Faxing is a topic that we get a lot of questions about in the computer lab. There are a variety of different ways you can send and receive faxes from our labs, including several online fax services that you can also use from home or anywhere else with an Internet connection.
So what are your options? Each of Naperville Public Library's three locations has a Simple Scan machine that will allow you to send outgoing faxes for $1/page domestic or $2/page international. You can also scan documents with a scanner and fax them for free over the Internet using an online fax service like FaxZero, GotFreeFax, or MyFax Free. There are even services like K7 and eFax Free that will provide you with a free incoming fax number so that you can receive faxes online or through your e-mail.
However, all of these free services have limitations, such as a maximum number of pages per fax or maximum number of faxes per day. Some also insert advertisements on your cover page. I will discuss the features and limitations of each service so you can have a better idea of what might work best for you.
Outgoing Fax Services: A Comparison
|FaxZero||GotFreeFax||MyFax Free||Simple Scan Station|
|Cost||Free (US and Canada only)||Free (US and Canada only)||Free (to 40 different countries)||$1/page domestic, $2/page international|
|Sending Limits||5 faxes per day, 3 pages per fax||2 faxes per day, 3 pages or 20 MB per fax||2 faxes per day, 9 pages or 10 MB per fax||Unlimited|
|Sends you confirmation e‑mail?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Inserts ads on cover page?||Yes||No||Yes||No|
|File formats you can fax||.doc, .docx, .pdf||.pdf, .doc, .docx, .odt, .rtf||178 different formats including .doc, .docx, .pdf, .tif, .xls, .ppt, .html||Physical documents you can scan|
Below are examples of cover pages from each of the free services, so you can see what the ones with ads look like and determine whether the ads bother you. (E-mail addresses and fax numbers have been blacked out).
As you can see, the free outgoing fax services all offer slightly different features, so which one you want to use will depend on what you need to fax. If you are sending something like a job application that needs to look professional, you may want to use GotFreeFax (http://www.gotfreefax.com) because it doesn't place advertisements on your cover page. If you want to fax something that is more than 3 pages or comes in an unusual file format, or if you want to fax something to a country other than the US or Canada, you will probably want to use MyFax Free (http://www.myfax.com/free). If you need to send more than 2 faxes in a given day, you may want to use FaxZero (http://www.faxzero.com). If none of these work for you, you can always use our Simple Scan station.
Incoming Fax Services
The best free option I can find for receiving incoming faxes is K7 (http://www.k7.net/). When you sign up for an account with K7, they will give you an incoming fax number. This number will be randomly assigned and have a Seattle area code. It is not possible to get a fax number with a local area code.
You have three options for receiving your faxes: you can have them stored on K7's website, where you will need to log in to retrieve them; you can have them e-mailed to you as attachments (the attachments will be .tif files, which can be opened using many common programs including Windows Photo Viewer); or you can do both. You will probably want to have them e-mailed, because all messages (read or unread) stored on the website will be deleted after 7 days, and you can only have 20 messages stored on the website at a time (if you receive more than that, the oldest one will be deleted to make room for the newest one). There is no limit to the number of messages you can receive through K7, though the maximum size for each individual message is 2 MB.
There really only seems to be one downside to using K7--if your account is inactive (does not receive any messages) for 30 days, it will be deleted. Your number may then be assigned to another customer, and many people who review K7 online mention that they have received faxes, sometimes containing sensitive information, presumably intended for the previous owner of the number. So if you use K7 and are concerned about privacy, you may want to tell people to notify you before sending you a fax so you can let them know whether the fax number is still valid. You may also want to send yourself a fax at least once a month to make sure your account doesn't expire.
Another option for receiving free incoming faxes is eFax Free (https://en.efax.com/en/intl/efax/signupFree). Like K7, eFax Free will only give you a non-local fax number. (When you are signing up, the website does offer you the option of getting a local number, but if you select this option eFax will ask for your credit card information and the account will no longer be free.)
You will get an e-mail whenever someone sends you a fax through eFax Free. Your fax will be attached to the e-mail as an .efx file. This is a file format used only by eFax, so you will need to download the eFax Messenger software if you want to be able to open the attachment. However, you can also log into eFax's website and view your faxes there without downloading any special software. The faxes will be stored on eFax's website for 30 days.
Besides having to download software to view faxes from your e-mail, eFax Free has one other big drawback: users are limited to receiving 20 pages per month, and your account will be permanently suspended if you exceed this limit, whether you wanted to receive those faxes or not.
For these two reasons I tend to prefer K7, but eFax Free is also a great solution for receiving free incoming faxes. You may prefer eFax Free if you don't plan to receive very many faxes and don't want to go to the trouble of sending yourself a fax every 30 days to keep your account alive.
I hope that this post has given you a better idea of what kinds of fax services are available to you! If you ever need assistance with faxing, our computer lab staff will be happy to help you.