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Are there any benefits left for sending documents via Fax as opposed to email? (assuming that both the sender and receiver have access to either technology). For example, are there cases where Fax is more secure or convenient than Email?

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I edited your question rather heavily. In it's previous form it would have been closed either as off topic or subjective. –  Nifle Apr 14 '11 at 16:30
    
Thanks @Nifle for letting me know. I rolled back the changes because I thought the second part of my question was missing, but feel free to make changes to it again (sorry for acting maybe too quickly) –  user815423426 Apr 14 '11 at 16:31
    
@AmV: @Nifle tried to help you, but you rolled back so the question is now closed as off-topic. –  studiohack Apr 14 '11 at 16:53
    
@studiohack, I don't understand. I apologized for acting too quickly and after seeing Nifle's comment I said that I was more than happy to embrace the changes again. I am not "rejecting" his help, nor was that my intention. Also, if you insist on closing the thread, would you mind suggesting an alternative place to ask this question? –  user815423426 Apr 14 '11 at 17:00
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worked on it...also made community wiki since this is now borderline subjective. good luck! –  studiohack Apr 14 '11 at 17:10

6 Answers 6

up vote 4 down vote accepted

A really big reason are signatures and laws. For example in some countries you can just fax a signature while using digital signatures would require you to get an official digital signature (usually stored on a smart card, if it exists in the first place, and sometimes having less "validity" than a handwritten signature), then get a smart card reader, install middleware which may or may not work with the program you wish to use to sign the document, and then the receiver may also need to have program which will work with the digital signature to confirm it, and so on for the whole chain.

It's not uncommon for some businesses to need to submit signed documents to dozens of different government regulatory offices, agencies, banks and so on and in all of them everyone will have to be trained and equipped to use the digital signature. Such preparations may be made on a level of single country, but what happens if you get a signed e-mail from another country (when the signatures are even more important because the other person can't just come over and sign a document himself and mail takes time and money).

Also the whole process of sending authenticated mail is a bit complicated. For a simple office clerk, it's often easier to just use fax, and then focus on doing the job he's supposed to do.

So basically the main reason is inertia of the society. Everyone needs to get used to e-mails, and almost everyone is already used to using a fax, so transition isn't easy.

Another problem is how difficult it is to access documents. Using a fax, you can easily send handwritten notes, or take a document and underline it by hand and so on. On computer such "simple" things are a bit more complicated. For example, if you have a document on the computer, you'd need to print it, do editing by hand and then scan it, or edit it on the computer, and people often aren't as used to interfacing with computers as they used to interfacing with a pencil. Also, mice are difficult to use for drawing and graphical tablets aren't often a part of standard office computer.

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Faxing official documents with signatures and stuff like that just makes it easier for people at the receiving end. They don't have to go through printing tons of papers, instead the fax will take care of it AND will display your fax number at the top (for easy organization).

I don't think that fax has any significant advantage over email other than this. In the foreseeable future, you might able to have a type of 'email machine' where companies would have an email server with a special email for each department. Every email received would go through filters to remove any kind of spam and only accept legitimate emails. The machine would then catch these emails, send them to the 'email machines' of the department in question and it would be automatically printed off.

I don't know if something like this exists, but it's kinda cool :)

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Automated email printing happens all the time, mostly for executives who are too old school to read email. Many companies have FAX systems that store incoming faxes digitally (usually as a PDF that is emailed to the recipient) so they never touch paper. –  Chris Nava Apr 14 '11 at 16:43
    
That's really cool. Personally I think email should be the only real method of communication when it comes to documents like that. Digitizing it makes it that much more accessible. –  maxmackie Apr 14 '11 at 16:46
    
Yes, fax systems that receive faxes and convert them to email are very common - I'd bet that most larger companies now use them as a matter of course (the ones I know do). Also, most of these system work in both directions: you can also send an image or a pdf (or even a plaintext mail) to a special address, and it will be faxed to the number given in the subject. The only thing remaining is to cut out the fax transmission... –  sleske Apr 18 '11 at 22:18
    
The hopeful future: running a virtual fax server on a computer that has a special address and will automatically sort and print documents. Let's do it. –  maxmackie Apr 18 '11 at 23:06

Faxing is preferred to emailing when legal or critical documents are to be sent because as an earlier responses indicated when you send a fax you are guaranteed that it has arrived. When you send an email there is no guarantee that it has arrived - not getting a bounce back message is not a guarantee of arrival.

A fax can only be sent if there is a fax machine ready and waiting to receive it. If you get notification that a fax has been sent you know that the fax number at the other end has received it.

With regard to if it has been picked up or read by a person that is irrelevant in many cases. If you are sending a legal document you need to know that it has been received. It is up to the recipient to read it and make arrangements to pick it up. Its the same as if you sent registered mail to the address. You have proof of delivery and that is all you need. Your job is done and it is up to the recipient to open and read that mail. If they don’t that is entirely their responsibility. So a fax is safer if you want to have proof of receipt of a document. That is why companies in the financial sector and legal sector rely so heavily on fax for remote communication of documents especially with the laws of traceability - no one can argue that you never sent a fax but they could argue that they never received an email.

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This answer accurately explains why proof of delivery, not proof the document has been read, is the important issue when it comes to legal issues. –  ChrisInEdmonton Jun 13 at 12:54

When you send a fax you know if the other person has received it , where as there are no foolproof methods of confirming that the other party has received and read your mail (as far as i know ) .
Also if you are not sure that the attachment can be opened at the other end you can use fax.

So Acknowledgement of document and guaranteed readability are two situations where you might consider sending an fax instead of email .

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You know the receiving fax machine received the transmission, but it's unlikely you actually know which human picked up the fax off the machine, if any. –  Al E. Apr 14 '11 at 17:35
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Or even that it successfully printed the document. It could be beeping away "PC Load Letter" style. –  Chris Nava Apr 29 '11 at 5:35

Fax is typically sent over telephone lines and the data is uninterrupted and not subject to being intercepted at any number of points over the internet like an email message is. Also fax cannot easily or mistakenly be forwarded to an unintended party like a confidential email can.

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Note that in many countries most (if not all) telephone conversations are actually digitized and sent over the internet. So the difference may be minor. –  sleske Oct 29 '13 at 22:33
    
Additionally, many people with email addresses like firstname@gmail.com or firstname.lastname@gmail.com get emails sent to them mistakenly. –  ChrisInEdmonton Jun 13 at 12:52

I was asked by an insurance company to fax or email banking information. I opted for old school fax simply because chances of being intercepted by a third party is far less. But mostly because the email along with my banking info would remain on my email server, and on the insurance company's server, legally for a long time and perhaps forever. Given the recent email hacks, it is not worth the risk.

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You should backup your statement "chances of being intercepted by a third party is far less". Otherwise this answer is just as likely as stating "chances of being intercepted by a third party are high" –  Jan Doggen Nov 21 at 15:21

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