Friday, March 21, 2008

FAX On The Run

Facsimile or FAX has been the preferred way to transmit and receive business documents that can't wait for mail service. Large companies have fax machines that look more like huge copy machines. They can automatically load, transmit and reassemble documents automatically. Small office users often have a fax machine bundled with a scanner and printer in an "all-in-one" device. But all of these facsimile devices have one thing in common: They tie you to the office.

Well, no more. The next evolution of the fax machine is Internet fax. Imagine being able to both send and receive fax messages on your laptop computer from anywhere you have Internet service. That includes WiFi hotspots, hotels, airports, or roaming with cellular broadband service. That capability is available now at a very reasonable cost.

The beauty of FAX is that it is like a long distance copier. You put a piece of paper in a slot at one location. It comes out of another slot seconds later hundreds or thousands of miles distant. Fax messages can be text, graphics, copies of other documents, or hand scribbled notes on any of these. This is what makes fax more powerful than email or IM. But a combination of fax and email is the most powerful solution of all.

Here's a mobile service designed for personal and business faxing on the go. There is a choice of plans with pricing that starts under $4 a month. You can send and receive faxes from anywhere with an Internet connection. It stores and archives your messages for up to six months. It's priced something like a cellular plan in that you get 50 incoming or outgoing pages per month. After that there is a small overage fee per page. Heavier users can get larger plans with up to 250 pages sent or received per month.

If you've ever had to hang around a hotel front desk waiting for faxes documents from the home office that you need to support your business trip, you know what pain fixed location faxing can be. Much better to be sipping a latte and checking your email when the faxed documents are sent directly to your laptop.

In addition to the convenience and mobility, there is a "green" aspect to Internet-based fax services. You avoid the toner and paper, especially the special thermal coated paper used by some older fax machines. If and when you need a hard copy, you can print them from your computer. If you only need to read and file the documents, then going electronic saves both cost and waste.

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