Documents on the Go: Faxing by Internet

Web-based services offer a quick and easy way to share documents without being tied down to a traditional fax machine.

September 1, 2005

Several real estate practitioners have told me over the past year or so that Internet faxing is one of the most practical tools they’ve discovered online. They now rely on these Web-based services as their preferred way of sending and receiving documents and contracts that used to be transmitted over the office fax machine.

Internet faxing is a simple solution that doesn’t entail much of a learning curve or change in habits. You can use these services to transmit and receive faxes, usually as PDF attachments by e-mail. That means that you can send or receive faxes anywhere in the field through a mobile computer, PDA, or smartphone that has wireless Web access.

People who send you faxes through traditional fax machines won’t notice any difference. They simply dial your Internet fax number to transmit a document to you. When the document arrives, the Internet fax service automatically converts the document to a PDF and then attaches the fax in an e-mail alert to you. Likewise, you can transmit a fax from your computer with a click of a button.

The benefits of Web-based fax services include:

  • Convenience. If there’s one area where mobile technology has lagged, it’s in the delivery of a portable, practical fax machine that you can use in the field. Web-based faxing delivers all the advantages of faxed communications without the need for more hardware. Wherever you have Web access, you can have the virtual equivalent of a fax machine on your desktop or laptop computer, PDA, or smartphone.
  • Easy transition. When you subscribe to an Internet fax service, you receive a personal or toll-free fax number. You also can forward incoming faxes from your traditional fax machine to your Internet fax number. Sending a fax is as easy as attaching a file to an e-mail, entering the destination fax number as part of the outgoing e-mail address, and hitting send. To view an incoming fax, simply open the e-mail attachment.
  • Savings and productivity. These services do away with the need for a fax machine, ink cartridges and paper, and a dedicated phone line. You can save time and money because you no longer need to print out a document and load it into a traditional fax machine to send documents.

Many vendors are vying for a share of this service market. But keep these points in mind as you evaluate Internet fax service providers:

  • Cost. Prices vary from vendor to vendor. In addition to the nominal set-up fee, most providers charge a monthly or yearly subscription fee based on how much faxing you do. Additional costs may be incurred when sending documents, based on the number of pages or length of transmission. Several offer a choice of plans, based on the total pages faxed per month. Know the page limits, as well as when and how any surcharges are applied.
  • Options. Look for faxing options based on your particular needs. If you share a fax with other staff members, you’ll want incoming faxes routed to several e-mail addresses. If you send blast faxes (a large volume of faxes) to keep in touch with clients or prospects, you’ll want that capability.
  • Available numbers. Some, but not all, services can assign you a local phone number, in one or more area codes of your choice, as your fax number(s). Others may only offer a toll-free number. Check to see which vendors offer local access numbers if that’s important to you. If the fax service assigns you an Internet fax number, see if you can take that number with you if you ever switch providers.
  • File formats. Find out what file formats the Internet fax service supports because you’ll have greater flexibility in sending faxes if the provider supports a variety. Integration with a contact management system can make it easier to send and organize faxes, based on your client and contact lists.
  • Security. Since real estate correspondence often includes sensitive personal and financial information, make sure the service provider has security measures in place to prevent unauthorized access to your faxes.
  • Web access. The service provider should give you the option to access its secure Web site to retrieve your fax history, verify that faxes were successfully transmitted, and save or delete faxes.
  • Extras. Some additional features enhance the appeal of an online fax service. For instance, document storage on the provider’s server gives you a back-up fax archive. Some vendors also offer the option of receiving both voicemail messages—as well as faxes—on the same fax number, and both are delivered as e-mail attachments. Some of these extras may be offered as part of the service or there may be an additional charge, depending on the feature and the provider.

Following are some of the more popular Web-based faxing services:

  • ClickFax integrates with ACT! and GoldMine contact management systems, which means that you don’t have to worry about importing fax numbers from your address books. Incoming faxes arrive in your e-mail inbox as PDF attachments. Pricing starts at $3.50 per month, with an additional fee of 8 cents per page for sending and receiving faxes.
  • eFax offers local fax numbers in more than 1,500 cities worldwide. Service plans start at $12.95 per month for receiving up to 130 fax pages per month; you pay 10 cents per page to send faxes anywhere in the United States.
  • Internet Fax Provider gives you a personal toll-free fax number. Faxes arrive in your e-mail inbox as PDF attachments. Pricing starts with a $9.95 set-up fee and $9.95 monthly subscription for sending up to 100 pages and receiving up to 200 pages. You pay 10 cents per page for anything exceeding those limits.
  • GreenFax.com offers both local fax numbers in major market areas and a toll-free number option. Initial set-up fee is $10, and pricing starts at $12.95 per month for receiving up to 250 pages. To send faxes, you pay 7 cents per page.
  • MyFax supports sending and receiving faxes in 45 document formats. Incoming faxes can be sent to up to three e-mail addresses at once. Pricing starts at $10 per month for sending up to 100 pages and receiving up to 200 pages. You pay 10 cents per page for anything above those limits.
  • TrustFax offers a free 30-day trial period. After the trial period, pricing starts at $9.95 per year, with an additional 10 cents per page for sending or receiving faxes. Incoming faxes are sent as PDF attachments to your e-mail inbox.

If you’re still not convinced that Internet faxing is for you, experiment with a system on a trial basis. Once you start faxing over the Web, you may learn to rely on the convenience.

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