eFax in your inbox

Category: Internet Fax Utility
Name of tool: eFax Messenger
Company name: eFax.com
Price: free/various monthly service options
URL: http://www.efax.com/
Windows platforms supported: 95, 98, NT, 2000
Quick description:
The eFax service and software gives you the ability to receive and view faxes in your email inbox for free.

Strom-meter:
**** = Very cool and useful

Key features:
Receive faxes anywhere you might be via your email software. For an additional monthly cost, you can also send faxes from your desktop over the Internet without the need to use a fax modem on your PC.

Pros:
Extremely easy and straightforward to use. Notification of faxes can be sent to your cell phone.

Cons:
Before you can view your faxes, you'll need to download and install the eFax desktop software (about 3 MB). Sending faxes is a bit more complex. Fax number may be in a different locality than your own office/home phone number.

Description:

For years I have been using WinFax on my PC in conjunction with my PC's fax modem. But after upgrading my desktop to a machine without any fax modem, I decided to give eFax a try, and I'm glad I did.

eFax is an Internet-based service that creates a special fax number that looks like an ordinary ten-digit phone number. When you call it, you get a fax tone just like an ordinary fax machine. There are a couple of differences, however:

First, there isn't any "real" fax machine at the end of your fax line. Instead, there is some software that routes the fax to your email address. Any Internet-accessible email account can be used. Second, you receive an email message with the fax as an attachment: to view the fax, you first have to download the eFax viewer software and then all you need to do is click on the attachment to see your fax.

The service, for receiving faxes only, is free of charge. You pick a fax number in a random area code -- if you want a fax number in a nearby area code, or if you want to send faxes, you'll have to pony up $5 a month for the eFax Plus service. Not all area codes are available, although the company is adding more choices all the time. For me, this means that while I live on Long Island NY (516 area code), my fax number is western Massachusetts (area code 413). I don't think this is a big issue however.

If you travel and need to receive faxes on the road, eFax can be a lifesaver. Every traveler has stories of sensitive faxes left lying about a hotel's front desk for the entire world to read. eFax makes faxing absolutely secure: the only person who can view it is you, or someone who has access to your email.

The company isn't the only one doing Internet to fax services: there were probably a dozen different providers the last time I checked. But I like the clean and simple interface that eFax offers, and the price is right, too. Plus, the company has been adding options since I signed up for the service about a year ago. You can receive notifications on your cell phone when you get a fax, and you can also add the capability of receiving voice messages as well, which makes eFax more competitive with other unified services such as uReach.com and Jfax.com. This entire configuration is done via a web browser to the eFax web site, and you can also resend faxes in case you deleted them by mistake.

Strom-meter key:
**** = Very cool, very useful.
*** = Hey, not bad. One notch below very cool.
** = A tad shaky to install and use but has some value.
* = Don't waste your time. Minimal real value.

David Strom is president of his own consulting firm in Port Washington, NY. He has tested hundreds of computer products over the past two decades working as a computer journalist, consultant and corporate IT manager. Since 1995, he has written a weekly series of essays on web technologies and marketing called Web Informant. You can send him email at david@strom.com.


This was first published in October 2000

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