Even though technology has marched on into the email and cloud-based universe, the venerable fax still has a purpose in 2017. In many businesses scenarios, sending a fax remains the best, most common way to get a document from point to point. Enter virtual, or electronic, faxing. Such services have been around for a while, but there has never been such a plethora of options, at various levels of sophistication and cost.
We recommend MetroFax as the best option, thanks to its capable mobile apps and solid interface. At $7.95 per month for 500 pages — an annual contract brings that price down to $6.63 a month — MetroFax is also attractively priced. That said, we were impressed by the amount of detail and customization provided by SRFax and recommend it as a good alternative for both individual and business users. Sfax is also a compelling option, particularly if you’re looking for a fax service that complies with HIPPA data privacy requirements.
We make these recommendations after testing 10 different services. We also periodically go back to services we've previously tested to see if new features are added or pricing has changed; we then update our ratings accordingly.
Why Use an Online Fax Service
There are plenty of reasons for turning to an online provider for your faxing needs. Physical fax machines remain a hassle, and can often be painfully slow to send documents. Plus, who wants to listen to the annoying digital handshake tones? Since so many documents originate in digital form, or can easily be converted into digital form, electronic faxing makes perfect sense. If you need to have a greater degree of tracking and scheduling than what you get with a simple fax-on-demand system, there are services that can help with that, too.
The big advantage of such systems is that for sending, you don't need to be by a physical fax machine, and you don't have to worry about busy signals, since the system will wait and send when the recipient's fax frees up. Likewise, for receiving faxes, you don't have to have your PC on, nor do you have to hear a ring when an incoming fax arrives. It's the best possible marriage of old and new technologies.
When considering a service, you should think about your needs. Do you need only one number, or multiple numbers that are linked? Do you need workgroup support, so others can access the inbound and outbound faxes for that line?
Other buying considerations include whether you need a custom number, the amount of control you want over your cover page, and how faxes are sent and received. Also think about whether you need to schedule faxes for delivery at a later time. Access to faxes via mobile apps is another plus, as is the ability to easily search an archive of inbound and outbound faxes.
Some of the shadier online fax services come with a number of buyer-beware gotchas. Watch out for services that charge a one-time setup fee. Before selecting a service, do your due diligence and check the company's About Us page. This should tell you where the company is based. If a vendor is based overseas, there may be no ability to reach a human, in the event of a problem.
Finally, check with the Better Business Bureau to see if there have been any complaints, especially if you're signing up for the trial service: Some companies have become notorious for not canceling a trial when requested.
It's worth noting that J2 Global has bought up many different electronic fax brands, though they continue to operate under different names. Among the services we’ve reviewed, J2 owns both MetroFax and eFax.
How We Evaluated
We took all of the above into consideration when we tested online fax services. We also paid careful attention to each service's interface, ease-of-use and overall features. We sent and received faxes, and observed how long it appeared to take for an outbound fax to send. This was difficult to gauge, since most services simply take a moment to process, then will later deliver a confirmation that the fax was sent.