If you need to send an important document for a personal matter or business purposes, what is your file-sending method of choice? Your answer will likely be email, but did you know that email might not be the best way to send sensitive documents? Instead you may want to consider Internet fax. While it’s often compared to email and these services do have a couple things in common, Internet fax and email are different from one another. Just like it’s a mistake to compare telephones and telegraphs, so too is it a mistake to compare these two Internet-based communication methods. What exactly sets Internet fax apart from email, and is Internet fax better than email? Find out as we give you the breakdown.
What is email?
This concept is probably not a new one for you, so we’re not really going to detail it too much. Essentially, email is a service, which is usually free through big names like Google, Yahoo, AOL and more, that allows you to send messages to another email user. As you likely already know, email users are able to send messages to anyone with an email address — they don’t need to be using the same email provider.
What is Internet fax?
While the concept of email likely does need not be explained to anyone who has ever used a computer, the same isn’t necessarily true of Internet fax. As such, it’s important to begin by clarifying what counts as Internet fax. Conceptually, Internet fax is simple: it allows you to send faxes through the Internet to fax machines — even if they’re still using a phone system — email addresses or other Internet fax users. There are a multitude of ways to setup Internet fax, but most services today don’t require a hardware configuration – they use a secure website or mobile app to send faxes. Because of this, many services can send fax through email-like programs to the fax recipient. Best of all, these programs work on most Internet-enabled devices without any major setup — you simply log into your account and start faxing.
What do Internet fax and email have in common?
Even though they are two different services, Internet fax and email share some similarities.
1. Sending information securely. Both Internet fax and email allow users to send information securely. That’s because most email providers and Internet fax services use SSL encryption, which is generally the same type of encryption used in HTTPS connections. That said, some services like MetroFax take things a step further by offering optional security features like a virtual private network or a connection that includes end-to-end encryption, meaning the faxes will be encrypted on both the provider’s servers and when it’s in transit. This is something that not even popular email services have accomplished yet. It should be noted that not all Internet faxing services offer this type of encryption, but if it’s something you value and want from a service, you’ll want to make sure you choose one that offers it — the easiest way to know is to look at the service’s terms and conditions or call and chat with a customer service representative.
2. The flexibility to send a number of files and sizes. Similar to email, you can send a myriad of different file types as attachments with Internet faxing. Services like RingCentral, for example, support a number of different document types, such as PDF, PSD, text files and Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint files. Internet fax services even allow you to send variations of image files. For example, eFax supports PS, PSD, GIF, IFF and BMP image formats. While you can’t send things like videos or music over Internet fax, similar to email, these services have you covered when it comes to faxing images and documents.
How do Internet fax and email differ?
Internet fax has a couple advantages over email:
1. The ability to send to traditional fax machines (and receive a confirmation). The biggest advantage that Internet fax has over email is that it allows you to send messages to traditional fax machines, email address and other Internet fax users. Additionally, you can send and receive faxes and fax confirmations via your email address should you choose to do so. This type of faxing flexibility doesn’t exist with email.
2. HIPAA compliance. Because faxing is seen as HIPAA compliant, a number of Internet fax services try to promote HIPAA-compliant features or security-conscious policies. Many Internet fax services will not outright say they are HIPAA compliant, as there is no certification to prove so, but a number of them suggest that their security protocols are based on regulations like HIPAA or SOX (Sarbanes-Oxley). A few services like Fax87 explicitly spell out their HIPAA compliance, stating “Fax87.com is a secure and HIPAA compliant online fax service provider.” on its website. Some like MyFax point to press releases which suggest its service has the potential to significantly reduce potential HIPAA violations, while other services like RingCentral and eFax, allow users to update to HIPAA-compliant accounts. If you will be faxing medical-related documents, you’ll want to verify the HIPAA compliance status of the service before you sign up, as failing to do so may land you in some serious trouble later.
Is Internet fax better than email?
While Internet fax has slightly more bells and whistles than email, at the end of the day they’re services adapted for different purposes. Internet fax helps in environments where HIPAA compliance or traditional fax-like features are valued, while email is more of a service for someone who wants basic, file-sharing or messaging needs. In a world where e-signatures and other forms of digital identification and record keeping have exploded in the last decade, some fields still understandably favor physical record keeping, and this is where Internet fax will shine. If you’re not sure whether Internet fax will work for you, the good news is that many of the services we review offer free trials, so you have the freedom to try it out the service and see if it will work for you before you make a financial commitment.
For more tips and tricks about getting the most out of fax services, keep reading our Internet fax blog.