The Importance of Fax Machines

By Daniella Lauren

Updated September 26, 2017

Long before email was invented, the fax machine was the main way of quickly communicating in the office setting. The facsimile, or fax, machine is a means of sending a copy of information, by way of a telephone line, and is typically used for placing orders with companies or for sending legal documents quickly.


The modern fax machine came into common use during the 1980s, however the patent for the fax machine was granted to Alexander Bain in 1843, 33 years before the invention of the telephone. The fax machine first became significant in 1906 when used for transmitting photos to newspapers.


Faxes are transmitted securely and virtually instantaneously, which is a benefit when sending confidential and legal documents. Other industries that rely on fax machine transmission include real estate and sales companies, who depend on faxes for ordering purposes. With the prevalence of email in the work place, in 2007 more faxes were sent out than in any other year.


Dedicated fax machines are machines only used for faxing process. Since fax machines use a telephone line, phone calls can be made from the machine, however it is not the primary function.

Multifunction printers include hardware for use as a fax machine, scanner, printer and copier. These devices normally take longer to operate, so experts suggest “if you need to send more than a handful of faxes per week, you'll get your money's worth from a dedicated fax machine,” according to Consumer Research.

Fax modems are available as internal or external computer devices. The drawback of fax modems is that documents to be faxed must be in an electronic form. The primary disadvantage of fax modems is the required optical scanner required for faxing of paper documents.

Fax-to-email services, offered by companies such as Packetel, allow faxes to be sent to email accounts as PDF documents. Benefits of fax-to-email services include text alerts when faxes are received, availability of several email addresses, and low prices ($3.65 a month for Packetel).


Those contemplating purchasing a fax machine should take the following into consideration: 1. Printing technology. Laser fax machines are more durable and have higher print quality, but are more expensive. 2. Speed. Transmission speeds vary from three to 15 seconds per page. If you won’t fax often, consider purchasing a slower, less-expensive machine. 3. Memory. If the fax machine runs out of paper, modest machines will store about 25 pages, whereas high-end machines will store up to 500 pages. 4. Other features. Consider what other options, such as speed dial and fax forwarding, you might need.


The most common fax machine problems include image quality, paper jams and connectivity issues.

Image quality issues include blotches, streaks, and type that is too dark or too light. Ensure that the toner cartridge is in proper working order, has sufficient toner, and is not leaking powder.

When working with paper jams, make sure to remove paper in the natural way the paper will travel. Trying to remove paper in the opposite direction could result in damage to the wheels or gears, and leave small shreds of paper in the machine.

Communication errors normally deal with the phone company. If a dial tone is present but faxes are still not receivable, contact the phone company to ensure there is not interference.