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Send and receive free faxes

When was the last time you needed to send or receive a fax? I just had to do it today and the entire procedure brought a lot of nostalgic feelings which in turn inspired me to the subject for today’s blog post.

In case you didn’t have chance to mess around with the thermal paper rolls — fax is a dying technology from mid-1980s that was very popular for exchanging documents between companies. I worked for a small computer equipment firm in early 1990s and all our corporate purchase orders came by the way of fax.

Even today despite all the advancements in communication technology I occasionally have to deal with some out-of-this-world corporate department or a government agency who want me to send a fax with my signature (like it actually proves anything ;-)). So what options do I have for my occasional facsimile needs?

Sending Faxes

If this was an online consulting firm and you were my client I would suggest j2 Global Communications AKA eFax – the leading provider of facsimile services and the owner of the ultimate facsimile domain “Fax.com”.

But this is a blog for people who try to save money therefore let’s find a more affordable solution. The ideal kind would be one that follows the Web2.0 approach: basic usage is free — advanced featured are for an extra charge. I wouldn’t even mind if my fax came with some ads on the cover page – you can find them everywhere these days!

FaxZeroGuess what -– there is a company doing exactly that — FaxZero. They will limit your free fax usage to 2 documents a day 3 pages each and will print some ads on the cover page — but sending a fax when I tried them was a breeze. You don’t even need to register. Just fill out the form at the front page and confirm your fax by clicking on a URL you receive by email!

The service works in the US and Canada. You can fax PDF, DOC, and Excel files up to 10Mbytes or just type any text in this form and it will get converted into a fax document at the receiving side. The web site sounds like a real bargain and I am glad I found it.

Receiving Faxes

Finding a company that will receive fax documents for free has turned out to be not as difficult as finding one that will send them. I guess the expense is not quite the same – they don’t have to pay for your long distance calls.

eFaxThere are a few that offer the service and eFax is among them. With their eFaxFree plan you get a fax number in the US that can receive up to 20 incoming pages a month. You have to install eFax proprietary software on your PC or Mac computer to read and print the fax documents (Linux is not supported).

However the online fax service I like more is FaxDigits. You get a US number, there is no limit on number of documents/pages you receive a month, you can check the history of incoming calls, and most importantly — you don’t need a special software to read your faxes -– they come to your email box as PDF attachments.

FaxDigitsUnfortunately I wasn’t able to set up my own account –- for some reason I cannot activate it using the URL they sent to me. However I did test the service using their demo fax number. It took FaxZero around 15 minutes to send my one page test document and then another 5 minutes before FaxDigits listed it here with timestamp 2006-12-13 05:45:04 (here is a direct link to the resulting PDF file). Not a bad turnaround for a free fax!

Summary

This sounds like a complete solution for my faxing needs. If you send/receive more than a few documents a month or need special features (like 1-800 fax number) then you might want to check out some of the available commercial plans. A few useful links below will help you make the right decision.

Update 12/14: FaxDigits have replied my email and acknowledged they have a bug in the code processing new sign-ups. Hopefully it will get fixed soon.




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