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A fax service is a business that sends and receives faxes for other people, typically for a small charge or as a part of a larger service. Many businesses that have a lot of walk-in clients, such as private post offices, wrapping and shipping services, copy centers, and real estate offices often also offer fax service as a way of supplementing their income while providing customers with another reason to come into the office. Such services can also be found through various online providers.
Facsimile machines, called fax machines for short, have been around in concept since 1843, but fax machines were not in common use until the 1980s. They allow the nearly instant transmission of a paper document over telephone lines. Not everybody owns a fax machine, and for those who don’t, using a fax service is often the best choice.
A fax service will send and receive faxes for the public for a flat rate per page. The rate tends to be quite high when compared to the cost of transmitting documents from a personal machine, but for someone who doesn’t need to send or receive a lot of faxes it can be more economical than buying a machine. Such businesses often provide their fax number, and clients who need to receive a fax give that number to the sender, then pay when they go to pick up their papers.
There are many different online fax services to choose from that allow the user to send and receive faxes through a computer. To send, the recipient’s information is typically typed into a form on the fax service website. The body of the text is typed, attached, or scanned in. When the fax is sent it will print out on the recipient's fax machine.
An online fax service also provides users with a unique fax number that can be given out to anyone who wishes to send him or her a fax. The sender cannot tell that the fax is being sent through a service, and simply sends the fax to the number. When it arrives, the recipient gets an email notification, and the fax can be opened and read in the computer or printed out for reference.
Some companies have several levels of service, allowing users to pay for what they need; using an online fax service varies in price, and may even be free for users who send very few faxes, typically two or three short faxes each month. Free or low-cost versions will generally contain some type of advertising on the cover sheet, which may limit their usefulness for business, but is normally not a problem for private users. If an individual or a business needs to send more than the amount allowed by the free service, he or she might consider a paid, ad-free service, which is usually not very expensive. Advertising is not normally attached to faxes sent or received by paid subscribers, and businesses as well as individuals can use this type of fax service instead of owning a fax machine, if desired.
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