In today's business climate many companies are moving toward employing virtual workers rather than having employees working in a physical office space. One common issue this brings with it is fax communication. Not all workers will have personal fax machines, thus, internet fax usage is a key element to maintaining productivity within a business. There are paid and free services available which both have their positive and negative elements. The main factors to consider when choosing an Internet fax service are cost, content limitations and usability.
The ongoing cost of Internet fax usage is why many companies choose free fax services. However, there is an intangible cost to free Internet fax services that many businesses overlook. These services will often require advertising to be included on every fax that is sent. The ads are chosen by the service provider and can contain any content the provider deems appropriate, which may or may not accurately reflect the goals of your business.
Conversely, paid Internet fax services can come with valuable amenities at a very manageable cost. Most paid services will run a cost structure ranging from $10 to $20 per month and can be paid annually at small discounts. Some will also require a set up fee of around $10 or less while others may have additional charges on content storage and delivery.
Free Internet fax companies will generally offer a limited number of daily transmissions. The limits are commonly set at three to eight documents daily with the majority setting the limit at the lower end of the spectrum. Many also limit the amount of pages per transmission as well. Some free online fax options will also allow for an option to simply receive fax transmissions. Normally, there is no document storage or multi-user options available without upgrading to a premium or paid package. Not all area code regions are available with all free services.
Paid Internet fax providers will set the transmission limit at a much higher level, usually between 100 and 1000 documents daily if there is a limit at all. A few companies split the transmission limits between incoming and outgoing documents with a separate limit for each. These limits represent the most common area for attaching additional fees. Overage fees sometimes exist. Document storage is often offered on a monthly basis as well. Most Internet fax packages allow for upgrades to storage for longer annual lengths. The fees for document storage upgrades are usually around $3 each month. The fees are sometimes assessed on a time overage basis after the included timeframe is exceeded.
The method that is used to deliver the Internet fax transmissions for free services is usually email or email attachments. This method is very user friendly for most computer savvy workers. It does have some limitations. Mobile access is not readily available. Technical support is minimal for most free services and many do not make any guarantees of the quality, security or reliability of the service. Many are web based, which makes them easy to use. These do not provide any type of document backup through the service. A company using these types of online fax services will need to make backup copies before sending any documents. Free services normally do not require a login or user ID and can be used by many employees of the companies using the service.
Premium or paid Internet fax services will usually support multiple users through a company login. Some will support as many as 25 users. Pricing does not seem to change with the number of users allowed. Tech support is available for these paid services making them much more accessible for even the novice user. Service portability is also available with some Internet fax packages. Being able to use a cellular phone or other Internet accessible device to send a fax can add a whole new dimension of productivity to many companies.
After weighing the costs and benefits of both free and paid Internet fax services, it can be easy to choose which service makes the most sense for different businesses. Smaller companies with infrequent usage and no need to store documents for repeat transmission will usually benefit from the cost savings and ease of use of the free services. Businesses with heavier usage, with a concern about security or maintaining a professional image, or a need for global group accessibility and storage will find that the paid services will better fit their needs.