you can get your hands on an old fax machine through ebay, Craigslist, garage sales, or TwinCitiesFreeMarket.org, you may have some telephone options that could be less expensive than online faxing. For example, one home-based freelance designer I spoke to simply tells the sender to let her know when to they’re ready to fax, then plugs in her machine to her main line to receive a fax. Prefer to keep your fax plugged in? Another colleague has a $3/month separate incoming fax line in addition to her land-based business line. These options can get tricky if you don’t use your land-based phone company for long-distance service (who does these days, when long distance is included in your cell phone plan??).
Buck the system. I think the reason I’ve opted to go with the crummy free fax number is that I’d like to think that ineffective technology should go gracefully to the sidelines when its day is up. I mean, when is the last time you received a fax that looked as crisp as an email? That had the color of a jpeg or a pdf? Or the interactivity of an e-newsletter or web page? With Adobe Acrobat and Microsoft Word, you can create comments right on a document and track changes by reader/editor. And desktop scanners, starting under $100, can convert documents to digital files which you can quickly email anywhere for free.
So, the best solution? Education about the benefits of non-fax communication. And for must-fax situations? Well, make friends with the fossil who has a fax machine next door.
Thank you to Creatives Group members for your ideas for this article.