Best online fax service
While modern computers, printers and other pieces of technology are obviously vital in offices today, there’s no denying the role the humble fax machine has played in the business world over the last several decades. And indeed the role it still plays – what you might not realize is that the use of faxes in the business arena continues to rise due to inherent advantages such as security.
Certainly, when it comes to running a business, it’s essential to have systems in place to allow you to send important documents to colleagues and other organizations easily – especially if you routinely deal with multiple clients and departments.
Typically, fax machines have been the ‘go to’ device for these needs, and they have not been pushed aside, but rather soldier on as an essential tool for business – in particular transactions that require a signature such as legal contracts or real-estate deals.
In this article, we’ve looked at five popular online fax services, evaluating their respective features and factoring in costs to pick out the best offerings for your small business.
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Best overall online fax service
Platforms: Web, iOS, Android | Features: Fax archive, local & toll-free numbers | Subscription options: Yes | Free trial: Yes
MyFax is an online fax service that’s been designed for both businesses and individuals, allowing for the sending and receiving of faxes via email on a computer, or smartphone app. We chose this as our best overall service for its outstanding balance of affordable pricing, and a good feature set with both email and phone support available.
Easy-to-use and affordable with an entry-level cost of $10 (£8) monthly, this is a web-based service meaning there’s no need for any software installation – setup is quick and painless. The platform lets you fax from up to five different email addresses, and there’s an archive feature which gives you the ability to access all sent and received faxes. The service also offers a choice of a local, international or toll-free fax numbers, too.
Best full-featured fax service
Platforms: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android | Features: Mobile apps, fax archive | Subscription options: Yes | Free trial: Yes
Built for use with both computers and mobile devices, eFax lets you send and receive faxes via email, a browser or an app. It only takes a few minutes to set up, which is always a bonus. This fax service is notable for its multi-platform support, and expansive feature set.
This platform boasts a smart interface for the web which is nice and user-friendly. It’s possible to send faxes to more than one person at a time, and just as with MyFax, there’s a mobile app (which again is nicely designed) and an archive so you can keep track of old faxes.
There is also a nifty Electronic Signature feature which allows you to digitally apply a signature to an electronic document, and fax it back, which saves the step of printing, and is also ideal while on the go.
You get a ‘risk-free’ 30-day free trial to test eFax out, which is handy because if you do sign up, this service is not the cheapest around, starting at $16.95 (£13) monthly.
Best for online storage integration
Platforms: Web | Features: Team accounts, fax archive | Subscription options: Yes | Free trial: Yes
HelloFax has been designed predominantly for companies that want a lightweight, easy way to send important documents and communication. The standout feature is the wide variety of online storage solutions that it integrates with.
Sending faxes is simply a matter of creating an online account, and once done, incoming correspondence will appear in your email inbox. You also get the option to use your previous fax number, and have international coverage with the ability to fax to 70+ countries.
Documents are scanned and sent as PDFs, and you can also store faxes in the cloud. Faxes can be sent and received by multiple users if you subscribe to a paid account, with prices starting at $9.99 (£8) per month. There is also a free tier, although it is severely limited to just five pages per month.
The service is integrated with Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, OneDrive and Evernote.
Best for sole proprietors
Platforms: Web, Android, iOS | Features: Local numbers | Subscription options: Yes | Free trial: Yes
MetroFax is a small business-focused fax service that can send and receive faxes through any internet connection (for US and Canadian users only). The lower cost and higher page limit makes it ideal for a sole proprietorship.
The company has local and toll-free phone numbers, as well as iOS and Android smartphone apps. For a business that already has an established fax number, there is also the option to transfer that existing phone number to MetroFax.
The firm offers a 30-day free trial to test drive the service. There are three available tiers of subscriptions, with the entry-level Essential plan starting at an affordable $6.63(£5) monthly (when paid on an annual basis). MetroFax includes faxes to the US and Canada, but additional long distance charges apply for faxing to 170 other countries.
Note that MetroFax is actually eFax in the UK – both services are run by the same parent company (although they are separate entities in the US).
Best for light users
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry | Features: Global coverage, mobile apps | Subscription options: Yes | Free trial: Yes
PamFax is an online service that allows businesses and individuals to send faxes across the globe, at a low price starting at $0.11 (£0.09) per page, which is ideal for a low volume user, as it does not even require a monthly subscription. There are also affordable monthly options that start at $4.69 (£4) per month which provide a dedicated fax number.
