Back in the old days the only way to store fax messages was to wait for them to be printed out by the fax machine and then put them into a physical storage after they had been read by the recipient. Nowadays, storing printed faxes is not only highly inconvenient – they take up space and could end up lost or fade over time – but in an age where being environmentally friendly is the social norm, the idea of wasting ink and paper in such a way is something that should be avoided at any cost.
Thankfully, modern fax machines can effectively store inbound fax messages in their memories, which is a huge asset in keeping the office as paperless as possible. However, using this advanced feature of fax machines isn’t the only way to store incoming faxes in a digital format, you just need to direct your attention to the clouds.
Fax Machine Memories: Close Enough
The latest fax machines – particularly business-grade IP models – all have built-in memories specifically designed to store faxes to be printed out later or that aren’t intended for printing at all. The good thing about this feature is that faxes won’t waste ink and paper when they are transmitted, plus the documents cannot be read by any unauthorized people unless the message is printed out or forwarded to another computer using the same local network as the fax machine.
However, unlike cloud solutions – which we’ll talk about soon – fax machine memories are quite limited, meaning that the device automatically deletes the oldest fax messages to make place for newer ones. The only way to prevent this without using paper is if faxes are either forwarded as an email attachment after transmission is completed – which requires additional settings to be activated – or are manually exported to a computer, a flash drive, or the cloud. Simply put, relying on a fax machine’s memory should only be considered a temporary solution and the messages themselves should be saved to another storage as soon as possible.
Storing on a Computer
One of the most logical solutions for preventing inbound faxes from being lost without actually printing them is to store them on the hard drive of a computer or a smartphone in a separate folder. This is a practical approach as it works perfectly for fax machines and online fax services alike. Not only can both methods be set up to forward faxes to email as PDF attachments but they also allow users to directly download facsimiles from the storage.
The only problem with this approach is that computers and mobiles aren’t invulnerable at all. For starters, they could be physically damaged, but there is also a chance that due to hardware malfunction the entire device has to be reconfigured. In either case, the result is huge data loss on the hard drives, including the saved fax messages. This could be unnerving at first but, unlike fax machines, PCs and smartphones have one major advantage in that the files stored on them can be backed up not only to physical external drives but to the cloud as well.
Saved by the Cloud
The cloud is probably the best option for taking care of inbound fax messages, as it provides an endless amount of storage without occupying any precious hardware space. In fact, it is this concept that online faxing services are also based on, meaning that regardless of how many inbound faxes are received, they will always be available from within the encrypted online fax manager until deleted either manually or, in case of HIPAA-compliant services, automatically after a certain predetermined amount of time. And there’s no need to worry about accidentally deleting faxes, either, since online fax services can automatically forward faxes as email attachments to provide users with yet another means of backup.
Speaking of which, there is also the option to save the fax as a PDF to the computer – or mobile, for that matter – and then let an online backup service import the device’s content to the user’s personal cloud storage, where the faxes will definitely be safe from being lost or seen by unauthorized people.