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10 Tips for Selecting an Internet Fax Service

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You've seen the studies, and you know that you can save as much as 93% on the cost of adding fax capabilities and 89% of the monthly cost by using an Internet fax service instead of a fax machine or fax server in your law firm. You also know you can improve privacy, simplify document management, and extend your faxing capabilities everywhere — even to individual properties. Now the question is ''Which one do I choose?''

The following are 10 tips legal firms can use to help sort through the myriad of choices in order to get the best combination of features and flexibility:
  1. Make sure you can receive faxes either via email or online. Some services limit you to email delivery only, which can be a problem for agents who are not connected to the office. You'll want to be sure you can send and receive faxes anywhere there's an Internet connection — even if you can't access email. That way you'll be able to review the fax, forward a clean copy, and append a note if required — all without having to print the document.

  2. Watch out for hidden charges. While free services may be tempting, there are often hidden charges, such as fees for going over your limit on received faxes or failed faxes. Toll-free numbers can also become expensive if the service appends a charge to incoming faxes that use your 800 number. Be sure you understand up front what you're paying for, what the limitations are, and how you will be invoiced each month.

  3. Check for the availability of different file formats. Most Internet fax service providers will deliver faxes to you as TIF file attachments. That works fine — unless you are trying to tie in to an existing document management system that requires a different format. Your service should be able to deliver documents in a range of other formats that work with common office tools, including Adobe Acrobat (PDF).

  4. Don't get tied down to one email address. One of the purposes of using Internet faxing is to provide you with flexibility. A good service will make it easy to change or add multiple email addresses online so you can always receive that important fax when you need it.

  5. Research the company behind the service. There are numerous providers that literally operate out of basements in their homes with just a handful of people. This creates a risk that the small operation's server will go down just when you need it most. Be sure the service has the capacity and reliability you require. Seek out product reviews, read online forums and blogs, and talk to others who use the service.

  6. Get a confirmation of fax results. With a standard fax machine, it's easy to see whether the fax went through. Because Internet faxes are electronic documents, there are no success stamps to see. A good Internet fax service will send confirmation emails directly to your inbox with complete log information so there's no guesswork.

  7. Check out the scalability. Different Internet fax services can accommodate a wide range as far as the number of users goes. Ideally, you should be able to go from one to 1,000 as your business grows without having to change numbers.

  8. Know your limitations. Each Internet fax service has its own threshold regarding how many faxes are included in the monthly fee and what the charges are for going beyond those limitations. Be particularly wary of services that promise "unlimited" numbers of inbound or outbound faxes. Check the fine print in the user agreement; often there actually are limits hidden within it.

  9. Confirm that help is available if needed. Make sure you can get support when you need it, preferably 24/7 support with a live person who knows the service and can help you solve problems quickly. If not, you'll be faxing at your own risk.

  10. Ensure you have complete independence. You should be able to both send and receive faxes from your email account anywhere you can connect to the Internet without having to download additional software.
Faxing is a critical tool for nearly every law firm, so you want to be sure you make a wise decision on how to do it. Follow these tips, and you'll be 99.998% sure to get an Internet fax service that meets all your requirements.

About the Author

Steve Adams is vice president of marketing for MyFax, a provider of Internet faxing services for individual home users, small businesses, and large corporations. MyFax has won a number of awards in head-to-head competitions for ease of use, reliability, and best overall value. Steve can be reached at sadams@protus.com.