In a time when email and paperless communication is becoming the norm, you might think that faxing – a dinosaur method of instant communication – was going out of fashion. You would be wrong. The fax machine has a history dating back to the 1800s, and many businesses and companies still use them today. They can be found everywhere: banks, doctors’ offices, even delicatessens or tourist shops in developing countries – which use them to verify credit cards, usually. But the newest trend in business communication is the efax. Similar to emailing, it sends paperless faxes to a unique number via the internet while eliminating the need for heavy machinery, paper and ink.
What is a Fax Machine?
These days, the awkward, unwieldy stand-alone fax machine is becoming rarer and rarer to see – but its replacement has been with the two or three-in-one multifunctional printer, sales of which have only risen in recent years: increasing by a massive 340% between 2001 and 2007. But surely some of those who purchase these items are looking only for the print or scan function – and may not even be entirely certain what a fax machine is used for.
The word ‘fax’ is short for ‘facsimile’, meaning that a facsimile of the original document is created in another location: fax machines create a carbon copy of a document to appear elsewhere within mere seconds.
It was in 1843 that the first fax machine was patented in England. It worked by sending electrical charge across a telegraph wire which was connected to pendulums. These pendulums were connected to pens. When the pendulum was charged via the wire, it made a stain on specially treated paper. Hence, messages could be sent a received. However, it was not until the 1980s that the fax machine was fully embraced by small and medium enterprises – before then, they were mammoth machines which were expensive to run and hard to use. With the prices reduced significantly, faxing became hugely popular – even more so once it was decreed that the copy of a signature created via fax was legally acceptable. One of the key drivers of adoption of fax technology was Japanese businesses who found that it was best suited to the large character set of the language.
With an electronic fax system, there’s no need for a fax machine – whether stand alone or multifunctional. It sends faxes using email, and receives them in the same fashion: online and seamlessly. This means that there is no need for the machine itself, not to mind supplies like ink and paper, or – the most vital in a fax system – an extra phone line.
It bridges the gap between the older and newest technologies, so that you don’t need to be in the office, standing by the machine, to receive a fax: you can check it as you would email, from your laptop computer, tablet or smart phone. There is also the added advantage that every fax can be stored digitally and remotely: so no more lost faxes, faded and curled thermo-paper or hunting through dusty files!
Some of the better services, like Fax machine by eFax, allow you to send various file formats: PDFs are probably by far the most popular file type, but you can also use .TIFF or .EFX.
Using an electronic fax also means that you can specify exactly what email to send the fax to: so you are guaranteed total privacy in your business matters. Similarly, you can specify that the fax be sent to multiple addresses, meaning that everyone is clued in on the action.