Part of keeping a budget is figuring out what parts of your business are pulling their weight and which areas can afford to trim some fat. For IT, that often comes down to equipment and services. If you’re spending money on something you don’t use, it might be time to cut it from your life. For too many businesses, fax machines sit somewhere in limbo. They still get used, but can you really justify the money? You’re about to get solid answers to that question.
Despite the age of the technology, there are still some modern advantages to using a fax machine. Chief among them is the universal format that every fax shares. In a day where you can have dozens of different formats for any given document (not to mention security and communication protocols), the certainty that a receiving fax will understand what your fax sends has value. In fact, that’s pretty much why faxes still dominate certain niche markets (more on that in a minute).
Faxes are also oddly secure. While it is possible to spy on a phone line, the process requires proximity. An anonymous internet hacker doesn’t really have the means to intercept a direct fax. Even if they could, it would rarely be worth their effort. Since faxes send data one sheet of paper at a time, you can’t steal very much for your investment if you attack a fax line. It’s why it’s such a rare occurrence.
The last major advantage of fax machines is a bit of a double-edged sword. It can be frustrating that they run on traditional phone lines, but in power outages and emergencies, that’s a huge advantage. Phone lines are more stable and reliable than most forms of broadband internet, so if you need to get some information out in a pinch, the fax machine might be the most reliable method.
Those advantages might sound promising, but for most businesses, they pale in comparison to the cons. The biggest issue with fax machines is their data rates. They literally copy one page of information at a time. That information is sent through a phone line (which is dramatically slower than any broadband internet) and printed at the other end. You can email an entire book in seconds. The same process would take a fax machine days. For anything requiring large amounts of data, fax machines are worse than slow; they are incapable of doing the job.
Speaking of phone lines, a fax machine can only do one job at a time. You can be in multiple live chat, video chat and email chains simultaneously on a modern computer. Fax lines have to connect directly, and when they do, no other connections can be made. While this does offer some measure of security, it’s too inefficient for most modern business practices.
When you weigh the pros and cons, there is little need for a fax machine. The occasional emergency message is actually extremely rare. Most of the time, you can still make a phone call in those instances and simply wait until internet access is restored. It’s not enough to justify the cost of maintaining fax machines and lines. That said, there are some niche industries where using a fax is unavoidable.
The first of those is medicine. In 2008, a bill was passed that required medical records to all be digitized. By 2015, over 85 percent of those records had successfully complied. Despite that, fax machines still account for more than 80 percent of all communication between medical facilities.
The reason is simple: the bill required digitization, but it did not standardize the process. Remember how you just read about fax communication being universal? For medical records that’s important. A single converting error can honestly mean life and death for a patient, so the simplicity and reliability of fax machines still dominates. If you work closely with medical offices, you’re going to have to have a fax. There’s no way around it.
The other niche industry is the United States government. For similar reasons, many government offices still heavily depend on their fax lines. If this is adjacent to your business, the archaic methods of the government will draw you into the world of faxing.
Aside from those two niches, there is little reason to spend money on fax machines and dedicated fax lines. They’ll never pay for themselves. On the occasion that you do need this ancient communication, an efax will get the job done. Basically, it consists of you emailing a file to a service provider who will then send and receive the faxes necessary for communication. It’s far more cost-effective, and it’s usually available as an on-demand service.
About the Author: Brittany Peckham
Brittany grew up in Oregon, Wisconsin and graduated from the University of Wisconsin Business School with a Bachelor’s degree in Management and Human Resources with an emphasis in entrepreneurship. Brittany has been working with Valicom for many years creating content for the TEM industry to deliver the many benefits users and organizations can experience in utilizing TEM services. With a passion for social media marketing, Brittany enjoys applying creativity throughout various areas of her life while expressing creativity in everything she does and loves being consumed in projects, from start to finish.