Internet Fax FAQ
Frequently Asked Questions about Internet Fax
- What does an Internet fax service do?
- Why do I need an Internet fax service?
- What format are Internet faxes sent in?
- How do I receive an Internet fax?
- How do I send an Internet fax via email?
- Can I sign an Internet fax?
- What special equipment do I need?
- Does speed matter?
- How are the included fax pages calculated?
- Are there additional charges?
- Can I send faxes internationally?
- How did NextAdvisor test these internet fax services?
- Which Internet fax services are HIPAA compliant?
An Internet fax service allows you to send and receive faxes using your computer or mobile device. Faxes are sent through email, a web-based interface, and/or dedicated software. While all providers we reviewed offer the first two, only a few providers offer the latter.
Many documents such as contracts and registration forms are best sent and received by fax. Many offices still rely on the technology. Using an Internet-based fax service also frees you from always having to be near your fax machine to receive a fax. You can send and view faxes from anywhere you have an Internet connection.
Faxes are most often sent as PDF (Portable Document Format) files. Sometimes they are sent in TIFF or proprietary formats such as EFX.
By default, you will receive an email with a file attachment. You can also view new fax notifications in the web-based interfaces. Services like RingCentral have additional notification mechanisms in the included faxing software.
It's just like sending an email. Most often you enter the phone number in the name portion of the address, and the fax company in the domain portion, such as: email@example.com. You can then type in the message field, and send, or attach a document. However, there are variations. Sometimes you will enter the country code before the number. GoDaddy requires all faxes go to the same address, and the phone number is entered in the subject line. Check the instructions for your individual Internet fax service for more details.
Services that include dedicated faxing software for the PC will allow you to digitally sign documents before sending them. Often this involves an initial scan of your signature to apply to the documents. Additionally, PDF authoring software, such as the full version of Adobe Acrobat, may also allow you to do this.
To send and receive an Internet fax all you really need is a computer and an Internet connection. However, to provide all the sending functionality of a traditional fax machine, a scanner is very helpful. You may also want to have a printer.
It depends how you use Internet faxing. We don't think that it should be the determining factor for most people. It may be important if you send or receive a high volume of time-sensitive faxes. None of the services we used was egregiously slow but we thought it was important for readers who are trying to decide between two similar services.
This varies among providers, but most assume that a page takes a minute to send, and they round up to the next full minute. So, in fact, when a company offers 100 pages, they're really offering 100 minutes. A graphically complex, single-page fax can actually take several minutes to fax, and would therefore be counted as more than one page.
There may be additional charges for the following, depending on the service: setup fees, toll-free numbers, stored faxes, international faxes, and additional faxes beyond your allotment. We've pointed out these charges as much as possible in our reviews, so you'll know what to expect.
All of the Internet Fax services we review allow users to receive international faxes except for GoDaddy. If your service is based in the US (you have a US-based address and credit card) all of the services (except for Nextiva) allow you to send faxes internationally, though rates vary. If you are travelling abroad, you can use your service anywhere with an Internet connection. If you are an international customer, Fax 87 allows use of their services all around the world. MyFax and eFax also allow you to pick international numbers from particular countries upon signup.
We signed up for the services and we used them. We sent faxes to fax machines and to email accounts. We used fax software when it was available and played around with the web-based interfaces. Finally we sent six email faxes from each service to each service, recording the time the email was sent, and the time we received notification. That created our average send and receive times.
The United States Department of Health and Human Services explains that HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), which addresses the security and privacy of personal health data, applies to:
"...health plans, health care clearinghouses, and to any health care provider who transmits health information in electronic form in connection with transactions..."
Faxing personal health information requires that both the covered entity and the Business Associate implement and follow security measures pursuant to HIPAA regulations. And because the Internet fax companies themselves cannot control where the user sends or receives faxes and information, they cannot state that they are HIPAA compliant. However, most of the services we review follow strict guidelines to meet factors that go into HIPAA compliance.
These services use a secure server with SSL encryption. No human interaction happens while your faxes are being sent, and the fact that papers are never left forgotten on your fax machine should give you an extra peace of mind.
All of the services explain what measures they take to meet regulations and ensure the safety of your information, for example, Fax87 writes: "It is also important to understand that there is no Federal Agency that 'certifies' that a solution is HIPAA Compliant. There are published guidelines that must be adhered to and the Fax87.com solution does adhere to the HIPAA guidelines."