If your company has a dedicated fax line that receives less than 100 faxes a month, and your employees don’t actually send a lot of faxes, then you might be a good candidate for a Virtual Fax Line. This article discusses the money-saving advantages of a virtual fax line, as well as discusses how to make good business sense from both an efficiency and disaster-readiness point-of-view.
What does “virtual” mean anyway? We hear variations of that term frequently now days – “virtual reality, virtualized services, virtualization of the data center”. Another way to think of virtual is synthetic or artificial. Essentially, this is a way of accomplishing the same result (such as sending/receiving faxes) by other means.
What happens is that the physical fax line that you get from the phone company goes away, but you keep the phone number. And, keep in mind that the phone number and the phone line are not inseparable as they were in the old days of the Ma Bell.
The phone number is then assigned to a data center in the cloud for the purpose of receiving your faxes. Once a fax is received, it is emailed as a PDF file to the email(s) of your choice.
Most virtual fax lines can be purchased on a monthly basis anywhere from FREE to less than $20/month. And, there is usually no equipment to buy. So, you’re saving money in more than one way. First, the monthly charge for the fax line is drastically reduced. Most commercial phone lines are about $40-60 per month after taxes are included. Second, there is no cost for repairing or maintaining fax equipment.
So now that faxes are being received through email as PDF files, they have become extremely portable (hence the name “PDF – portable document format”). The fax can be setup to arrive at one or multiple email addresses. This eliminates the need to make a trip into the office just to pick up a fax.
Of course, you can print the fax at any time. But, it’s also likely that many faxes do not need to be printed since the information contained in them is consumed via the computer screen.
Any good manager knows it’s important to think of disaster planning. A virtual fax line has disaster planning built-in. Since the fax number no longer is physically at your company premises, there is no need to worry about a contingency. As long as you can access email from some remote location, you can get your faxes.
If you’re worried about the data center where you fax line resides, don’t lose too much sleep over that. Data centers are hardened locations that are designed to withstand adverse conditions. And, they are often redundant too. That means, the data center’s capabilities are duplicated in another geographical location—usually hundreds of miles away.
Since there is no longer a fax line for the fax machine, there are at least a couple ways to send faxes. First, the fax machine can be wired to another phone line in the office that isn’t used as frequently. Be sure to turn off the “auto answer” feature on the fax machine. Then staffers just send faxes the way they always did.
The second is by training staffers to use the “scan and email” method. This can be done with most multi-function printer/scanner/copier machines, or, they can just use a simple flat bed scanner.
Lastly, there are applications for phones and tablets now that let you send faxes using the devices camera.
These approaches only make sense if your company sends a small volume of faxes. As discussed previously, a virtual fax line is not recommended for a company that has heavy inbound and outbound faxing needs.