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If you need fax capabilities for your home or office, you can do so without having to buy a fax machine or get an additional phone line. There are numerous services available that will provide an individual phone line for you, including toll free numbers, and let you fax to email via Outlook and vice versa. In this article, we'll look at some of the options you have for utilizing fax services without investing in additional hardware. Best of all, your clients will never know the difference.
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What Microsoft Suggests
From Outlook 2007, you can click on File - New - Internet Fax and a window will pop up that says you must first sign up with a fax service provider. Click the OK button and it'll take you to the Microsoft Office website with a listing of available providers. They list several different options depending on the volume of faxes you may need to send, such as Concord Fax allowing up to 50/month for $9.95 or eXtremeFax's 300/month deal for $6.67. If you only need to send one or two, InterFAX has the option to let you pay per page faxed, with prices being seven to eleven cents per page. Feel free to look through each option and then follow the instructions on screen for setting up your account and installing any necessary software to integrate it with Microsoft Outlook.
If you don't like these options presented by Microsoft, the next two sections cover two top-notch alternatives that offer the same services.
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One of the bigger names in the online fax world is eFax.com. They offer monthly and annual subscription services starting at $14.13/month if you sign up for a full year, and that includes 150 sends and 150 receives. What's great about their service is that they set you up with your own fax number that can be tied into an email account so, for example, your clients or customers could send you a fax and it'll show up in Outlook like a new email.
After signing up for their service, you can download their free eFax Messenger software and get started sending faxes within minutes. The software works with Windows 7/Vista/XP and they even offer a version for Mac users.
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Another great fax subscription service is GreenFax.com, and they have more plans than eFax. For example, you can get their Signature Service Plan that includes your own fax number and the option to receive up to 250 faxes a month and send up to 100. It currently runs for $12.95/month and would be great for a small business. They also offer a toll-free plan for the same price, but with less incoming and outgoing faxes. They offer other higher volume and corporate level plans, so go to their site and check them out.
I really like their Send-Only Plan, which lets you send faxes at seven cents per page plus five cents for each additional page. This would be perfect for someone on the job hunt who wants to send out a couple of resumes but doesn't need to sign up for any monthly service, or someone who just needs to send one fax for whatever reason.
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Why Are You Still Using Fax?
Now it's time to address the futility of why you would want use fax at all. If you're already using an email program like Outlook, why not get rid of your fax machine or service and invest in scanner, then just run scans and email them? The image quality will be far superior, for starters. You also won't have to maintain a phone line just for the fax machine or pay any monthly subscription, and that should save you enough money from month to month so that you can more than pay for a scanner. There are plenty of all-in-one type printers that have flatbed scanners built into them, and that's all you really need.
Fax machines are incredibly archaic technology, and it baffles me why some offices still rely so heavily on them when a computer equipped with a scanner and email is superior in nearly every possible way. There's also the security concern regarding the transmission of customer data through a third party. I understand that some specific cases will require you to fax, especially when dealing with vendors still stuck in the 90's, but try everything you can to ditch the fax and just use email. The money savings alone should be a major motivating factor in making the switch.
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Office.Microsoft.com, Available Fax Services, http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/providers/available-fax-services-HA001003575.aspx