Do I Need an Additional Line to Fax From a Printer?

By Mindi Orth

Printers with fax capabilities can share the phone line with other devices.
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If you use an all-in-one printer, you may not need an additional phone line to take advantage of the device’s fax capabilities. Depending on the number of fax messages your business sends and receives daily, you may choose to share the line rather than spend company funds on adding a new line. If you choose to share the line with another device, however, there are a few things to remember to ensure your printer’s fax machine functions properly.

Analog Connection

Even though you don’t need a dedicated phone line for your all-in-one printer to send and receive fax messages, you may need an analog phone line. Although many new all-in-one printer models feature the ability to communicate using an analog or a digital connection, many older and lower-end models require an analog connection to communicate properly. If your business uses an all-digital or voice-over-IP phone system and you have a printer with analog-only fax capabilities, you must connect the device to the phone system using a special digital converter box.

Physical Connection

Your fax component of your printer contains two ports that allow you to connect a phone line and other telephone accessories to the device. Connecting the phone line to the port labeled “Line” provides the necessary communications link to send and receive fax messages. You can use any standard telephone cable to form this connection. The port labeled “EXT” allows you to share the phone line with other telephone devices, such as an answering machine, caller ID box or a telephone handset (if your printer doesn’t include one). To use these ports requires no additional setup other than the physical connection.

Special Functionality

Regardless of whether you use a shared or dedicated phone line, some printers allow you to utilize special call-handling features without human intervention. For example, the Delayed Answer feature allows you to configure the fax to wait a certain number of rings before answering the call. This can be beneficial when sharing a phone line with a device such as an answering machine because it allows that device to answer the call and either record a voice message or pass an incoming fax message back to the printer. Another example includes the Automatic Answer feature that allows the printer to answer all calls and receive incoming fax messages without user intervention. This feature, however, is best for those using a dedicated fax line.

Other Considerations

If your business sends and receives numerous fax messages daily, sharing the phone line with another device may result in missed messages and potentially a missed opportunity. In this case, a dedicated line offers the best business solution. If your business doesn’t fall into this category, however, sharing the phone line provides the cost savings associated with the installation and ongoing maintenance of adding a dedicated fax line.