Why Faxing is Still Relevant in the 21st Century

By Darin McGinnes

Why would a communication technology that was conceived in the 19th Century and perfected in the 20th Century, still be important today in the 21st Century? The simple answer: faxing is a guaranteed delivery technology that email has yet to achieve. For those of us who work in the industry, this might be stating the obvious. But for the uninitiated, most believe faxing is practically dead, after all aren’t we in the Information Age? My answer: not so fast, as faxing is still alive and well!

Don’t get me wrong, email is a wonderful, convenient, and easy to use technology that for many businesses that relied on faxing in the past, do not need to use it as much anymore. But if you’re in an industry such as medical, finance, legal, or construction, you know that email isn’t good enough when it comes to delivering or receiving important, time sensitive or legal documents. In this respect, one may wonder why faxing is superior to email. It all comes down to the fact that a fax is considered a legal document because the transaction can be confirmed while email cannot.

Let’s look at how a fax is transmitted vs. email.  Email is built upon technology from the internet. It uses packet switch technology, which means it’s unreliable. Not that it’s ineffective, but the sender never knows for sure if the other side received the email as it is sent best effort only. Worse yet, it also could be easily intercepted by unscrupulous types. Faxing, on the other hand, is built upon technology from the tried and true public switched telephone network, the oldest communications network in the world. It uses circuit switch technology, which means that it’s reliable; both parties will know if the fax was sent successfully or not. Also, intercepting a fax transmission is much more difficult. And for those of you who are thinking: what about VOIP? Well, all that’s about is emulating a point-to-point circuit switched phone conversation over the packet switched internet. Circuit switched reliability is still intact.

One may ask if there is a better way to fax. After all, using traditional fax machines can be an unwieldy, inefficient process. Not to mention the difficult, time consuming process of integrating with business applications such as ERP, CRM, or document management systems. My answer to you is the fax server.

Either with an enterprise software solution like Open Text Fax Server, RightFax Edition or an appliance solution like Open Text Fax Appliance, FaxPress Edition, a fax server shields the inefficiency of sending or receiving faxes from the end user. It allows users to conveniently send and receive faxes from the desktop or leverage existing multifunction printers or scanners to send hard copy faxes. Furthermore fax servers seamlessly integrate with back office business applications that allow customers to realize a true paperless office, bringing the clunky fax into the 21st century of technology and convenience.

To learn more, download one of our free whitepapers:

Implementing Fax over IP in your Organization

Network Faxing with Open Text Fax Appliance, FaxPress Edition 

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2 Responses to “Why Faxing is Still Relevant in the 21st Century”


  1. 1 What February 19, 2010 at 10:20 am

    I’m confused as to what this article is primarily trying to accomplish. It seems to be promoting faxing but at the same time undermining the packet-switched network which drives email, VOIP, streaming video and the rest of the internet. It reads like the author did a few quick Google searches and then came to their own conclusions while having little to no knowledge on network theory.

    You’re correct when you say that packet-switching technology is unreliable, however this is only true in theory. What makes up for this is the guaranteed delivery of data made possible by connection-oriented protocols like TCP. Also, modern email programs allow messages to be sent with delivery receipts if requested. Once the email is successfully delivered, a receipt message is generated and sent to the sender for their records. Yes this can be intercepted and spoofed, but so can faxes given that PSTN security exists primarily on formal law and documentation; not with implemented counter-measures on the network itself at least compared to the packet-switched environment.

    As well, the reliabilty of VOIP has nothing to do with the circuit-switching emulation you mentioned. The reliability has to do with the guaranteed delivery of data made possible by connection-oriented protocols as mentioned above that exists at the packet-switched layer.

    The only reason that fax still exists today is because of the legality of faxed documents, as you mentioned. The supposed unreliability of email and packet-switched networks is fabricated and has nothing to do with promoting faxing.

  2. 2 faxblogger February 19, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    Thank you for your comment. This blog was intended to shed some light on why fax delivery of documents is still valid today. This begs the question on why a fax delivered document is considered legally binding and email delivery is not? The answer hinges on the way a fax is delivered vs. email, notwithstanding internet protocols such as TCP, etc. When a user sends or receives a fax document, the user and the remote side knows if the document was successfully received or not without requiring additional mechanisms such as a delivery receipt used in email. And by the way, an email delivery receipt only acknowledges that the email server, hosting the recipients email address, received the email, not the recipient itself. Even though email delivery might be reliable 99% of the time, it’s the 1% that’s the “gotcha.”


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