Most people who work in office settings have at least a basic familiarity with fax machines. The concept is simple -- the fax machine scans a document, encodes the information and transmits it across the phone line. The fax machine on the other end of the line decodes the signal and prints a facsimile of the document.

Services that allow people to send faxes via e-mail work on the same principle, but a computer and the Internet take the place of a fax machine. These services assign fax numbers to their customers, and they provide a way to send documents without a fax machine.

To send a fax over e-mail:

  • The sender attaches a file -- like a Microsoft Word file or a scan of a paper document -- to an e-mail message through an e-mail program or a Web interface.
  • The sender addresses the message to the recipient's fax number. Depending on the service, the sender may also add the name of the faxing service (for example: 18005551234@emailfaxes.com).
  • The service translates the attachment so that a fax machine can read it.
  • The service sends the data across the phone line.
  • The recipient's fax machine decodes the data and prints the fax.

To receive a document from a traditional fax machine:

  • The sender dials the recipient's fax number.
  • The fax machine translates and transmits the data.
  • The service receives the data, translates it into an image file and sends it to the recipient's e-mail address.
  • The recipient opens the email message and the attachment and views the file.

E-mail fax services are often less expensive and more flexible than purchasing a traditional fax machine and telephone service for it.

To learn more about email and fax machines, follow these links: