Despite the fact that most paper-based communication seems to have moved to email, there is still a need at times to rely on sending/receiving faxes. I suppose in ten years faxing might have gone the way of the buggy whip, but until then faxing can be made to look/act a lot like email without having to worry about having an extra piece of office equipment and/or a spare phone line.
Enter an online faxing service that allows you to send and receive faxes through your regular email account. The one I use is called MaxEmail but I have also heard good things about eFax and I believe it works similarly. There are several other options as well but I don’t have anything good or bad to say about them.
For about $85/year, I get a local fax number (you get to choose the area code and the exchange from a list of available locations) that people can send faxes to. If you don’t mind having a random area code assigned to your fax number, you can sign up for around $25/month instead. So if I need medical results faxed to me, for example, I can give them my home fax number and I don’t need to worry about my cholesterol figures sitting on the office fax machine or ending up missing in someone’s stack of work related papers.
When a fax comes into your fax number, MaxEmail converts it to a PDF file and sends it as an email that shows up like any other email message with an attachment. To send a fax, you can format it like an email and address it to something like email@example.com and MaxEmail will change it to from an email to a fax and send it to the recipients fax machine. The body of your email message becomes the fax cover page and any attachments (many file formats like PDF, Word, Excel, etc. are supported) become the fax. I do this to file my healthcare flexible spending claims for example, because I have the form on my computer and I scan in my receipts so getting it to the claims servicer is as simple as sending an email and attaching these items.
As I said, someday everything will travel by email and we’ll probably sign things electronically to clear the hurdle that requires certain things (like FSA claims) to be sent by fax today. Until then, a relatively inexpensive and easy option is to use an online faxing service like MaxEmail.