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Do fax machines need to survive? And at what Cost???


Good question.

Recently, I read a fellow Blog posting  regarding the debate of fax machines go forward existence.  The …Absolute best part of this question is…LOOK HOW MUCH RESPONSE IT GENERATED!

Here’s my comment first…

Whether or not your are passionate about fax machines staying or going, they like all “technology” will too be replaced. I agree with M. S. Ekelund on the legal signature aspect, and that too will change once a better, more cost effective and “easier to find than a pen option exists!”

That said…each Company and person should know that their are options and they SHOULD be explored, not from a form aspect or “I like this, and you like that aspect”….but from an efficiency, effectiveness and cost/conscious  reduction aspect.

Posted by: Todd Larsen, CEO of Limitless Technology~Cost Reduction Specialists


Read more comments if this article has interest too you.

As Found in the

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Ayush Asthana • Its just that old habits die hard, its so convenient for people to simply fax a physical document than scanning it first then entering the e-mail id and then clicking on send. Whereas with fax, it cuts down on a lot of work. Fax will live till we have the legacy circuit-switched PSTN in place, and I dont see that dying down any time in the next 20 years or so.

9 days ago• Like1

Steve Wallace • Like some insects and diseases that constantly adapt to a changing environment, the fax machine has shown great adaptivity, too. From a single-purpose, analog machine, fax technology showed up as an additional function in a printer or as a software program in a computer. A piece of software can send a digital document via an IP connection through a switch to a 20-year-old machine on a POTS line, delivering a paper document with great clarity. The old machine can communicate with its kin, or with multi-purpose printers, or back to a VoIP number assigned to a computer.

With that much flexibility, why would we expect a quick death? Like some of us – just ‘cuz we’re old doesn’t mean we’re useless. 🙂

9 days ago• Like6

Maj Gen Lilu Tahiliani,AVSM,VSM • I fully agree with Steve.

Despite all the modernization, a hard copy is always preferred to an electronic mail which has to be accessed. In large hospitals, appointments with specialists are always arranged through FAX.

9 days ago• Like

Tony Rosati • Sounds like people reluctant to change old habits, rather than any basic efficiency in the fax process. Business process transformation using email and Electronic Health Records with digital signatures, return receipt, etc, actually would provide more checks and balances. Fax machines were cheap and semi-efficient but basically are an electronic message that is normally force fed to a very specific printer which is subject to line outages, paper jams, etc.

8 days ago• Like2

Jay E. Gonzalez • haha… good question. I think it’s because people are too lazy to install fax software on their computer… or IT Desktop departments won’t do it because they don’t find it necessary. And… fax machines are such a pain in the but: which way to I place the document on the feeder, do I have to dial 1 before the number, or just dial the number. For local numbers, do I need to dial the area code too? It’s one of those machines you learn to use on the job… completely trial and error. I think the worst thing of all is that just because you receive a confirmation that your document was sent, does not mean it was received on the other end. Ugh.

Apologies… I’m ranting to the choir on this one. Shamefully, though, I don’t have fax software on my laptop yet. I have meant to… but I fall into the lazy category.

8 days ago• Like2

Robert Delaney • One item where a fax is useful is where a signed copy is immediately required. Yes you can use electronic signatures perhaps but not sure of the legality/acceptance of it.

Web sites like fax zero make the actual machine obsolete for the sender (as long as you have a scanner if signature is required)

7 days ago• Like

Mike Hammett • Scan to e-mail completely eliminates the need for fax. Arcane policies is the only reason it remains.

7 days ago• Like

David Downes, P.E. • Sometimes people just want to have a piece of paper in their hands. For some industries (legal comes to mind), they still LOVE paper. At $450 / hr, I might love paper too…

7 days ago• Like1

Mike Hammett • @David Yeah, but you can print a PDF. 😉

7 days ago• Like

David Downes, P.E. • @Mike True! However lawyers like fax machines because they get the immediate satisfaction by seeing that their fax did get successfully sent to the opposing attorney, even if the content was simply “my client thinks your client stinks…” 🙂

So, for certain industries, the fax machine is cheaper than paying a courier $30/hr to deliver a couple of pages of paper, but still allows them to generate billable hours!

