You’ve seen the studies and you’ve read the articles. You know that you can save as much as 93 percent on the cost of adding fax capabilities and 89 percent of the monthly cost by using an Internet fax service instead of a fax machine or fax server. You’ve also bought in to the idea that it will help you improve privacy, simplify document management, and extend your faxing capabilities everywhere. In other words, you’re ready to sign up.
But when you do a Google search on the term “Internet fax,” you’re suddenly bombarded by almost as many choices as you would have gotten if you used the term “Labrador Retriever.” You know there must be differences between the various services, but how do you sort through them to know which one will work best for you?
Following are 10 tips you can use to help you sort through the myriad of choices in order to get the best combination of features and flexibility. While it may not be everything you need to know, it should be enough to get you started.
Make sure you can receive faxes either via e-mail or online. Some services limit you to e-mail delivery only, which can be a problem for mobile workers who are not connected to the office. If you’re conducting business on the road, whether it’s selling houses or selling thousands of boxes of polypropylene to a major corporation, you’ll want to be sure you can send and receive faxes anywhere there’s an Internet connection – even if you can’t access e-mail. Internet faxing also provides the ability to preview faxes when you receive them, allowing you to review the fax, forward a clean copy, and append a note if required – all without having to print the document.
Watch out for hidden charges. There’s an old saying that the man who gives away his product for free knows its value. While free services may be tempting, there are often hidden charges involved, such as going over your limit of received faxes due to junk faxes from companies to which the provider sold your number or charges for failed faxes.. Charges for toll-free numbers can also become expensive if the service appends a charge to incoming faxes that use your 800 number – something that may not be immediately apparent. Be sure you understand up-front what you’re paying for, what the limitations are, and how you will be invoiced each month. The little fees can add up quickly, and negate any savings you were trying to achieve.
Check for the availability of different file formats. Most Internet fax service providers will deliver the fax to you as a TIF file attachment. That works fine – unless you are trying to tie in to an existing document management system that requires a different format. Your service should also be able to deliver documents in a range of other formats that work with common office tools, including Adobe Acrobat (PDF). Having a wide selection of document formats not only works better with the document management systems but also gives you a more universal ability to share the document as needed.
Don’t get tied down to one e-mail address. One of the purposes of using Internet faxing is to provide you with flexibility. But if you can’t easily switch the e-mail address as needed, or have the fax sent to multiple addresses, you’re losing out on the flexibility you were seeking. A good service will make it easy to change or add multiple e-mail addresses online, so you can always receive that important fax when you need it.
Research the company behind the service. Setting up an Internet fax service is not very complicated, at least on a small scale. As a result, there are a number of providers that literally operate out of a basement in their homes with just a handful of people. This sort of fly-by-night setup is not good enough for your faxing needs, whether you do high volumes or just the occasional document. Murphy’s law is always in play, so you know a small operation’s server will go down just when you need it most. Be sure the service you pay good money for has the capacity and reliability you require. Some of the best ways to find out what level of service the company offers are to seek out product reviews, read online forums and blogs, and ask others who use the service how well their needs are serviced.