Why Use Online Fax Services?
The top performers in our online fax service review are RingCentral Fax, the Gold Award winner; MetroFax, the Silver Award winner; and, Nextiva Fax, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a service to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of these 10 services.
Fax machines are quickly becoming obsolete, especially with more and more documents becoming electronic rather than paper files. However, there are still many instances where faxed documents are necessary, particularly in industries that need documents signed and time stamped, such as with legal, financial, banking and medical facilities. Online fax services still allow you to send and receive crucial faxed documents in a digital format that is still legally recognized and binding. Additionally, online fax programs allow you to send files that are too large to send through traditional email.
All of the internet fax services on our lineup have an online portal to send and receive faxes. Some provide you with a designated app that allows you to send and receive faxes using your smart phone or tablet. A few have a fax-to-email service tool that is integrated with your Microsoft Outlook account and allows you to send and receive faxes in much the same way you send and receive email. This much flexibility lets you send and receive digital documents without having to return to the office or stand by a fax machine.
The Value of Online Fax Services
Several research organizations that specialize in small business practices and emerging technologies estimate that a small business sends approximately 150 pages of faxes per month. Considering the cost of ink, paper, maintenance and a dedicated fax telephone line, fax services online can easily save your business around $45 per month if you use a small, standard fax machine and several hundred if you use a large, multipurpose machine.
Average Monthly Cost
The best online fax services we reviewed generally cost around $10 per month for the basic, cheap faxing service plans. Most do not require a setup fee, and many provide a monthly page allotment well over the approximate 150 faxes per month. Several fax companies give a set amount of faxes that you can share between inbound and outbound faxes. Those that specify a specific page count for each action give you more pages to receive than send since the majority of small businesses rely on faxes being sent to them rather than being faxed out.
For faxes that exceed the monthly allotted page amount, each service charges a small, per-page fee for each fax over the limit. These overage fees can become costly. If you find that you consistently send or receive more faxes than the monthly service provides, each online fax service has higher-priced packages with greater maximum-fax limits. It is also common for a service to tack on a per-minute charge if outgoing faxes take longer than a minute per page to send. These per-minute costs are higher than the per-page overage amount and could end up costing your business a lot if you find that sending online faxes is slow. However, this charge isn't typical with slow fax connections generally occurring while sending to toll-free and international fax numbers.
Local & Toll-Free Fax Numbers
Most of the fax services we reviewed provide you with a designated fax number. Most allow you to choose a toll-free number, making it more convenient and cost effective for individuals and companies that wish to fax documents to you. There are a couple of exceptions to this, including Nextiva vFAX. This company charges a monthly fee, in addition to your set subscription charge, for a toll-free number. The other is GreenFax. GreenFax has two service package options, both at the same monthly subscription price. One gives you a toll-free number but reduces the amount of pages you can send and receive through the internet fax services by 150 pages.
If you still feel that a physical fax machine is better for your business, we suggest looking at our top-ranked document scanners that include faxing capabilities or our all-in-one printers review that features models with included fax machines.
Business Programs That Supplement Fax Services
Being able to send and receive faxes online is only a small part of a small business document management program. Many document scanning services and programs exist to help you create digital copies of your paper files. These services are helpful in creating a permanent, secure copy of your documents and in creating an electronic copy that is easier to fax online. We reviewed and ranked the ten best document scanning services that help you create these permanent files.
Once you have your documents electronically created, you need a secure, cloud-based storage program, such as Dropbox, to keep those files secure until you need them. We tested the top document storage services, including a few that integrate directly into an online fax service portal, making it even easier to fax files.
If you have paper copies of your faxes, you may have to dispose of these papers in order to keep the sensitive information on them from falling into the wrong hands. The best paper shredding services are all regulated to help you comply with HIPAA, GLAB, and other state and federal laws pertaining to the destruction of sensitive materials and information.
Business Fax Services: What We Tested, What We Found
When determining the best PC fax services, we looked at the overall value, including the amount of pages each service allots as part of the basic monthly subscription and the designation of specific limits for receiving and sending faxes. TrustFax is one such service that gives you a set amount of pages and allows you the option to use as much as you need for receiving or sending, based on your own business preferences and needs. Since many companies receive more faxes than they send, we gave more points to those services that had a better value for receiving faxes than those who placed more emphasis on sending. We also took into account the usability of each service’s online portal and mobile platform.
