For many people, faxing may seem a little old-fashioned - after all, we have email now. However, there are still plenty of people around the world that fax documents every day, including (but not limited to) those working in the medical and legal sectors. While much of this faxing may still be done via traditional fax machines, they’re no longer the only way to send documents.

If you’re looking for a way to send documents via fax without owning big, expensive equipment, virtual fax software is just the thing for you. But what exactly is a virtual fax, and how does it differ from a physical one?

Virtual fax vs physical fax

Virtual fax software can do everything that physical fax machines can do. The major difference between the two is that virtual fax doesn’t rely on hardware. If you’re looking to move from offline to online, virtual faxes can be a key part of digital transformation, especially if you’re in an industry that relies on them.

Physical fax machines work by scanning documents and then sending them to their target via PSTN (public switched telephone network). The machine on the receiving end would then print out the document(s) that it had received.

In other words, fax machines were invented to get documents from one place to another. Since they can do this instantaneously, they were considered a huge improvement over sending the documents by mail. They’re also substantially more secure, which is why they’re so prevalent in the legal and medical field.

Virtual fax does the same thing - it can send a document to someone in a different location to you, securely. The difference is that virtual fax doesn’t require the recipient or the sender to have access to a physical machine. So long as both have working Internet connections, a virtual fax can be sent and/or received at any time.

How does virtual fax work?

Before a virtual fax can be sent, the document that’s being sent has to be digitized. This step can be skipped if the document was created on a computer, for instance, as a PDF file. Otherwise, the physical document can be scanned or otherwise converted into a digital format. 

Once you’ve got a digitized document, you can send it using FOIP (Fax Over IP). This sends the fax over an internet connection, breaking it into data packets and forwarding them to the assigned IP address. The software you’re using replaces the need for any hardware - all you need to do is upload your chosen document(s) into the virtual fax software!

While virtual fax software obviously can’t receive a physical fax, many fax machines can receive those sent digitally, and print them out. This is great if you’re dealing with offices that still have physical hardware.

What do I need to be able to send a virtual fax?

If you’ve got a laptop or desktop of any kind that can access the Internet, as well as a VoIP router, you’ve got everything you need to send a virtual fax. The only bit of hardware you might need is a scanner, in order to digitize physical files.

The person who’s going to be receiving your fax can either have a physical machine, or access to a computer. This gives you the flexibility to send fax documents to individuals and businesses that may not own a fax machine.

Why do I need virtual fax?

Making the switch to virtual fax comes with all kinds of benefits. First of all, it’s cheaper - you don’t need to invest in expensive hardware! Then there’s the fact that virtual fax software doesn’t need cartridges, which saves you even more money.

If you don’t send faxes regularly already, now might be the time to consider starting. Virtual fax makes it very easy to manage and share all kinds of documents, ranging from medical records to photograph compilations. They can be used to fax images as well.

Reception is always good so long as you have an Internet connection, and the cost of sending faxes is fixed so it won’t change depending on where you’re sending them. Like physical faxes, virtual faxes have a high level of security, meaning they can be a better option than email.

Anyone who’s working remotely can benefit from faxing, since it’s a quick and efficient way to transfer files from one location to another. The same is true for members of distributed teams, especially if the teams are spread across multiple countries.

Conclusion

Despite what some people may think, faxing isn’t going out of fashion. Many businesses rely on it to survive - and thrive. There’s no need to rely on clunky hardware when you’re using virtual fax software, which means you can fax anyone, anytime. Combined with the cost benefits, and ease of use?  Virtual faxes are the future.

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