The year I am writing this is 2009, yet sadly the fax, as in facsimile, machine is still in common use. A machine that was first demonstrated in 1851, according to Encyclopedia Britannica, and one that has been in offices since 1948 has not substantially changed. A document here goes in and it ends up slowly over there.
The problem with this is that it is slow, expensive and wastes a lot of resources. You have to have a separate machine in order to things most computers are capable of doing on their own.
Of course, there are lots of ways around this, but here I’m going to look for the least expensive possible. That, of course, means free.
First, we’ll deal with the easy part sending your faxes to someone else. There are a number of sites that do this, but I’ve used and like GotFreeFax.com. Here you simply enter your name and e-mail, and the name and fax number of the person you are sending to into a form. Then, you can enter text into an editor (RTF, if you care) or you can attach a PDF or Microsoft Word DOC formatted file. Hit Send Free Fax, and you are done.
The drawbacks with this site are that you are only allowed 2 faxes a day with a maximum of 3 pages, but since I rarely ever fax anyone and there are other sites with different restrictions, this has not been a problem for me.
You will have to confirm your fax by clicking on a link sent to your e-mail, which slows down the process a lit bit, but it sure beats having a fax machine and paying for a phone call.
The other side of the equation receiving a fax for free seems to be a little trickier. I’m hoping that the opening up of the Google Voice beta will eventually lead to some better options in this area, but that remains to be seen.
For now though, the best thing I have found is K7.net, which will issue you a free Washington-State-based number to receive faxes and voice mail messages on. I know a number of podcasts use this technology in order to get messages from their listeners onto their shows and the quality of that has been pretty good. I did have some problems and delays using it for faxes though. In fairness to them, all of my faxes did eventually get through and were e-mailed to my account as a TIF image file. However, there was a significant delay for some of them of a few hours.
If there’s no particular rush and you don’t want to deal with having a fax machine this may be a good solution for you. One other drawback is that an inactive number is returned to them after 30 days without use. This is something to keep in mind, if like me you are an occasional receiver of faxes.
Do you have any great tips for avoiding the pain of the fax machine? Let me know in the comments.