Do Not Forget the Fax

In ancient times – I don’t mean B.C., I mean B.E. or ‘before e-Mail” – I used to have a fax machine sitting by my desk. In fact (or should I say in fax), I was using fax transmission way back in the early 1970s, via a clever contraption with what I think was a one pixel sensor on a rapidly twirling arm, scanning bit by bit as the document being faxed was very, very slowly pulled through a tube. Some 20 years later I of course had far more modern equipment, with higher data transmission rates and capable of scanning or spewing out several pages per minute.

But these days fax has become a rarity in the United States. I haven’t needed to send or receive a fax in well over a year. I got rid of my last dedicated fax machine something like a decade ago.

So I was somewhat shocked when I was suddenly required to fax a document this week. It seems that customer service at the Hospital Corp of America (HCA), which bought our local hospital some years back, can’t get e-Mail. They demand fax or snail mail.  Having put my life on the line at that hospital, I can say that their medical expertise is top notch, even if their customer service is in the telecommunications stone age. Indeed I bet they’re even still using traditional phone service, rather than far less expensive business VoIP.

But back to the fax.

Yes, I do have a business-class multifunction printer that can be used as a fax. All I have to do is plug it into my Phone.com VoIP line, and be sure to remember to set to machine not to answer incoming calls. Or alternately, if I really needed fax, I could buy another phone number and use that exclusively for fax. Indeed Phone.com’s basic Virtual Office business plan includes two phone numbers even for its entry price of $14.88 a month, and a small business could use one of those for voice and the other for fax. Alternately, for $4.88 a month a business could add another line, just for fax.

But even though I do have such a multifunction printer, I have a better solution: Phone.com’s Internet Fax, a feature I think many have forgotten about. But it is right there to use, both on the dashboard in the upper right hand corner once you log in to either your extension or to the main account, and on the list of functions on the left of the screen when you’re logged into your extension.

In this case I simply scanned the document into a PDF file, and sent it by logging onto my Phone.com account. And the fact is, had I been using my printer as a fax machine, it would have been the exact same electronic scan, so the refusal to accept a file via e-Mail is even more puzzling. After all, my scan scan was a PDF file, which would be identical whether e-mailed and printed, or whether printed locally via fax. An added bonus – the scan is now stored on my computer, just in case I ever need to send the document again.

And indeed I did need it again … thankfully Phone.com’s Internet Fax service sends you a confirmation e-mail that your fax was received, or if not why. In my case, it seems I had set the fax to high quality, thinking that I was being nice in making it easier to read. Bad choice – it seems HCA’s fax machines can’t receive high quality transmission, so I had to resend it at a lower quality, easily done when using Internet Fax.

And … there’s no outrageous fee involved in sending a Phone.com Internet Fax. Just check out what a hotel charges for a fax on your next business trip ($1 per page is not uncommon), or what the local supermarket or office store might similarly charge per page.