As is the case with most online fax services, PamFax works via email. You simply sign up to the platform, upload a document online, enter a number and click send to dispatch a fax to the recipient’s email inbox. The platform works with a range of computing and mobile devices on numerous platforms: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Windows Mobile and BlackBerry.
What is an online fax service?
Modern physical fax machines first emerged in the 1960s, gaining prominence in the 1980s, long before businesses had high speed internet at their disposal. However, physical fax machines have their drawbacks, including the need for a dedicated fax number, having to resend faxes that encounter a busy signal, paper jams from misfeeds, and the dreaded pile of fax paper on the floor when incoming faxes overwhelm the machine’s hopper capacity.
However, you’re not shackled to fax machines that only work over phone networks anymore – you can now get internet-based fax services (also known as ‘cloud faxing’) which function totally online without the need for any hardware. In other words, you can toss that grimy fax machine to the curb.
Taking the cloud faxing approach offers plenty of benefits. It makes it far easier to archive documents, for example, as now the documents are all digitized. Another major plus point is the cost savings – not to mention the environmental benefits – from not needing paper, ink/toner, or electricity to power the fax machine 24/7. Furthermore, you don’t need a dedicated landline for faxing.
Also, most services include mobile apps, which enables the worker to send and receive faxes while out of the office – in fact from just about anywhere.
Key features to consider when buying an online fax service
We’ve highlighted five key points to bear in mind when picking the right online fax solution to suit your needs.
1. Archiving of documents
Yes, we are all still waiting for the paperless office we were mistakenly promised decades ago. However, we are slowly inching our way towards it, with the digital archiving of documents. With an online fax service, the faxed documents, rather than being on paper, are automatically digitized. Furthermore, some fax services offer digital archiving, so as long as you stay with the provider, all of your sent and received faxes will be available in an online database, giving you a neat storage solution.
2. Integration with cloud storage services
Cloud storage is an important business tool these days. Using this, you can not only archive existing files, but also create new documents with the likes of word processing and spreadsheet apps built into the service (just look at Microsoft’s Office 365 or Google’s G Suite, which are quickly becoming business essentials).
Therefore, look for an online faxing service that easily integrates with these cloud solutions to enhance your workflow, making creating and then faxing documents a seamless process.
3. Multi-platform support
Most online fax services have mobile apps (iOS and Android) for use while on the move via a smartphone or tablet. Also look for a service that has software to support desktop platforms as well, as who wants to use their smartphone for a business task when sitting in front of their desktop computer?
4. Higher page limits
Page limits are a significant downside of some online fax services. Be sure to adequately estimate your needs in this respect, and look for plans that count the monthly total, and don’t divide it up into send and receive categories (which could feasibly cause you to go over the limit without realizing).
In short, look for a plan offering an appropriate amount of pages, and a reasonable page overage fee. Also look for a service with multiple tiers – including an unlimited one – so there is no danger of your business outgrowing your fax service.
5. Availability of fax phone numbers
While cloud faxing marries the fax to the internet, the forward-facing part of the fax service is the fax number. Better fax services allow for a greater number of options when choosing a fax number, and these include local, toll-free numbers, and even vanity choices.
There can also be options to have an international number located in a country that you do business with to give your company more of a local presence. Finally, there should be an option to port an existing fax number for an affordable cost.
How we tested the online fax services
To begin with, we compiled a list of available services (including the many which TechRadar has already reviewed). Research was carried out on each fax offering, which included scouring the fax service’s website, other professional reviews, and published user opinions.
We sought to balance the feature set against the asking price in making our recommendations. We evaluated each fax service, and chose our picks based on the criteria below.
Price: We compared costs across the paid tiers, as well as the additional page costs.
Interface: Fax services get evaluated for user-friendliness in terms of the UI. We also took into account the availability of mobile and desktop software.
Support: We look for an online fax service with a wider range of support options – ideally email, live chat and phone support. Availability is another factor considered, with the gold standard being 24/7 support.
Archiving: Some fax services will maintain an online account of all the received and sent faxes, while others only send them to an email account. Also, the amount of time for which the faxes are stored – and whether the number of faxes kept is limited – were important considerations.
Free tier or trial: It’s true that everyone likes to get something for nothing. For those considering a particular online fax service, a free tier is an excellent way to try out the service before committing to a paid offering. Another good option is a free trial, or alternatively, some providers offer a money-back guarantee in case the service does not meet your expectations. As far as we’re concerned, it bodes well if a company is willing to provide such a guarantee, or indeed the facility to try before you buy.