Faxing over the Internet is ideal for personal faxing and some small business faxing.
Faxing over the Internet offers many benefits to the personal and home office user. The ability to forego paper, ink, toner and a phone line offers cost saving benefits, while ridding the office of the machine itself is an aesthetic plus. Also, since faxing over the Internet is done directly from a desktop or laptop, this alternative includes a convenience and work flow factor.
From a consumer standpoint, faxing over the Internet simply involves choosing a fax service and subscribing or agreeing to charges. Once subscribed, this service will provide the consumer with the means to send faxes via computer. This is often achieved through attaching a document to an e-mail, and sending the e-mail to the intended recipient's fax number, often adding the fax service's address on the end of the fax number. The fax service then takes over. Once the fax has arrived in their queue, they then forward it on to the number indicated. In reverse, the fax service will intercept faxes sent to the receiver's fax number and convert it into a document that is then e-mailed to the receiver/subscriber.
From a technical standpoint, the action becomes more complicated. Fax over computer takes place through the use of a piece of equipment called a gateway. In fact, Imecom Group, a leading fax server software company, explains the gateway best -- as a bridge between the two points of information. The fax travels from its origin, to a fax server, through the Internet, past the gateway, which does much of the information conversion, and finally on to a phone line and through a traditional fax.
Often, users will need no other software than what is already in use on a personal computer. Generally, faxes are initiated through an e-mail program, and the actual text is housed within Microsoft Word or Adobe's Portable Document Files (PDFs). PDFs are able to be read using the Adobe Reader software, available free at Adobe. Some programs won't even need an e-mail or document platform, as faxes are read and delivered solely through an online Internet program, which entirely skips the e-mail attachment portion.
However, certain platforms may require that users download specific software, which may or may not be included in the price. Fax-over-Internet programs are so numerous and widely available on the Internet that the consumer should be able to choose whether or not a program that requires downloadable software is preferred.
As with many programs available on the Internet, options abound when choosing features. Programs offer a wide variety of add-ons that are sure to meet the consumer's personal or business needs. For example, RapidFAX offers document and fax management services that store important items remotely and then have them available over web interface. This tends to be especially helpful to businesses that deal in large volumes of faxes, such as sales orders.
Other interesting features available include the ability to have a toll-free fax number and the ability to choose the area code of the fax number. Again, the wide variety of fax-over-Internet programs available makes it easy for the consumer to target his or her individual needs.
When choosing a fax program, businesses should be mindful of cost structuring. Some companies offer per-page rates, while others operate on a flat monthly fee. It will serve a consumer well to keep in mind the approximate amount of faxing done each month.
Privacy and security is often another concern. For example, consumers may wonder if their information is widely available. There may be questions regarding the accuracy of page counts, or if a business is truly receiving all of its faxes. All these questions should be dealt with by checking the policies and FAQs of individual service providers before a final decision is made in selecting a fax-over-Internet service.