What’s the difference between the various online fax services? Well, a lot, but not much really.
The underlying technology has not really changed in 30 + years. It’s a scanned, low - resolution image. Originally, fax machines used toner and thermal paper. That paper eventually would fade out and you would just have a blank page. While that is not great for long term storage it did provide an odd type of document security. They would self destruct - just like Mission Impossible!
That technology took a big leap to ‘plain paper’ faxes several years later. And it stayed that way for 20 + years. A fax machine was a staple in every office. Sometimes a second, ‘secure’ fax machine was placed in the private executive suite.
So, what’s the difference between all the current online fax service providers? Not much, other than their online interface and their contractual billing terms.
Some of the larger providers provide an online interface where you can view, save, sort and manage all the faxes you send and receive. That may be useful to a small percentage of users but for most, once they receive a fax, they process it and file it away on their own servers. Having extra copies of your business correspondence on a vendor’s server may be a security issue. If they get hacked, or an employee gets nosy, your information may get compromised.
One of the biggest negative features of the large providers is their pricing structure. They set a low limit for both incoming and outgoing faxes. If you go over your limits, or if someone sends you a bunch of spam faxes, you will pay for the extra pages over those set limits. Your bill can vary every month and you don’t have any control over it.
The discount fax providers also offer online portals, but usually a scaled down version. FAXtopia, for example, deletes all faxes after they have been delivered. It reduces processing and storage costs, in addition to providing the ultimate fax security; they are all deleted and can’t be recovered.
The vast majority of users only need, or ever use, this level of service. Also, most discount providers have a set, fixed price. Your monthly bill never varies.
Another differentiation of service is ‘portability’ of your number. If you want to move your fax number to a different provider, for whatever reason, you should be able to take your number with you. Most of the larger providers prohibit you from transferring your fax number away. You can cancel the service, but you can’t keep your fax number, even if you have been paying for it for the past decade. That’s their ‘customer retention policy’ you are stuck forever, unless you just give up your number and start with a new one at a different service provider. We have seen businesses give up and dump their old number due to customer support and billing frustrations. That process involves setting up a fax new number and keeping the old one active for a few months while the new one gets published and pushed out to all the existing users.
If you are a medical office and need secure HIPAA faxing that should also be available as a no cost option to your standard service.