Many small-business owners and people who work at home need to be able to send and receive documents via a fax machine. In the past, that meant buying or leasing a fax machine and paying for additional phone service. Now, several companies offer Internet-based virtual faxing services. These services typically assign fax numbers to customers so they can receive faxes from traditional fax machines.

Typically, fax services charge a monthly fee. Many offer different levels of service, from accounts that can only receive faxes to unlimited local faxing. Some also offer additional services like voice mail.

Here's how the process works:

  1. You sign up for the service.
  2. The service assigns you a fax number and provides instructions for how to send a fax from an email program or a Web interface.
  3. You send and receive faxes as attached documents via email.
  4. The service bills you on a monthly or per-fax basis, depending on your service plan.

Sending and receiving faxes through these services works much like with a traditional fax machine. To send a fax:

  1. You attach the document to an email message and address the message to the recipient's fax number. Depending on your service provider, you may add a domain name (for example: 18005551234@emailfaxes.com). The document can be a scan of a paper document or other types of documents, if the service supports them.
  2. The service translates the attachment so that the recipient's fax machine can read it.
  3. The service sends the data across the phone line.
  4. The recipient's fax machine decodes the data and prints it.

To receive a fax:

  1. The sender dials your fax number.
  2. The fax machine translates the data and transmits it over the phone line.
  3. The service receives the data and translates it into an image file.
  4. The service sends the image file to your email address.
  5. You open the email message and the attachment and view the file.

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