7 days ago• Like

Marcel Bolboaca • It will disappear as the TELEX (Teletype) did. Twenty+ years back I heard the same question, why Telex is not replaced by FAX (hype in that moment) – the answer was clear: because Telex had official value while FAX wasn’t recognized as an official document by government organizations, banks, etc. It is the same today when we talk about FAX versus e-mail. Because of this we deploy and maintain today fax servers to communicate with other fax servers while the initial and final form of the message is an electronic document… 😉

7 days ago• Like

Sean Bussell • Good question Kevin. I don’t think there is a replacement product or technology that is ubiquitous and as straightforward to use as the fax. I would consider myself a power user of most tech, but I have to admit that I often find it easier to drop a document that has signatures etc (eg that I had to deal with as hard copy) into a fax machine and send to a user interstate that scan, retrieve and email (or do the same via the MFC console).

Also throw in that it’s a long way off before we get anything like an MFC (multi-function centre) on your laptop/tablet/PC (one per desk/user). The lack of incentive in business to develop a ubiquitous replacement (there is little money in it really) and the lack of international or developer supported standards (other than age old transmission standards themselves). I think faxes will be round for a while yet, albeit they will die a very slow death. I’ll be surprised the day I have to send a fax and get told that we don’t have one any more : )

7 days ago• Like

Scott Shorey • They are even more popular in Japan because some nuances of the language can’t be captured in typed characters and must be seen as written by hand. The market for fax machines in Japan is much higher than the US. I think here it is mostly that companies are slow to change policies. I work overseas and it can be a pain for things like banks that want a fax of your actual signature like that makes in more authentic and can’t be faked.I guess it could be used later for verification as you could challange something or be challanged and look at the actual signature.

7 days ago• Like

M. S. Ekelund • One of the most important reasons for fax machines still is polular, is the user interface. You only have to know the number to send to, and push ‘Start* button.
Additional to this, fax machines do not need broadband or routers etc. to function. If you look at the fax market figures, you will find that fax use have decreased in markets with high to medium penetration of broadband access (e.g. Europe), but increased in markets with low penetration of broadband (e.g. Brasil, Chile, Paraguay etc.)
These markets have also more use of physical paper, and as we all know you have to scan the sheet before e-mail use, but just put it in fax machine to send it.
I think the main reason to fax popularity is this.

7 days ago• Like1

Lourens Steenkamp • the last time I sent a fax was in 2003…..

7 days ago• Like1

Andy Fuller • Fax hasn’t died because we have built large infrastructure around it. Banks have fax servers that pull the images straight into a computer. They have clumsy and intricate ways to upload those documents, but it’s much easier to use the fax. When submitting expense reports, we have to send copies of receipts, and fax is the easier method.

Fax also hasn’t died because we have failed to replicate its best features in more modern systems. A fax is easy to address, you have immediate confirmation of delivery, it’s secure (even the US government requires a warrant!), it’s traceable, it’s cheap (or at least the costs are hidden and acceptable to business), it’s oriented around familiar paper, it’s inter-operable and standards-based, and you can get a signature. Services like DocuSign come close, but both parties have to use the same service, and you have to figure out how to pay for them in a corporate setting, where the fax machine is still already being paid for.

7 days ago• Like2

M. S. Ekelund • Legality of fax received documents is well proven in many western Countries. This is valid for G3 fax machines. G2 fax machines use a frequency (fax communication protocol) to tell the sending party, that it is a fax in the other end (start transmitting), and a frequency to close down. This frequency could be trigged by several other occasions, and fax messages was therefor not recognised as valid legal documents. This is not the situation re: G3 fax machines. The communication protocol is more advanced, if the sender have ‘ok’ at the sending receipt, document is recognised as transmitted and received. To say it simple.

I have in several occations been i Court as an fax communication expert (e.g. the receiver says that document not have been received, and therefor have done like this and this…..), the Judge have acepted transmission receipt as proof of transmission and receiving in all cases. Caused by details regarding fax communication protocol etc.

7 days ago• Like

M. S. Ekelund • Store and forward fax systems/servers are used to compensate our need to use computers (broadband), towards analog access devices. Since the fax machines is in a large number around the world, it can not be ignored, and a interface between the ‘digital’ access and the analog acces was necessary. It still is. I do not mentioned greater effectiveness in larger organisations to use fax-store-and-forward, intead of physical fax machines. This is another case.

7 days ago• Like

Michael LeBrun • I’ve really studied this. Every time someone requires me to fax something, I think “welcome to 1990.” It’s a hassle to print, fill out, sign, fax, then if I want to keep it as an electronic copy, scan and save. That’s a bunch of steps and seemingly inefficient. Yet, some old ways die hard and as there are 46 million fax machines in the world, 17 million in the U.S alone, the fax machine isn’t going anywhere soon.

