From fax machines to fax software
Before we define what fax software is, we should first define what fax is exactly. Fax, or facsimile, is traditionally what we call the technology used to transmit scanned-in documents (printed text or images) over a telephone line.
In the past, the document is scanned by the fax machine as a single fixed graphic image that is converted to bitmap. The bitmap file is then transmitted as electric signals through telephony. The fax machine on the other end receives the bitmap file and prints it on paper as a copy of the document.
Of course, the internet has changed the way we transmit documents now. As far as peer-to-peer file sharing is concerned, fax is far behind other technologies like email, group chats, and even social media.
Its peak usage was in the year 1997, when more than 3.6 million fax machines were sold. By the 2000s, its usage had dropped off significantly.
You would think that it is already headed towards being obsolete. But instead of disappearing, it stayed relevant in many industries, like healthcare and finance, and remained a vital part of doing business in many countries.
But how did fax maintain its relevance in an age where the internet has presented easier ways to share documents?
Simple. It’s by adapting to the modern business environment through fax software.
What is computer fax software?
Computer fax software is simply software or an application that allows users to send and receive faxes over computers, laptops, and other internet-connected devices.
This removes the need for businesses to purchase actual fax machines while still getting faxing capabilities.
The best part is that it is so much easier to use than traditional fax machines. Instead of sending hard copies of documents, your business can instead send digital or virtual fax over the internet.
The recipient can then get a soft copy of the fax on their own online fax software or application or a printed copy if they are still using a traditional fax machine.
What are the advantages of virtual or digital fax software vs traditional fax machines?
Here are some factors that can help you decide:
Lower overall cost of online fax vs fax machines
You would think that fax machines are more affordable than online fax, but you are wrong. First of all, your business needs to purchase a fax machine. Add in the business phone line needed to make it work—in some cases, a dedicated phone line that is separate from the one used to make calls—and you are already a few thousand bucks in. Moreover, the average cost of traditional faxing is about 10 cents per page. You also have to consider that fax machines are hardware whose value deteriorates over time. It has to be maintained and someday be replaced.
Online fax software and applications, on the other hand, do not need any hardware except for your computer, laptop, or mobile device—which are far less specialized. It can work with traditional fax machines and can even let you fax directly from your scanner. But ultimately, it can work without these equipment.
In addition, you don’t really need an active phone line to send online fax. You can simply use your fax phone number from your internet-connected device to send and receive faxes over the internet. Lastly, the cost of sending digital fax, on average, costs less than five cents—around half of the average cost of sending a traditional fax.
Efficiency of digital fax vs fax machines
Another advantage of virtual fax compared to traditional fax is how it made faxing easier and more convenient.
With traditional fax machines, you have to print out the document even before you can start faxing. Once you have printed the documents, you also have to go to the fax machine to actually start faxing. Once there, you can only fax one page at a time. You have to wait for the first page to go through before sending the next one. Also, you can’t filter out the pages that don’t need to be printed. In traditional fax, you need to print everything.
Digital fax, on the other hand, is very efficient. You can fax multiple pages, up to 200 pages, in just one go. You do not even need to print the document for faxing. Instead, you can send it as an attachment to the recipient. Same goes for receiving faxes. No need to print your faxes when you can just open it as a PDF. If you do need to print out a document (for signatures, for example), you only need to print out the specific page that needs to be signed. No need to print all the pages. In fact, you can even delete junk faxes and block fax numbers that send spam. As an added feature, you can even schedule fax transmissions in advance. No need to go back to the office just to fax a certain document at a certain time.
Mobility and flexibility of virtual fax vs fax machines
Another limitation of traditional fax is its lack of mobility. You can only fax from the fax machine and do not have the option to send and receive faxes anywhere else. Also, there’s a very good chance that everyone is sharing the same fax machine. If multiple people want to send a fax, you have to wait for your turn. Even worse, if someone is waiting for a fax, no one will be able to use the fax machine.
That is not the case with virtual fax. In fact, all users can fax at the same time on their own devices. The only requirement is that they have an online fax application account from an internet fax provider like RingCentral and a stable internet connection. They do not even have to be in the office to fax. In addition to this, fax software providers like RingCentral also allow integration of fax features in other applications like cloud storage apps, including Dropbox™, Box, and Google Drive™. This means you can fax documents straight from these apps without having to shift to another application. No more taking turns on a single fax machine.
