Fax machines

Heard an ad on the radio yesterday for a fax service. Who still uses a fax machine regularly to receive or send faxes? I would say that I’ve used one once a year over the last 5 years.

Clearly an obsolete technology, yet most offices have one, either stand-alone or integrated into their printers.

How long before companies abandon faxes? My business card still has a fax # on it.

I used to subscribe to a service for about $5 a month that let me send and receive faxes via the interwebs. I used it about once a year.

Then one year I didn’t use it, so I let the subscription lapse.

That’s my exciting story about faxes.

Pretty much every law office still uses one, though bigger ones are transitioning to e-fax services. Anyone who works with medical providers needs one because some jackass has been convincing them that faxes are a secure method of communication and will help them avoid HIPAA violations, and apparently nobody in medicine has an ounce of common sense. Even the practices I work with who are otherwise paperless use fax machines.

I’ve been trying to get my own firm to switch to an e-fax system for years.

Same thing in the mortgage industry. Faxes are considered secure, regular e-mail isn’t. Fortunately we have e-fax. Unfortunately it seems to stop working every other day.

Grrr. About once every year or two I run into some knucklehead company that insists on a fax.

The last one was about 2 weeks ago.

I use one of those free-trial online faxing sites.

I deal with fax all the time. As long as organizations like the IRS use fax as their only means of electronic communication, you can’t do without it.

Increasingly, businesses are implementing faxes as an electronic service that doesn’t involve paper, but the actual transmission of the data is still pretty old-fashioned. Note that this doesn’t always require an e-fax service: most multi-function printers include a fax, and can send and receive files through Windows or using internal memory, flash drives, etc.

I also don’t see anything obsolete about faxes. Email is not a substitute for secure communication, and secure file portals wind up being an enormous hassle from the end-user perspective.

A fax is not a “secure communication.”

Faxes are considered more secure than email when transmitting credit card data.

If you send an undercover cop a fax asking if they’re a police officer, they have to fax you back a truthful answer.

I was forced to use a fax machine to receive proof of insurance that met the legal requirements for Canada on a recent drive from Seattle to Inuvik. Either I could wait 14 days to get it in the mail or they would fax it. So I had them fax it to a number which would email me a PDF that I could print.

I think that is the first time in well over a decade that I personally needed use a fax for anything.

By who? A fax is an unencrypted data transmission that winds up sitting in a print tray where it can be accessed by any random schmuck who walks by. It’s about as secure as posting something on a community message board with “please only read if you are Steve” at the top.

An e-mail is (or at least can be) an encrypted transmission that winds up in a box that can only be accessed via password.

Sure, hackers can read e-mail but they can also read the database that your credit card information will be entered into from the fax.

My broker and my lawyer.

I work in disability insurance and that second sentence is spot-on. We send and receive thousands of faxes every day.

Unless you have s lock on the fax room door.


By the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard. It’s what credit card merchants are highly encouraged to comply with. Now encrypted email is safer than a fax, but a fax is safer than encrypted email, according to PCI.

I don’t understand this criticism. You’re comparing the least secure implementation of a fax with the most secure implementation of e-mail.

My faxes are received as a digital encrypted file stored on a password protected server. The only unencrypted stage of the transmission is over phone lines and if you’re tapping my phone lines then fax transmissions are the least of the secure information you’ll be overhearing.

Even without efax, it would be trivially easy to put a fax machine behind a locked door.

Facsimile is far more trivial to collect, categorize and store compared than voice. In todays world where almost all PBX systems are network based there should be no assumption about the security of a fax from both state and non-state actors. If anyone uses FAX with any assumption of security they are either misinformed or following some massively outdated security policy that was nothing more than security theater in the first place.

Joe Friday: “I just want the fax, Ma’am.” :smiley:

Faxes are still heavily used in the music business - radio promotion, specifically. It’s a common and often preferred method for promoting singles to radio and delivering one-sheets and spin sheets for consideration for airplay. It’s a much simpler process to have an intern scoop up all the faxes and dump them on the PD’s* desk. It’s also convenient to have a stack of hard copy when the PD and MD’s** go over candidates for new adds to the rotation. Of course they also have promo CDs to listen to the music.

Email links to music and promo content can really get out of hand quickly. And PD’s are busy people who really don’t have time to sort and collate a ton of email and download music. So the industry is still very hard copy and CD in that arena.

*Program Director. The big kahuna as far as broadcast operations and content.

**Music Director. Some MD’s make add decisions, but most fill more a curator/librarian role. Different stations will have MD’s with varying degrees of input into the PD’s decision making process. How much depends on the PD and station.

Because they are an entrenched, established technology that gets the job done and is simple to use. Same reason AM radio is still around.

It’s akin to 30 years ago when personal computers started appearing in offices and everyone started talking about the ‘paperless’ office being the future. Just the opposite happened. Computers increased productivity so much that paper usage went up exponentially. And as long as physical paper documents exist faxing them will always be more convenient than emailing them as a file. And printer manufacturers realized that once they combined a printer and scanner all they had to do was add a cheap modem and you had a fax machine as well.

Fax machines will eventually become obsolete, but it will be awhile. Tablets and smartphones have only recently made physical photographic prints nearly obsolete (the only people you print pictures for are your grandparents). But physical paper documents still have a place. They are tangible, legally binding proof of things, something you actually don’t want in only electronic form just yet.