Internet fax

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Internet fax uses the internet to receive and send faxes.

Internet faxing (or "online faxing") is a general term which refers to sending a document facsimile using the Internet, rather than using only phone networks (traditional faxing).

Depending on the specific method/implementation (see below), advantages of using the internet can include

  1. no extra telephone line required for the fax
  2. paperless communication, integrated with email
  3. send and receive multiple faxes simultaneously
  4. reduction in phone costs
  5. ability to receive and send faxes from any location that has Internet access

Note that depending on which method is used, suitable equipment and/or the use of a gateway is required (see below).


Traditional fax

The traditional method for sending faxes over phone lines (PSTN)

  • Fax machine → Phone line → Fax machine

A fax machine is an electronic instrument composed of a scanner, a modem, and a printer. It transmits data in the form of pulses via a telephone line to a recipient, usually another fax machine, which then transforms these impulses into images, and prints them on paper.

The traditional method requires a phone line, and only one fax can be connected to send or receive at a time.

Internet Fax

Internet Fax achieves a dramatic reduction in communication costs especially when long faxes are frequently exchanged with overseas or distant offices.

Since there is no telephone connection charge when sending a fax over the Internet, the cost of sending faxes is covered entirely by the fixed line Internet connection fee. The recipient machine must also be compatible with Internet Fax.

Hardcopy is converted to TIFF or PDF data and attached to an e-mail in MIME format. Then, taking advantage of a connection to the office LAN, data is sent via TCP/IP directly to any Internet Fax on the intranet or Internet. Because they make use of TCP/IP, Internet Faxes do not incur long-distance transmission costs and reception is verifiable.

IP Fax and IP Address Relay

IP Fax transmits data over an office intranet from a networked multifunctional device to the IP address of another. Taking advantage of an established LAN / WAN infrastructure, IP Fax eliminates costly connection and transmission fees.

Also, IP Fax does not require a dedicated server or make use of the office mail server. IP Address Relay forwards to a multifunctional device for relaying to a local G3 fax machine.

Computer-based faxing

As modems came into wider use with personal computers, the computer was used to send faxes directly. Instead of first printing a hard copy to be then sent via fax machine, a document could now be printed directly to the software fax, then sent via the computer's modem. Receiving faxes was accomplished similarly.

  • Computer → Phone line → Fax machine
  • Fax Machine → Phone line → Computer

A disadvantage of receiving faxes this way is that the computer has to be turned on and running the fax software to receive any faxes.
Note: This method is distinct from Internet faxing as the information is sent directly over the telephone network, not over the Internet. This will help in communicating from remote places to the fax machines location.

Internet fax servers/gateways

The Internet has enabled development of several other methods of sending and receiving a fax. The more common method is an extension of computer-based faxing, and involves using a fax server/gateway to the Internet to convert between faxes and emails. It is often referred to as "fax to mail" or "mail to fax". This technology is more and more replacing the traditional fax machine because it offers the advantage of dispensing with the machine as well as the additional telephone line.


  • Fax machine → Phone line → Fax gateway → email message (over Internet) → computer email account

A fax is sent via the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) to the fax server, which receives the fax and converts it into PDF or TIFF format, according to the instructions of the user. The fax is then transmitted to the Web server which posts it in the Web interface on the account of the subscriber, who is alerted of the reception by an email containing the fax as an attached file and sometimes by a message on their mobile phone.


  • Computer → Internet → Fax gateway → Phone line → Fax machine

From his/her computer, in the supplier Web site, the user chooses the document s/he wants to send and the fax number of the recipient. When sending, the document is usually converted to PDF format and sent by the Web server to the fax server, which then transmits it to the recipient fax machine via the Standard Telephone Network. Then the user receives a confirmation that the sending was carried out, in his/her web interface and/or by email.

An Internet fax service allows one to send faxes from a computer via an Internet connection, thanks to a Web interface usually available on the supplier's Web site. This technology has many advantages:

  • No fax machine → no maintenance, no paper, toner expenditure, possible repairs, etc.
  • Mobility → All actions are done on the Web interface; the service is thus available from any computer connected to Internet, everywhere in the world.
  • Confidentiality → The faxes are received directly on the account of the user; he is the only one who can access it. The received faxes are then less likely to be lost or read by the wrong people.
  • No installation of software or hardware → All actions are done on the Web interface of the supplier, on the account of the user.
  • No telephone subscription for an additional line dedicated to the fax.
  • Many faxes can be sent or received simultaneously, and faxes can be received while the computer is switched off.

Early email to fax services such as The Phone Company and Digital Chicken were developed in the mid-1990s.

Fax using Voice over IP

Making phone calls over the Internet (Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP) has become increasingly popular. Compressing fax signals is different from compressing voice signals, so a new standard (T.38) has been created for this. If the VoIP adapter and gateway are T.38 compliant, most fax machines can simply be plugged into the VoIP adapter instead of a regular phone line.

  • Fax machine → VoIP adapter → VoIP gateway → Phone line → Fax machine (or vice versa)

As with regular faxes, only one fax can be sent or received at a time.

Fax using email

While the needs of computer-to-fax communications are well covered, the simplicity of quickly faxing a handwritten document combined with the advantages of email are not.

"iFax" (T.37) was designed for fax machines to directly communicate via email. Faxes are sent as e-mail attachments in a TIFF-F format.

  • iFax machine → email message (over Internet) → computer email account
  • iFax machine → email message (over Internet) → iFax machine (using email address)

A new fax machine (supporting iFax/T.37) is required, as well as a known email address for the sending and receiving machines. This has limited the standard's use, though a system for looking up a fax's email address based on its phone number is under development [1].

To work with existing fax machines, all iFax machines support standard faxing (requiring a regular phone line). Alternatively, an iFax can be used in conjunction with a fax gateway.

  • iFax machine → email message (over Internet) → Fax gateway → Phone line → traditional Fax machine (or vice versa)

See also

ko:인터넷 팩스 ja:InternetFAX pl:Faks przez internet ro:Internet Fax zh:网络传真

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