Security of online fax vs fax machines
You would think that fax machines are more secure because they use traditional phone lines that are not as prone to interception. But that is also wrong. Hacking telephone lines have been going on for ages, and they are not as secure as you think.
Additionally, because everything is printed, faxes could stay on fax machine trays without being claimed by the intended recipient, which in turn makes it accessible to anyone, including those who have malicious intent and could use the fax content for unsavory deals.
The great thing about online fax is that even if it passes through the public internet, providers like RingCentral ensure that strong security measures such as high-level encryption protect the fax during transmission. Also, faxes are stored in password-protected accounts, away from prying eyes.
Environment-friendliness of internet fax vs fax machines
If you are thinking of saving Mother Earth or at least want to be mindful of the consumption and waste you are contributing to, then this is another reason to stay away from traditional fax.
Just from a paper consumption perspective, traditional faxes lead to a lot of unnecessary printouts that waste paper. In addition, these machines always consume electricity because they are constantly turned on. It also adds to carbon emission when operated. Not to mention that fax machines themselves are deteriorating hardware, which will someday be thrown and added to the massive heap of unrecycled waste. It can take hundreds of years for it to dissolve because it is usually made of plastic that’s also made of materials that are harmful to the environment.
Online faxes, on the other hand, mostly exist in a virtual space. Because faxes are sent and received mostly as soft copies, there is zero to minimal waste of paper involved. Moreover, faxes are received regardless of whether the user is logged into their account or not, even when devices are turned off. The only hardware that is used are laptops, PCs, and mobile devices, which at least offer multiple functions to the user. This is in contrast with fax machines that are mostly single-function units.
Faxing online with RingCentral
RingCentral is one of the top online faxing software providers. You can send a fax online from virtually anywhere as long as you have a RingCentral account.
If you want to get online faxing service, RingCentral has several RingCentral Fax® plans that you can choose from. You can even get a plan that includes calls, business SMS, video meetings, and team messaging.
If you are looking for a more comprehensive unified communications solution that includes call routing and management with your faxing service, RingCentral offers a variety of subscription plans that offer more team collaboration features.
How to use a virtual fax service
With RingCentral, there are multiple options on how you can use your virtual fax service. By leveraging the cloud and the internet, users are able to send and receive fax from anywhere, and on any device.
How to use your computer or laptop as an online fax machine
There are multiple ways you can send faxes using your laptop or computer.
- You can send virtual fax through your online account. Simply log in to your RingCentral account and click on the FaxOut icon for the fax window to pop up. From there, you can simply add recipients, add a cover page and notes (if you want), attach the document or file to be faxed from your local or cloud storage, and finally send it.
- You can also send a digital fax from the RingCentral app. Simply click on Phone in the left pane, then click on Faxes on the main screen. You can then click on the Compose Fax icon to make the fax windows pop up. From there, you can add recipients, add a cover page (if you want), and then attach the document or file to be faxed. Once ready, you can simply click Send.
- You can also send a fax using a RingCentral-connected email account. In the recipient’s section, input the receiver’s 10-digit fax phone number followed by “@rcfax.com”. You can then attach the file or document you want to fax. Once ready, you can send the email, which will be received as a fax message by the receiver. You can also add the option to add a cover page whenever you put a text on the subject line whenever you send a fax via email.
How to use your mobile device as a digital fax machine
The easiest way to send a virtual fax from your mobile device (like your smartphone or tablet) is through the RingCentral app, which is available in both the Apple App Store® and Google Play Store™.
Here are the steps for how to use your RingCentral mobile app as an internet fax machine:
- Open your RingCentral app. To send a new fax, tap on the blue Plus (+) button on the bottom right corner of the app. You will be given several options—choose the topmost, which is New Fax.
- Either add the recipient from your existing contact list from your RingCentral app or your mobile phone. You can also manually input the recipient’s fax phone number.
- The default cover page is currently set to Contempo. To set it to another design, tap on the default and choose from another design. If you do not want to add a cover page, you can choose None from the options.
- You can then attach the file or document you want to fax. You can take it from your mobile’s local storage or from your cloud storage.
- Once done, tap on the arrow on the upper-right corner of the screen to send.
With fax software, businesses are able to get a modern way to fax. By removing the fax machine from the equation, you get virtual fax—a more cost-effective, more efficient, more flexible, more secure, and even a more environmentally friendly way to send and receive faxes.