Ease of Use
The second important aspect of these PC fax programs we tested is how easy it is to log in and use the online portal for both sending and receiving faxes. We considered where action tabs and links were located, which affects the overall ease of navigating the program. We gave higher scores to those programs that were easy to figure out without using help tabs or contacting support personnel. Our best internet fax services, RingCentral Fax and MetroFax, are simple to navigate through. They each provide a good amount of functions and tools that you can quickly access from the portal page you are working on. We found that MaxEmail was the best online fax service as far as usability. The service has a clean interface that made it quick to navigate. We were able to send and receive faxes with ease. It also syncs with DropBox, so you do not have to worry about storing faxes on the online portal like you do with the other services.
In addition to the online portal, we also tested the mobile platform for each service. Most of the fax services have an associated app you can download on iPhone and Android phones. We found that the programs that offer an app were much easier to navigate and use. We were able to send and receive faxes with ease. The other services require you to sign in to the online platform. These services share the same interface as the PC fax programs, which can be tricky to use on the smaller screen size.
Programs with a steeper learning curve received a lower score. While we did not have to access the help guides on any of the services, many of the programs did not work correctly. For example, some programs kept signing us out while we were in the process of sending a fax or the interface did not adjust appropriately to our screen. We also found that some programs took over 10 minutes to send a fax. While these web interfaces feel less professional and are harder to use, they still work well enough for basic business faxing.
Useful, Uncommon Features
We looked for some important features that are helpful for business faxing but aren't commonly included with these services. Blocking an unwanted number from being able to send faxes to you is helpful in maintaining your page count and eliminating junk messages that eat away at this allotment. While you can set your online portal to notify you of an "unknown sender" and determine whether or not you would like to accept and open the fax, only a handful of services let you actually list spam fax numbers and block them completely.
Another uncommon feature we looked for was the ability to insert an electronic signature into documents, such as official letters or contracts, before sending them out. While most of the services have some way of letting you scan in an image of your signature to use, eFax allows you to sign your signature on the screen of your mobile device, and it automatically saves and applies the signature to your faxes.
Fax Storage Length
One feature we looked closely at was the length of time the online fax application stores your inbound and outbound faxes before automatically deleting them. GreenFax is one of the best online fax services in this area, keeping all of your information saved during your entire stay with it, provided you pay your monthly subscription on time. Some store your faxes for a year, while a few automatically delete them after 30 days. Because of the potential to lose important data, we looked for solutions that integrate with Dropbox, a popular document storage service. These solutions, including MaxEmail, allow you to directly save your incoming and outgoing faxes to your cloud storage, giving you additional storage in the event your faxes are wiped from the online portal.
While reviewing online fax services, we used both the online email fax service forms and support telephone numbers, when provided, to connect with support personnel. We also used live chat features when available. We asked several questions to get a feel of how well the service treats potential customers. We were surprised to find that we received better and more in-depth help through the email forms than we did through the live chat and telephone support venues. All of the companies answered our email inquiries within 24 business hours, though most responded within an hour of sending our questions.
Top Ten Reviews seeks, whenever possible, to evaluate all services in hands-on tests that simulate as closely as possible the experiences of a typical consumer. We obtained the units in our comparison either on loan from the companies or through retail purchase. The companies had no input or influence over our test methodology, nor was the methodology provided to any of them in more detail than is available through reading our reviews. Results of our evaluations were not provided to the companies in advance of publication.
Our Verdict & Recommendations for Fax Services
While fax machines are very rarely used, there is still plenty of need for online faxing services. We looked at solutions, such as GreenFax that stores your important faxes for as long as you use the service and MaxEmail that integrates directly with Dropbox so you have additional storage options. We also found that email support was the best option for getting quality help and answers to our questions.
Our three best fax to email services, RingCentral Fax, MetroFax and Nextiva Fax, get top awards for providing faxing at a low cost, the flexibility to use pages for either sending or receiving faxes, charging a low per-page overage fee, and including most of the important tools and features available for online fax services. All of the services offer the most pages per month that can be used to either send or receive as well as clean interfaces that are easy to use.
One electronic fax service that we ranked is Sfax. This fax service is specifically designed for medical facilities. All of its features and tools adhere to the strict rules and regulations imposed by HIPAA laws and include additional features, such as the required chain of custody and extra security measures, to ensure confidential information doesn't fall into the wrong hands. For example, this service doesn't have Outlook integration. This is because, according to HIPAA regulations, email faxing isn't secure enough and cannot be used. Despite this, Sfax is still one of the best options we evaluated in our internet fax service review.
Overall, internet faxing can save your business hundreds of dollars each year while still providing a valuable service for your company.