Start Page: why the fax won't die

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brand tipYou still use a fax machine. Gone is the machine that used slick paper on rolls; but it is still connected to your phone line and a case of paper. At least the new person you hired didn’t require training to use it.

Fax technology has been around since 1843. That’s not a typo. The modern fax machine was introduced in 1964 by Xerox. Fast forward to today. Unless you use a typewriter, there are no other machines in your office that have remained essentially unchanged in form and function for almost 50 years. Fax is ubiquitous, reliable, simple and cheap. Why would you want to mess that up?

The problem with fax is that it relies on audio signals carried over copper phone lines. They are actually called POTS lines. POTS stands for Plain Old Telephone Service. And as you already know, Plain Old Telephone Service is being replaced (kicking and screaming) by VOIP. VOIP stands for THE INTERNET.

You once depended on paper and had spare phone lines for your office. You proudly published your fax number on your stationery and website. Today you rely less on paper (or are aggressively trying to get rid of it) and may have already learned (to your chagrin) that new Voice Over Internet Protocol systems don’t play nice with legacy fax machines.

The typical office copier has now become a multi-function device: It copies, scans, prints and faxes. But the underlying fax technology has never been replaced. You still hook them up to POTS lines and most still print on paper. Sending a fax begins with the paper you insert into the machine and ends with the satisfaction of knowing it actually got there when you hear the familiar answer tone coming from the other side. This may be as predictable a sequence of events as life in a modern office affords.

Sending faxes online = hard

If you have a scanner that can produce PDFs you might try emailing the images of the document(s) and send them as attachments in lieu of faxing. But some industries (especially health care and finance) insist on faxes. Some email systems can’t handle large attachments. Scanned images of dozens of pages can clog your recipient’s inbox. Also, getting a confirmation that the recipient got what you sent is problematic using email – but it’s built in to fax.

Faxing documents over the Internet that are “born” in your computer is fairly easy. Some services allow you to fax from their website. Or, you can attach files in common formats, DOCs and PDFs for example, to an email message you send to a special email address. You place the recipient’s fax number in the address or subject line. The service processes the document and delivers it to the recipient’s fax machine using their POTS lines. You can even receive a confirmation by email. Some include automatic cover pages and customization options, all for about $20 a month plus “per page” charges.

If you thought that was complicated, try starting with paper. Unfortunately the practice of law still has pesky requirements that make paper necessary ... for signatures and original documents at least. That means you’ll need to scan those pages first. Depending on the steps involved, it can take an extra few minutes – time you didn’t think about when you used your old fax machine.

Receiving faxes online = easy

On the flip side, receiving a fax over the Internet is simple. Many of our customers have forwarded their fax numbers to “Fax-To-Email” services (like and and, for less than $10 a month, plus a nickel per page, they get all their faxes delivered as PDFs to their inbox. Some of these customers then print the faxes anyway – Arghhh! Faxes can then become a part of a document management system that collects related documents in client folders on a file server that protects and organizes them.

Sharing faxes received this way is simple, too: the email address to which the fax is delivered can be a group – or better yet – the person responsible for distributing faxes can see to it that they are properly filed. Then, they can send a notice to the proper recipient about where to find them.

Like a Halloween zombie, fax technology won’t die. Automating inbound faxes is a no-brainer. But until the practice of law goes fully digital, keep that POTS line!•


Kim Brand is president of Indianapolis-based Computer Experts. He is also the inventor of FileSafe. He was recently appointed adjunct professor of Legal Informatics at Indiana University. The opinions expressed are the author’s.


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  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.