Fax Machines

Business.com / Business Solutions / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Seriously, who uses a fax machine anymore? In the age of email and attachments, online fax apps, email fax, and multi-function ...

Seriously, who uses a fax machine anymore? In the age of email and attachments, online fax apps, email fax, and multi-function printer/scanner/fax devices (MFDs), where's the role for a fax machine? Why not buy a typewriter and a punch-card reader, too? Well, don't count out fax yet. When hard copy is called for -- say, when signatures are involved -- using a scanner and an internet fax machine just takes longer than feeding a document to a physical fax machine, especially when there are multiple pages involved. If you fax more than very casually, a dedicated fax machine is a handy tool to have around. Sure, an MFD can fax, too, but you may find faxing, copying and scanning all competing for the device's attention. A dedicated fax machine keeps faxing out of the way of other tasks. The latest machines do more than you might think, and they integrate well into a larger communications strategy that also includes email. Newer machines are:

1. Fast -- even low-priced machines fax a page in three seconds, and some use broadband technology to distribute faxes quickly throughout your network, or accommodate fax broadcasting needs.

2. Clear -- resolutions of 600 x 600 produce print-quality output.

3. Powerful -- they can easily broadcast to large, multi-recipient distribution lists and store hundreds of pages in memory.

4. Cost-saving -- they can time-delay transmissions to take advantage of cheaper phone rates.

Here are the most effective solutions for finding the right fax machine for your business:

Choose your fax machine's sending features

Other than speed claims, sending features are the major way that fax machine manufacturers try to make their machines more attractive than others'. As a result, you'll find a dizzying array of sending features in most machines, especially speed-dialing options, internal memory (to temporarily hold scanned pages waiting to be sent or received pages waiting to be printed), bulk fax broadcasting, and copying capability. As with options on a car, since more features almost always means more $$, always ask yourself whether you really need a feature before letting yourself be seduced.

What about receiving features?

The most important receiving feature is print quality, which is tied to print technology. As with computer printers, fax machines come in various print technologies: There's thermal, with the traditional roll of fax paper and grey, blurry output, plus two "plain paper" print methods, inkjet and laser. Laser tends to produce the best-looking output, thermal offers the lowest consumables cost, and inkjets fall in-between in both measures. There's also a hybrid technology unique to fax machines, "plain-paper thermal," that lets you print on plain paper using thermal ribbons that are cheaper, page-for-page, than laser toner cartridges or inkjet cartridges.

Ready, Set, Shop!

Once you have a solid understanding of the specs and features and what they mean, it's time at last to look at the buying options. Fax machines start at under $50 on sale, and go up over $1,000. There are literally hundreds of choices.

Setting Up to Fax

Faxing takes more than plugging in a machine. Make sure you have everything you need.

Keep Stocked

Like any other printer, a fax machine consumes. Make sure you keep enough supplies on hand.

Consider an internet fax machine

Email fax (or FoIP for "fax over internet protocol") is an option growing in popularity and reliability, especially for businesses in need of a high-volume fax broadcasting solution. Choose an internet-based email fax service or run email fax software on your PC.
fax server software. For more on your email options, see Work.com’s Guide to Internet Fax Services and Guide to Fax Over IP.
  • How good your received faxes look depends not just on your fax machine's resolution, but on the sending resolution of your faxing partner. If those who fax you do not use high-resolution modes, there's little value in owning a hi-res fax machine unless you also plan to use it as a printer/copier.
  • You can find fax machines that print in color, but they are rare and depend on your faxing partner to have one, too. Email attachments are a better option for transferring color documents.
  • Refurbished fax machines are available, but of little value given the low cost and long warranties of new machines.
  • To ensure a steady supply of ribbons/toner/ink, stick with the major brands such as Brother, Canon and Hewlett-Packard.
  • Some combination of your own fax machine and an email fax service may be right for you. Faxing via email is handy for sending and receiving when you’re on the road and don’t have access to a fax. On the other hand, your email fax message may get stopped by the recipients’ spam filters while a machine fax is likely to go through unimpeded.

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