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Sending Documents By Fax Versus Email: Which Is Better?


In today’s digitally-driven business world, many people ask, “why fax at all ?” If online fax services give an email address the ability to send and receive faxes, why not just send an email? It’s a reasonable question.

While it may seem that there’s little difference between sending a document via online fax versus sending it as an email attachment, there are some specific nuances that do make the two methods very different. And for some industries, those differences mean sending documents via fax – online or traditional – is still the preferred choice.

Medical Security

Online faxing and traditional faxing are both key to medical fields because they offer a way to send and receive patient information that’s compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability ACT (HIPAA). While email isn’t strictly prohibited under the HIPAA Security Rule as a means to send electronic patient health information, it’s much harder to ensure that patient information is adequately protected when sent by email. Therefore, faxing has become the preferred method for sharing patient information by medical professionals.

Several online fax services offer specific HIPAA-compliant features, which include various levels of safeguards: the services act as a Business Associate, which means they are qualified to send messages and content related to personal health information; they use encryption; and they use firewalls to ensure network security.

When You Need A Signature, Fast

The medical field isn’t the only industry that relies on faxing – financial services, law offices, and real estate professionals are also big fans of the fax. Some industries, like student loan providers, say they would lose track of communications if they came in over email. Many lawyers also use fax machines because some courts accept fax signatures in place of original signatures, but don’t accept signature copies sent via email. Faxes also offer confirmation of receipt, which can be important if a lawyer needs legal proof that a recipient actually received a fax.

And the fax has its moment in the spotlight every February when high school athletes send their letters of intent to colleges and universities on National Signing Day.

Online fax services can also send documents to standard fax machines. That’s key for lawyers or Realtors, who need documents signed. Esigning features on many online fax services mean “documents that need an immediate signature or response can be sent online, then signed electronically, and returned straight away,” says an eFax blog.

One thing that may change faxing’s advantage over email, at least when it comes to security concerns, is encrypted email. Email encryption software can make emails more secure and in some cases make emailed transmissions compliant with certain security requirements. Some policy-based filters automatically encrypt emails that are sent from employees’ accounts, and most work across platforms popular business applications.

Nonetheless, it seems that for businesses that want hard copies, are sold on the extra security of faxing, or need signatures exchanged quickly, the fax still holds the advantage over email.