Sep 21, 2010

Free fax to e-mail service

While browsing the blogs of various colleagues, I ran into an interesting note from Céline Graciet mentioning her use of a free fax to e-mail service as part of a planned move to the UK. I followed the link out of curiosity and decided to give it a try. Signing up took a few minutes, then I was give a local telephone number to use for receiving faxes. However, the web page that communicated this information didn't say where it was local. My best guess was somewhere in the UK, so I tried faxing from my real landline fax number, adding the +44 prefix to the number from the web page.

It worked. In just a few minutes I could see TIFF files for the faxes on the account area on the web site. A few minutes later I received copies of the faxes as e-mail attachments.

I haven't looked into the security issues with the site yet; I'll probably be appalled when I do. Maybe not. It's an interesting application and one for which I can see some integration possibilities with other applications I use, such as's Online Translation Manager. I can see this being useful when I'm travelling or to save me the trouble of re-scanning faxes for OCR purposes. I used to use a fax modem many years ago for similar reasons, but faxes have become such a rare thing in my business over the past decade that I haven't bothered about such solutions in a long time.


  1. If you have a Fritz!-Box or a similar kind of device, any fax gets forwarded to a specified email adress (with VoIP you may attribute different numbers). Even with actual smart phones, no problem to receive faxes.

  2. I had heard that the current generation of Fritz Boxes does a lot more than the one I bought a decade ago does. However, that solution presumes that you have a land line connection somewhere. During a move that may not be the case, and many people are giving up land lines altogether now, I hear.

    The mobile and online solutions are more interesting in such cases. Some, like eFax, allow you to send and receive, but there are generally fees involved of some kind.

  3. Kevin,

    While this service sounds very good, one must think if it affects the NDA or any other legal paperwork. In US, most of the translation work is regulated by HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). Processing any private documents using 3rd party requires their signature on HIPAA compliance paperwork. Which, I think, is going to be very hard to get.

    Dennis Ayzin Blog

  4. Indeed. For sending faxes, I also recommend commercial solutions (SimpleFax, PamFax), but come on, our rates are not too low to pay a fax, are they?

    But in my humble opinion, one of the important things is that these fax services allow to modify the header. What shall clients think if you send faxes with rare headers or even ads?

  5. @Dennis: I'll leave the detailed legal opinions to the attorneys among us, but suitable declarations or disclaimers displayed together with the number may address some of that. E-mail itself is rather insecure, and many companies who go bonkers with making contractors sign NDAs then compromise confidentiality themselves by sending critical content in unencrypted mail. (As an aside, I hate dealing with encrypted e-mail - one client of mine insisted that I use a system developed by the German government, and most of the time it managed to crash my PC. That's another reason I have grow to like solutions like OTM that offer encrypted uploads and downloads of project files. From what I've see so far, however, e-mail is still a weak link with these and should probably have integrated public key encryption features in the future for those who need to use it.)

    @Torsten: Thank you for raising those points :-) While I've seldom been one to cut corners for useful infrastructure (except servers, which I've managed not to get right in 20+ years), as you have probably noticed, translators are among the most self-destructive people I know when it comes to basic investments and expenditures to improve their business and business image. How many still don't "get it" and do business with e-mail accounts on the,,,,,, etc. domains (free & ISP-provided)? I've been involved in those silly debates dozens of times in the past 15+ years, though they are largely a waste of time.

    *rant off*
    Nonetheless, this solution Céline found is useful to consider, not necessarily for that specific service itself, but as a capability to add to one's workflow infrastructure. If fax still played the role that it did in my business 15 years ago, I probably would have done something like this long ago with Fritz Boxes or similar (in fact I did from about 1992 to 1999), but this still comes up often enough to be a low-level annoyance for which I tell myself action is necessary at some point. I have had customers who for whatever reason prefer to send me job confirmations by fax. I ask them to send them by e-mail but they often forget, giving me extra steps to deal with in my workflow. With a service like this (in-house or provided elsewhere) it's not much of an issue any more.

  6. Point taken.

    Never say "something useful" when you could say "a capability to add to one's workflow infrastructure". ;-)


  7. @Andy: Touché. Looks like I've been translating too many corporate documents and need a loooong vacation....

  8. I over-react.

    The result of spending too much time in a web-enabled, cross-functional, multi-currency, multi-client, target- focused, multidisclipinary, enriched environment.

    Well, that's what me Mum says.....

  9. My 2 cents on the fax to e-mail topic. Up-to-date and inspiring as always MASHABLE, May 2010:

    Thanks to you all for your insight!


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