Spheres that Still Rely on Faxes a Lot

First invented in the 1850s and touted as having the ability to send “picture telegraphs,” the fax machine really hit it big at the 1929 World’s Fair. People marveled that photos from around the world could be transmitted at the crazy fast speed of eighteen minutes per page.

By the 1980s, fax machine prices had dropped and transmission rates soared. For the next decade, faxes were at the height of their popularity. Until the late 1990s, faxing was considered the best way to conduct business quickly and efficiently.

And then the Internet appeared. You might think that would’ve been the end for the trusty old fax. But even though it may seem like an antiquated technology, you might be surprised to find out that faxing is still alive and thriving in 2019. In some sectors like healthcare and financial services, it’s often even a requirement. So now the question becomes: Why?

If It Isn’t Broken, Why Fix It

On some level, the fax is still around because it’s pretty much a no brainer—a tried and true method of communication. Even people who are uncomfortable with today’s technological advances have no problem using a fax. If you can dial a phone number, you can operate a fax machine.

Especially for small businesses running on even smaller margins, faxing simply makes the most sense from a cost perspective.  There’s no push to adopt new and expensive document exchange applications when a fax suffices just fine. It’s cheap and easy.

Within the segment of the population that’s resistant to change, the fax machine’s staying power lies in its comfort. As long as companies are still faxing, customers and suppliers will continue to respond in kind so as not to interrupt the flow of business. It becomes an uninterrupted cycle.

Stories of Millennials confounded by using such an old technology at work abound online. But a closer examination of these find that once the younger generation gets over the anachronistic look of the machine, they work out the details just fine. Scan, copy, send, done.

Popularity and Confidentiality

In many countries, such as Germany and Japan, faxing is still extremely popular. If you’re doing business with global client who relies on faxed transmissions, only makes sense to do the same in return.

Specific industries rely on faxing as a first choice communication method. In the healthcare sphere, faxing meets the required patient privacy standards. Although competing Cloud-based technologies are available, security of patient data is often not assured in these. Until this gets figured out, medical professionals will continue fax medical records to ensure legal compliance.

Law enforcement uses faxes to post bail and order public records.  Though there are horror stories of people being detained despite having posted bail because the faxes were malfunctioning, faxed funds are still the only way to get out of jail.

Even the FBI prefers faxing to emailing. The agency requires all email messages to be encrypted but allows for unencrypted faxes—because it’s much harder to intercept a fax communication than an Internet-based one.

Legal and Secure

Faxed signatures have been legally accepted since the 80s. In 2000, digital signatures were awarded the same legal power as faxed ones. However, many people and business still choose not to accept them as such. Another reason people prefer faxing is that it leaves a paper trail. Protected by wiretapping laws, fax logs can be subpoenaed and stand up well in court.

Faxes are also harder to hack than computer technologies. They can’t become infected with malware or ransomware. And honestly, they’re just not terribly appealing to cyber criminals anyhow: Why try to intercept a one-to-one communication when there are enormous databases of financial information just floating out there on the Internet?

Besides, faxing is generally foolproof. As long as you input the correct phone number, documents end up in the right hands, at the right time. (Although this isn’t always the case: In 2013, Denver Broncos football player Elvis Dumervil had at the last minute reluctantly agreed to a rather large pay cut. He ran to a local business to fax in his amended contract by the set deadline. The transmission somehow got delayed and arrived 6 minutes late. The Broncos promply cut the Dumervil—who then turned around and signed a 5-year deal for nearly four times as much money with the Baltimore Ravens.)

Faxing for the win!

Is Faxing for You?

By now, you may be asking yourself if you should take a step back in time and start faxing again. After all, it’s cost effective, simple, and secure. In some cases, you might even be able to take advantage of free faxing. So what are you waiting for? Fax away!