Of course, some things should go away as progress delivers better ways of doing them. Surround sound has made theater movies much more interactive than when all the sound came from behind the screen. And Internet fax services have made sending and receiving faxes much more efficient.
If you haven't made the move yet, the following are seven signs that you might want to retire that old fax machine or fax server and replace it with an Internet fax service.
- There are so many faxed pages on your floor that the U.S. Olympic Committee has asked if they can use your office to train the Alpine skiing team. High-volume faxing, as is practiced every day in the construction industry, can use up a lot of paper. Documents often wind up on the floor when no one is keeping an eye on the machine. Internet fax services allow all faxes to be delivered directly to your PC, laptop, PDA, or other device, eliminating the need to sort faxes after delivery.
- You hear the fax machine ringing constantly — even when you're not at the office. While it's not quite as bad as hearing voices in your head, phantom ringing can still be annoying. Internet fax services use the Internet instead of phone lines to connect you with the outside world, putting an end to the endless ringing of fax machines.
- Everyone in the office seems to know the most intimate details about your latest business proposal, medical condition, divorce, traffic accident, etc. And why shouldn't they, when Madge the office gossip is also Madge the person in charge of delivering faxes when they come in. She can't help reading them before dropping them off, which gives her an extra special glimpse into everyone's business and personal lives. Internet fax services offer far greater privacy by going directly into your e-mail account or remaining on a secure server. If Madge wants to learn the intimate details of your life, she's going to have to get them the old-fashioned way — by putting a glass against the wall in the next office or hiding under your desk.
- That important fax you were waiting for comes in looking like some psychologist's ink blot test. Unless you were actually waiting for an ink blot test to arrive, getting a fax that's dark and filled with splotches where words and pictures are supposed to be can cause you to lose hours or even days on a job. Internet fax services not only deliver faxes cleaner (by not losing a generation in transmission); as electronic documents they often can be lightened or otherwise adjusted to make them more readable — and usable.
- You find yourself playing "name that tune" with the phone tones while sending the same fax to multiple recipients. Sending faxes one at a time to multiple recipients (such as subs that need to know about a change order) can be very boring and time consuming. Internet fax services allow you to send to an unlimited number of recipients at once, the same way you would send multiple e-mails. It may not be as much fun as playing "name that tune," but it's a lot more efficient.
- You can recite the 12-step instructions on how to scan a page into the document management system by heart, despite the fact that you can't remember what you had for lunch. Electronic document management (EDM) is being required by many organizations to meet Sarbanes-Oxley or even internal corporate governance initiatives. Faxes that come in via paper have to be entered into the system somehow — usually by being scanned and converted to electronic form by someone who has more important things to do than scan documents. Faxes sent through Internet fax services are already in electronic form, so they can generally be uploaded as-is. Better services offer conversion to a choice of formats to work better with your EDM system.
- You find out your local phone company has named you "customer of the year." That can only mean one thing — you're spending way too much on telecom costs. Internet fax services use the Internet connection you already have instead of special phone lines, allowing you to realize significant savings on monthly service charges and maintenance. That also means you can log in and send/receive faxes anywhere you can get an Internet connection — even if it's on the job site — saving both time and money.
Steve Adams is Vice President of Marketing for MyFax, a provider of Internet faxing services for individual home users, small businesses, and large corporations. MyFax has won a number of awards in head-to-head competitions for ease of use, reliability, and best overall value. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.