Long before email was created and gained popularity among businesses and individuals, the fax was the fastest way for written communication. It allowed sending written information on paper printouts over hundreds or thousands of kilometers in just a few minutes. This was especially handy for sending important documents that would otherwise take days or weeks to ship via regular post.
Later, emails came to be, revolutionizing communication and allowing for instant reach. As a result, more and more companies have decided to abandon fax. As a method of communication, fax still has some advantages since it can diversify communication channels for your business and shouldn't be written off. However, fax still has some advantages as a method of communication, and shouldn’t be entirely written off, and can be a handy tool if your business is looking to diversify its communication channels.
In this article, we dive deep into how emails and fax function, what are the key advantages and disadvantages of each and try to understand which one is better.
Email vs. Fax
Before we jump into key advantages and disadvantages between email and fax, let's first understand how each of the methods works.
At this point, the email probably needs no introduction: it's instant mail that is created and sent entirely electronically through an email service provider. The sender doesn't need to write the message on paper as in the case of postal mails or type and print out the paper with the message. All that is necessary is an email address and an Internet connection. Throughout the years, email has become one of the fastest communications channels for brands to connect with their customers or business partners.
Fax, on the other hand, is a method of using fax machines and telephone lines to send and receive documents containing text, graphs, diagrams, etc. You insert the document into the scan machine, which then scans the document and transmits the information using a telephone line. On the other side of the line, the fax machine of the receiver picks up the information and prints out the original document. That's why, as you may have noticed, faxes in the contacts of a company or an individual are very similar, and often even the same as the phone number: the information is transferred through telephone lines.
Now, as fax machines are becoming obsolete, Internet fax, or efax, has been gaining popularity. This method allows using Internet protocols instead of a fax machine to send the message. Here’s how it works: the efax service you chose assigns you a fax number. When someone uses a fax machine to send you fax using that number, the service provider converts the fax message to regular email and sends it to your inbox.
The Advantages of Email vs. Fax
Now, as we already know the key differences between email and fax, let’s take a look at the major advantages and disadvantages of both methods to understand which one will work for you the best.
One of the most critical aspects of communication channels is security, especially if you are dealing with sensitive information and important documents.
While email has the advantage of being a faster way to send your message, fax happens to be a more secure way for this. With email, you can use different bot types on your website, collect the emails, and send your messages in a secure way. On the other hand, modern fax machines use telephone lines and cloud phone systems to transfer messages that cannot be tracked, hacked, or accessed later. Additionally, faxes are traceable.
When using a fax machine, remember to delete the message after receiving it to avoid any breach, because anyone within the reach of the machine can access the information.
However, if you are using a fax machine, it’s essential to remember that anyone within the reach of the machine can access the information, so it’s crucial that you delete the message after receiving it, to avoid any breach.
Both of the methods are very simple to use and require only basic training. Even if you use email to connect with thousands of people, due to the simplicity of the service, you can connect with them in minutes through engaging and beautifully designed emails created in minutes using SaaS email templates. However, when it comes to sending documents or any other piece of information that exists only in hard copy, fax is a much more simple solution. It’s a one-step process, during which you only need to place the document into the fax machine, add the recipient’s number, and leave the rest to the machine. during which you only need to insert the document into the fax machine, insert the recipient's number, and the machine will do the rest. It can be both professionally formatted documents and meeting notes you’ve scrawled on a piece of paper and want to share with the management. In the case of email, however, you’d need to scan the document (given that you have a scanning machine,) find the file, attach it to the email, which is a much longer process.
Another key difference between email and fax is editing: the documents sent via email can be edited both by the sender and the receiver, as they are in electronic format, whereas documents sent by fax cannot be edited.
This makes sending important documents by fax a more attractive option, as the chances that the receiving party will manipulate the file are much lower. This is one of the reasons why documents sent through fax are legally binding: it’s unlikely they’d be edited to defame the sender, and also they contain the physical signature of the sender.
When it comes to accessibility, both email and fax have a downside: to operate, both methods require some form of connectivity. In the case of a fax, it’s essential to have a landline connection. For emails, an internet connection is necessary. Whether you’re sending promotional emails for your podcast marketing campaign or professional invoices for business purposes, you need to complete the process successfully. If any of these connections malfunction, the transmission of the information will fail. Therefore, if you are looking to send a document through fax, it’s essential to ensure that the receiver has a landline connection.
Another downside of fax is that it binds the receiver to one place. If you are, for example, out of the office, you’ll have to get back to access the information. However, this issue is solved through fax service providers, by receiving your fax to your email. You can then access your inbox through your phone everywhere without taking any extra steps.
What comes to email reachability, while emails are easy to receive, write, and track on the go, they often go to the spam folder. This can happen especially if you are using email to connect with your customers as part of a customer retention strategy, while in the case of fax if the information input is correct, the receiver is sure to get the message.
Resources and Maintenance
One of the disadvantages of traditional fax is the resources and maintenance costs that come with it. While email only requires an Internet connection to function properly, to send a fax, you need to invest in a fax machine, and then constantly buy paper, ink, toner, and make sure that your fax machine works properly at all times. Because traditional fax uses landlines, you’re also likely to see an increase in phone bills. Therefore, before investing in traditional fax, you may want to consider your finances. In case you are a new business or still in a startup funding phase, fax machines with all the other necessities may be a bit resource-consuming.
However, online fax services are now eliminating the need for a fax machine, which drastically decreases the resources you need to use fax. So, in case you decide to go with an e-fax, you’ll need to only find the right service and integrate it with your email.
Another important downside traditional fax has is that it doesn’t allow it to perform several actions at the same time. In the case of the email, you can send the email to 10 people with one click if you’re looking for some customer feedback, for example. In the case of fax, you’ll need to perform the same action 10 times, which can be time-consuming.
Although fax allows sending hard-copy documents, the quality of the document at the receiver's end is often much lower than the original one, because the information is scanned, disassembled into information, and transferred through phone lines.
Although fax allows sending hard-copy documents, because the information is scanned, disassembled into information, and transferred through phone lines, the quality of the document the receiver gets is often much lower than the original one. The colors may be faded, and even some bits and pieces of information may be lost on the way.
As mentioned before, fax is predominantly used to send text messages. That is, you can’t use it to send over digital files. Therefore, when it comes to sending out photos, videos, or voice recordings, or any other multimedia file, email would be the best option to go with.
Which is Better: Email or Fax?
Now, as we’ve taken a look at the key advantages and disadvantages of each method, it becomes clear that there is no one answer to the question of which option is better. Both methods have their pros and cons, and neither will disappear anytime soon. While email is better for instant communication, fax is safer, and it’s why so many companies choose to combine them. Both communications channels can easily coexist together and even be merged through online fax services for better results. Whether you are a content marketing agency or an individual looking to send a document over, you can greatly benefit from correctly using both of the methods.
As online fax services make faxing more accessible and less resource-consuming, while maintaining all the benefits of fax, such as safety, it becomes clear that none of these two channels are going anywhere soon. Take your time to understand what are the needs of your business when it comes to maintaining communication, and integrate them into your strategy to make the best out of each channel. Good luck!