Last year we celebrated 50 years since Xerox first commercialized the fax machine. People marveled at the fact that sending a one-page letter took them only six minutes, as opposed to the few days it took traditional mail to be delivered. By the late 1990s the fax was part of daily office frustrations and bashing a fax machine with a baseball bat became many professionals’ secret fantasy.
Today, people remember the fax machine somewhat amusingly and not without a touch of nostalgia, while kids wonder what to do with this weird button-filled contraption. Recently, the Smithsonian added two fax machines as historical artifacts to its collection. Then why are there still 46.3 million active fax machines in the world, of which 17 million reside in the US? Who are the people who still send 17 billion faxes each year? Unlike many other technologies, faxing seems to be the Chuck Norris of communications. It keeps on surviving and sometimes comes back stronger in the form of online faxing.
The fax machine has evolved into a multifunction machine that’s now connected to the computer network and can send a page in as fast as 1.7 seconds. Still, with email, Google Docs, digital signatures and many more fast and convenient ways of communication, most of us haven’t sent a fax in decades. But to dunk the old office fax in the dumpster or not to consider faxing as a necessary communication option for your new business might be a rash decision.
There are still a few advantages of fax machines over its digital substitutes. These advantages mean the fax continues to be a preferred means of communication in certain industries and certain parts of the world.
Global Coverage And Acceptance
First of all, faxing enjoys global coverage and acceptance. You could be dealing with clients or partners overseas who have an office with 30 employees and only one computer. Still today in the US some areas might not have reliable power or internet service, but you can almost always find a working phone line.
Less drastically, directories will generally list phone and fax numbers, but not email addresses. Many companies may choose to reinforce and complete their email campaigns by sending out faxes to contacts for whom the email is unknown, has bounced, or for whom only a general address is known.
Reliability And Confirmation
Even in some countries that are at the forefront of technology, faxing remains the norm for cultural reasons. Japan seems to be one of those countries with a particular affinity for the fax machine, with 100% of its businesses and 45% of private homes owning a fax machine (2011). The Japanese are said to use fax for sending out party invitations.
They particularly appreciate its reliability. Fax delivery notifications inform the sender about success or failure of the delivery. With email, the receiver may choose not to send a read-receipt when they open the message. There’s no risk of a fax ending up in a spam folder for some obscure technical reason. This makes the fax highly traceable and assured.
As a business person, you don’t want to ignore the fact that there are still people and potential clients out there to whom the use of email and Internet does not come intuitively, depending on their location in the world, their age or their social background. Sending a fax is a physical, straightforward and intuitive procedure those people will see as familiar and simple.
Security And Legality
One of the strongest advantages of the fax over the email is that the fax is legally binding, whereas in most countries the email still doesn’t hold in court. The argument here is that no third party could reasonably intercept and/or make changes to the document between the sender and the receiver.
That also explains why the fax is still very popular in industries and organizations that specifically value privacy and security. Any kid with a computer in a basement can hack computers and email accounts these days, but tapping a phone or intercepting faxes would require skills and tools only few people have. That’s why a lot of banking and finance companies, law firms, healthcare organizations, doctors’ practices, and government institutions still rely heavily on the fax for the secure transfer of documents.
In the case of the healthcare industry, the insurance companies and doctors, it goes even a step further than a mere preference. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 stipulates that documents transmitted between doctors, labs and insurers have to be secure, making faxing the norm and often times the mandatory method there.
Email also tends to be the victim of its success. Every day, we’re flooded with personal emails, business emails, newsletters, sales letters and more. To keep our sanity and save our precious time, we skim through messages quickly and easily discard mails that lack priority or without immediately apparent importance. But the fax catches us off-guard. We treat faxes with higher importance since we do not have to spend a lot of time sorting it. This has led some sales and PR professionals to use fax as an effective way to stand out in an increasingly digital crowd.
Nothing Is Certain But Death And Faxes
Since email isn’t likely to overcome these advantages of faxing anytime soon, faxing is here to stay and will most likely outlive us all. So that’s it? We’re obliged to deal with annoying beeps and screaks and paper jams for the rest of our lives? Not necessarily.
The title to this article says that faxing will outlive us all. However, the fax machine in its traditional form will probably retire soon, with faxing over the internet made possible by easy-to-use applications such as FaxNgo. FaxNgo lets you receive, edit, sign and send back faxes from your phone to one or multiple recipients anywhere in the world at no extra cost. All your faxes will be stored on the cloud, safely and accessible from anywhere.
Moreover, FaxNgo resolves the modern issue of the fax not fitting the mobile business model. The growing army of small businesses that don’t have an office or aren’t tied to a particular location find great use in such online fax services as they bridge the previously existing gap between them and the aforementioned businesses that still value the fax for all its advantages.
Why are you still faxing? Have you switched to online faxing yet? Share your stories and experiences in the comments below.
Read more: Send a Fax Online, Improve Your Business