Although fax technology may be considered outdated in the 21st century, nothing could be further from the truth. Fax machines are still a staple of the traditional office setting and have yet to be totally made obsolete by new communication technologies. Their operation is simple, they’re cheap and more and more versatile. Besides, a wide range of models and prices exist, making it all the easier to buy the fax machine you need.
Understanding this technology
Fax technology is pretty simple, and it is nearly as old as the discovery of electricity itself. However, it is still appropriate in many business situations nowadays, especially when internet communications are impossible.
How does it work?
Sending a fax amounts to transforming tangible documents, such as texts or pictures, into digital data thanks to an optical scanner. The sender dials the recipient’s fax number, and data then travels through a phone line to the receiving unit, which processes the transmitted data and prints it. This means the recipient gets a copy of the document, while the sender keeps the original. Proof of sending is therefore automatic.
When is buying a fax machine relevant?
A lot of people think that everything a fax machine does can be achieved thanks to the internet, but they are wrong. For example, sending a manuscript or hand signed document is much quicker by fax than scanning the document, emailing it and printing it. Likewise, although it may seem strange to European business owners, a lot of places around the world don’t have easy access to the internet, whereas phone lines are generally found everywhere. Therefore, international companies buying, for instance, timber in the Brazilian rainforest, will be able to exchange all sorts of paperwork with their crew on site with a simple fax machine.
Buying a fax machine that suits your needs
Before buying a fax machine, you must determine what you intend to do with it, the volume of faxes you expect to receive and the budget you’re ready to invest. As prices vary according to technical specifications, finding your machine of choice requires certain information.
Entry-level fax machines
For home users or small businesses, a lot of manufacturers in the UK offer simple, uncomplicated fax machines, starting at £50. They are usually equipped with a telephone handset and sometimes with an answering machine. They use thermal paper, which eliminates the need for toner or ink-cartridge replacement. Certain models can also be used as copiers. Their big disadvantage is their reduced speed, as cheaper models may even need to be fed documents one sheet at a time. Image quality is also subpar. Besides, thermal paper tends to turn brown quickly, especially in hot and damp environments, so faxed documents which need to be filed must be copied first.
Large companies or businesses which transmit and receive a lot of faxes will turn to laser multi-function printers (MFPs). These units can print, scan and copy documents in black and white or colour, depending on the model. They are fast, printing 25-30 pages per minute for mid-range machines, and offer good image resolution. Starting at £200 and reaching over £1,000, they will suit all commercial and professional needs, including sending and receiving faxes.
Choosing an inkjet printer
Another type of MFPs, inkjet printers are basically the same as laser printers, with two major differences; first, they’re significantly slower than their laser counterparts, so they won’t do if you receive more than around 40 faxes a day; however, they’re much cheaper than laser printers for the same features, although it should be noted that replacement ink cartridges are more expensive than laser toner.
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