Imagine a life without your fax machine.
You probably see a world absent the convenience and speed of communication to which you've become accustomed. Your business would slow down to a snail's pace as you lost the ability to send and receive bids, invoices and scope of work documents in minutes.
That's not the life I'm talking about. I'm talking about running your business with the conveniences of a fax machine but absent the costs and inefficiencies that go with it.
Add it up: The hard costs of the fax machine, toner cartridges, paper, phone line and long distance charges. The soft costs for each fax: time spent preparing the cover sheet; printing documents to be sent; the walk to the fax machine; dialing; waiting, waiting and waiting for the confirmation page.
With online fax services you can remove the machine but keep the conveniences. Using your PC or Mac, Internet connection and e-mail account, you can conveniently send and receive faxes right from your desk.
It works like this: A supplier, sub or client sends a fax as normal to your private fax number. The fax is received by an online service company that converts it into an electronic document, typically an Adobe Acrobat PDF file, and then forwards it to your e-mail account as an attachment that can be printed or saved to your hard drive.
Depending on your provider, delivering a fax can be as simple as sending an e-mail. Some service providers have teamed with Microsoft to integrate with Office 2003, the most recent edition. This version lets you send a fax in much the same way you attach and send a document via e-mail. It even allows you to draw from your Outlook contact list to address the fax.
If you don't have Office 2003, virtually all online fax service providers offer downloadable software designed to work on your Mac or Windows machine. These downloads are often installed as toolbar or menu options. A step-by-step process walks you through addressing and sending your documents. Some even offer the ability to append your electronic signature to documents such as contracts or forms.
Your service provider receives your electronic fax, then routes it over traditional phone lines to the recipient's fax machine. Most services offer delivery confirmations that are delivered to your e-mail verifying the date and time that your fax reached the recipient.
Companies such as eFax (www.efax.com), Venali (www.venali.com), Send2Fax (www.Send2Fax.com), InterFax (www.InterFax.net), UniFax (www.unifax.com) and ClickFax (www.clickfax.com) offer competitive rates. Rate plans start at $9.95 per month with a small charge per page (generally around 10 cents). Some offer 30-day free trials that give you the opportunity to sample the services.
Just like cellular phone plans, online fax services offer rate plans designed for all types of usage patterns. Before you select a provider, it's best to examine your historical usage patterns.
- How many faxes do you send per month?
- How many do you receive?
- How many pages are generally included per fax?
- Do you need delivery receipt confirmations?
- How many people in your office need online fax service capabilities?
- How many fax numbers do you need?
- Can the service provide a local fax number?
- Do you want toll free fax number service?
- Do you send faxes internationally?
Armed with the answers, you're ready to select a plan.
Electronic faxing doesn't fit everyone's work habits, styles and needs, but when you add up the number of purchase orders, work orders, contracts, invoices and other documents that you send and receive on a daily basis, the hard and soft costs involved in traditional fax delivery systems can quickly add up. Think of the time you could save by being able to prepare, save and send these documents each day right from your desktop. Take advantage of the free trials offered by these providers. I'll bet that if you give it a chance, you won't go back to using a fax machine.
|Dave Taraboletti is chief operating officer of Montecito Property Company, which specializes in condo conversions, rehabs, property development and apartment management.|