how does faxing work

How Does Traditional and Online Faxing Work?

Wherever there’s an office, you will most likely find a fax machine. This device has been a fixture in many workplaces since the 70s (though it was invented in the 1800s) and has seen itself evolve to meet technological demands through the years.

What is faxing? The main function of a fax machine could be easily summarized as transmitting documents from one location to another in real-time. With this ability, fax machines have proven to be essential office equipment whose purpose remains vital to this day, although in a different shape and form.

From floor-type and desktop units connected to a landline, fax machines can now operate through cell phones and over the internet, allowing users to get out of the office environment and send important documents from wherever they are. To better appreciate this evolution, let’s look at how traditional fax machines worked and compare that with how online faxing operates.


Table of Contents

How Fax Works, The Traditional Way

Traditional fax machines work by using a photosensor to convert spots from your document (either the text or the image) into sounds that represent either white or black. When a document is run through the machine’s rotating drum (or scanner for the newer models), what the machine “sees” is transmitted in Hertz tones and sent to the receiving fax machine to also interpret, convert, and then print into the same spots as the source.

The process requires two fax machines — one from the source and the other from the receiver — and a working landline. Transmitting a document takes only a few minutes. Because of the convenience it affords, fax machines are considered office essentials, particularly for businesses that work with a lot of documentation, such as real estate firms, hospitals, schools, financial institutions, and government offices.

But, gone are the days when faxing involved an actual machine and was dependent on a dial tone. These days, you can send a fax securely using a smartphone with an internet connection.

How Online Faxing Works

How does faxing work online? Sending a document safely over the internet is now possible using your mobile phone. All you have to do is download a digital faxing app (which then assigns you a dedicated fax number), take a photo or scan your document, enter your recipient’s fax number, and hit send. You or your receiver have the option to print the file or keep it saved in the cloud on your respective hard drives.

You don’t need any desktop machines to run the transmittal smoothly. As long as you have an internet connection, you can send or receive a fax at any time and anywhere in the world.

Traditional vs. Online Faxing: A Comparison

To better visualize how a traditional fax machine compares with a digital fax machine, we’ve prepared a table below, which also highlights some pros and cons.

Traditional Fax MachineDigital Fax Machine
Needs two fax machines and a dial toneNeeds a smartphone/laptop and an internet connection
Receiver prints out the documentReceiver has the option to print or archive the document in the cloud or hard drive
Involves lots of paperCan be paperless
Sending and receiving is dependent on the machine’s locationCan send and receive from anywhere
Requires constant maintenance checks, repairs, and replacementLow-maintenance because there are no machines involved
Secure; transmittals are sent through sound signalsSecure; ensure that your online faxing app is HIPAA, GDPR, and GLBA-compliant*

*HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996); GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation 2016/679); GLBA (Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act, also known as the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999)

Send Faxes Efficiently and Securely Online

Thanks to technology, sending sensitive files and documents via fax can be done securely using only our mobile phones.

With iFax’s military-grade encryption standards, you can be confident that transmitting documents is safer than ever. The iFax system is GLBA, HIPAA, and GDPR compliant, ensuring that everything sent through its network does not fall on unauthorized eyes. Start sending faxes quickly and conveniently through iFax’s desktop and mobile apps.

More great articles
how to file form 2553 ifax
How To File Form 2553: Easy Filing via Online Fax

Are you a small business looking to file for S Corporation status with the IRS? Filing tax Form 2553 can…

Read Story
online mobile faxing
Have Questions on Online/Mobile Or On Fax App? Check This Out!

Internet or online based faxing services are gaining the popularity with growing needs of individuals, business owners or corporate industry…

Read Story
enterprise cloud fax solutions
Enterprise Cloud Faxing: 5 Key Benefits and How It Works

Organizations can now leverage enterprise cloud fax services to minimize operating expenses. Instead of fax machines, mobile apps designed with…

Read Story
Subscribe to iFax Newsletter
Get great content to your inbox every week. No spam.

    Only great content, we don’t share your email with third parties.