The challenge to replace our fax habit is two fold: First, where the document needed to be completed is already electronic, it should be completed as electronic. This can be done with “fill and signature” apps (and I’ve found one that works). If you are printing, filling, and faxing, you are wasting time and resources. However, the second scenario is the challenge: where the document needing completion is already physical. In this case, you have a form in your hand in need of completion. Once filled out, it needs to get it someplace else. You can (1) fill, scan, save, and send or (2) fill and fax, or (3) fill and mail (which is “welcome to 1890”). In this case, fax seemingly wins the battle of efficiency.

But wait. The question I have is why is the document in a physical form in the first place? Why couldn’t the doc be electronic to start and stay that way? Technology can now do this, but the market will have to change. Either companies will have to convert physical documents to an electronic format (complicated and expensive) or conceive new business processes that live without physical documents (expensive and needing effort). To convince the market that it should conquer this challenge, we’ll have to develop a cost-benefit for the new paradigm that makes sense. Being “green” is not enough motivation unless you are talking cash.

7 days ago• Like2

Jukka Niiranen • I would say fax has already died. At least here in Finland and other nordics even owning a fixed land telephone line is rather rare, so even if one owns a fax machine there is nothing much to do with it.

I just minute ago checked the biggest electronic retailer’s web site, and they do not offer any fax devices anymore. Just a couple of multipurposeprinters with fax feature where offered. I’ve been doing business in EU, Russia and Asian context for a 15 years now and I think I had to use a web based fax service once – about 10 years ago – when sending some docs to government officials of one South-East Asian country. But even that could have been done using scanner and printer.

Here everybody accepts PDF-docs with a picture of a signature in them. And one can create those directly from Office software. If a verified signature is really needed, then on-line indentification services offered by banks can always be used.

7 days ago• Like

Azra Moiz • Its important to remember that the fax machines were invented by the Japanese because their script did not adapt easily to a keyboard, and there are still many countries/ languages where faxing will remain important.
People do still attach importance to seeing handwriting. Add to that legal and security reasons for documents requiring signatures.
No I think faxing will still be around for many years…

7 days ago• Like1

M. S. Ekelund • No doubt, the fax will live for many more years. Easy interface, broadband and PC’s have to reach a certain penetration in all relevant Countries. Several branches still use faxing in large numbers (e.g. hotels and organisations that have broad business with countries that have low ‘digital’ penetration in general).
Some western countries are now planning to reduse or replace analog access, when this time come, the fax machines will be redused in large numbers. But this is in local markets. Worldwide is fax machines still wery much alive!

7 days ago• Like

Dan Aylward • Do you remember how many technology companies tried and struggled to sell mp3 players? Even Microsoft missed the mark with their Zune. We need an “Apple” to change the industry with a simple or simpler device for scanning documents.

6 days ago• Like

Chris Storey • I have a couple of rural clients that still use fax and for a single page copy of a document that they wnat to get to me quickly it is still the simplest means to get it through to me. If I did not have a combined Scanner fax and printer I may well have got rid of it when my old machine went but it is just another piece of software that is quite a useful item for the odd occassion when someone wants to contact you by fax. I personally always scan and email so have not sent a fax recently but probalby get one fax every three months or so.

6 days ago• Like

Charles Kiithya • Its even worse if your fax machine is the type that uses thermal paper. After some time the information fades out, so it cannot be a permanent record. Maybe some people still use fax because of the sound it makes – reminds them they are actually in the office….

6 days ago• Like

Harry Whittelsey • Fax is hear to stay for some time. Their are still many good reasons for it to remain. E-Fax is the less expensive solution than POTS. Meanwhile a Fax can be keep on your Hard Drive and doesn’t have to printed unless necessary. Its lower in cost and be delivered to you Email account.

6 days ago• Like

Dr. A. J. (Larry) Parsons • Azra – the fax machine was not invented by the Japanese. The first patent for a fax machine was registered to Alexander Bain, a Scottish mechanic in 1850.

6 days ago• Like1

Mike Hammett • I don’t have any knowledge on the Japanese language on PC vs. written, but I think they’re going to have bigger problems if their language can’t be fully expressed on PCs that have been around for 30 years. Everywhere else I can think of, an e-mailed PDF is a simple and adequate replacement. The only reason is manufactured justification to not change. Most multifunction devices let you scan a PDF directly to e-mail. Typing in an e-mail isn’t any more difficult than typing in a phone number. It’s generally longer, but it’s also generally easier to remember. That’s using the same process as sending a fax, just typing in a different destination.

