When first invented and popularized fax machines were seen as a wondrous invention. After all being able to send a piece of paper or even a whole document to someone in another office or even across the world over a phone line was pretty different than the norm at the time.
Eventually the fax machine was enshrined into business practice even being recognized by most office jurisdictions as a legal form of transmission which could be used to finalize agreements. At present the Canadian tax authority, CRA, only recognizes fax as a legitimate substitute for snail mail when communicating with accounting professionals. While they permit electronic tax filings both from individuals and professionals by use of specialized approved software they still will not communicate using email. For many this means extended time left on hold on a phone call or the need for using a mail system which takes weeks rather than minutes for correspondence,
With the massive changes in communication technology many business are finally asking whether they can get rid of the fax for good. With the rise of email, mobile, fax traffic is generally in decline and many are considering alternatives like cloud based faxing services. Some industries like Real Estate, Lawyers, Medical, and Pharmacies are still fax centric choosing to communicate this way, possibly out of tradition or convenience.
Sometimes it is just habit.
For many other businesses they have eliminated the use of fax in favour of email and use scanning and other tools to convert any paper to electronic files which can be transmitted. One significant item which has facilitated this change is the universal adoption of the PDF (portable document format) file format which is universally supported by all browsers and computer operating systems. This means that a file created on a PC in virtually any software can be saved or converted to PDF and it will be readable on a Mac, a Smart Phone or other device which has a PDF viewer installed. No need to have matching packages on each device with matching versions.
- Fax machines generally have required companies to maintain an analog phone line in their phone system (exceptions exist but they are usually fairly expensive) and this world of VOIP phone systems this has meant an extra expense and complication must be maintained. Eliminate the fax and you can save $40. $50 a month in phone costs.
- Eliminate fax use and when you acquire your new MFP you can save the cost of adding a fax module to the device which can cost anywhere from a few hundred to over a thousand dollars per device.
- With no fax you save the costs of the paper print out which is norm, the toner or specialized paper needed by the machine and the maintenance of the fax device if it is a stand alone unit.
One other reason some companies have maintained the analog fax phone line is for them to use to upload postage and rate changes into their older analog based postage machine. Even this need is changing and the process can be facilitated with the use of a newer machine which uses an internet connection for these transactions.
A recent publication identified that there are over 46 million fax machines in the world with an estimate of over 19 million in North America. If each machine uses a phone line costing $40 per month the potential savings to industry in North America alone is over $760 million dollars per month. This is without factoring any equipment or maintenance costs which would push it up higher.
Eliminating faxes from our business and government systems could mean a significant net benefit since there are suitable and safe alternatives which are already in place.
Suppose for some reason you are in an environment where a fax number is still needed due to one customer's use or some other exceptional situation. The solution is to sign up for a cloud based fax receiving service which provides an electronic phone number, accepts the incoming fax and converts it to an email and then forwards it to you. These systems are readily available and will cost only a fraction of the monthly phone line cost currently in place. It is also possible to get this kind of software which can be installed within your own network, although that is a more specialized and complicated process.
The fax machine has been a significant contributor to the modernization of business practices and the improvement of document based communication. For many decades it was the gold standard for electronic document transfer, however better tools come along and that is the case for fax as well.
It is time to retire fax just like telex and many other technologies which have come and gone. Fax did a great job for a time but much better solutions are available now.