6 days ago• Like

Andrew Henderson • Process and procedure is the answer, which sums up the above comments. The fax process is now an ingrained procedure, possibly governed by a rule set imposed by an industry body. The industry body will take years to agree a new format so fax continues.

6 days ago• Like

Scott Shelton • Even with dozens of document sharing applications available today, you would hard pressed to walk into any business, from a SOHO to Fortune 500, and not find a fax machine. There are approx. 130 million fax machines worldwide still in use, pumping out about 80 billion fax transmissions every year. Fax documents are still considered essential to a wide range of important business processes across all industries.

Why? Simplicity. Security. Familiarity. Some people still like to have that piece of paper in their hand.

Here are just a few commonly faxed documents: insurance claims, RFQ’s, PO’s, contracts, enrollment forms, NDF’s, W-9’s, invoices, resumes, tax filings, legal documents, expense reports, wire transfer confirmations, and so on. Perhaps even a family holiday recipe.

One more thing—ever heard of a fax machine getting hacked?

6 days ago• Like

Mike Hammett • @Scott You’d also be hard pressed to walk into any of those establishments and not find a MFP with scan-to-email functionality as well.

Again, nothing that fax does that scan-to-email can’t do.

6 days ago• Like

Steve Wallace • Mike, I’ll give you one…

Large pharmacy chain does not allow outside e-mail access to the staff. Prescriptions, if not hand-delivered, arrive from clinicians by fax. Refill requests are faxed to doctors’ offices and returned by fax.

6 days ago• Like

Mike Hammett • @Steve, that’s not a technical valid technical reason, that’s a silly policy. Besides, in the age of tele-medicine and HIPAA, why aren’t they using a secure web-based system for this sort of submission?

6 days ago• Like

Steve Wallace • Point is, Mike, that you can’t force your technical solution onto a procedure that is working to everyone’s satisfaction. Doctors carry script pads in their coat pocket and write and sign as they move about. Pharmacy, as part of their security (as well as to limit poaching of personnel) don’t allow outside e-mail access in their facilities.

You stated that “You’d also be hard pressed to walk into any of those establishments and not find a MFP” so I gave you one example off the top of my head. <grin> (There are more examples.)

The thread’s topic is “Why won’t the fax machine die?” Short answer: it still works for some situations and for some people. Millions and millions. It will be a long time dying.

6 days ago• Like

Scott Jarus • As the former CEO at j2 Global (aka “eFax”), I can tell you that the reason fax continues to survive is because (a) it is a proven technology (and in the case of legal notices, is recognized as an “authorized” document transfer tool, i.e. a facsimile of the original); (b) it is extremely easy to use; (c) it is the easiest “scanner” process on the market; (d) in the case of fax-to-email technology, it combines the best of scanning, archiving, retrieval, document management and message handling; and (e) the cost of maintaining the infrastructure, particularly fax-to-email, is de minimis.

When I used to meet with Wall Street analysts or speak at investor conferences (j2 Global is a public company), I would always be asked “Who uses fax these days?”, implying that it was a dead technology and generally unused. I would answer their question with a question: “I’m looking at your business card(s), and I notice that (most of) you have fax numbers on your card(s). Why is that?” Generally, the answer I received was, “Because, there are occasions — not many — when I need to receive a fax.”. To this I would reply, “And that’s why faxing still exists and why you’re willing to pay a de minimis amount of money to have a fax number ‘just in case’ you need to receive a fax”.

Fax traffic has been declining over the past 15 years, and will continue to over the foreseeable future. However, just like Telex — which, by the way, still exists, particularly for international transactions — it will have a very long tail of a life.

6 days ago• Like

Mike Hammett • I haven’t seen paper in anyone’s pocket in any doctor’s office I’ve been to in years.

6 days ago• Like

Morgen M. • Impact of services like What’sUp and similar mobile shoot/send options in all this? Impact of direct Scan-to-Email printers and general accessibility of documents which are on email over millions of mobile devices? Impact of very high mobile penetration rates compared to traditional fixed lines? The young generation joining workforce in next 5 years – will they be budgeting for a fax machine? People used to instant communications using always connected mobile end points – will they be patient enough to wait till they get to the office to see that urgent fax? With increased connectivity, is tomorrow’s office exactly a physical place with connected devices or perhaps virtual by and large?

Steve Wallace • Morgen, excellent reasons for *some* people to use a more digital paradigm. But don’t count on it universally.

New doctors, just out of residency this month, setting up a practice together made certain that the printer they bought had fax capability. Hard to find a pharmacy or a doctor’s office without a fax.

Scott Jarus, in his message above, gave a great synopsis with a valid conclusion.

6 days ago