Advantages And Disadvantages Of Fax Machines

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Fax Machines

Last Updated on by Daniel Lawrence

If your aim of coming to this guide is to know all about fax machines, then you are at the right guide. So you should read through this guide as we show you all the information’s about the fax machine you need.

What is a Fax Machine?

A fax machine is a device that is used to send documents electronically over a telephone network.

The transmissions it sends are called “faxes,” and these can be between two fax machines, or between a fax machine and computer or online fax service that is equipped to send and receive faxes.

Or A device that sends and receives printed pages or images over telephone lines by digitizing the material with an internal optical scanner and transmitting the information as electronic signals.

How do fax machines work?

Like a cross between a telephone and a printer, fax machines copy documents in one location and print them out in another — even thousands of miles apart. Before the ubiquity of computers and high-speed internet and when the other options were snail mail or a courier, fax could relatively quickly transmit medical records to doctors, photos to newspapers, and invoices to clients. But how do fax machines work?

“Basically, a fax machine scans an image or a document line by line, then transmits that scan to a receiver where it’s printed out and reproduced,” said Jonathan Coopersmith, author of “Faxed: The Rise and Fall of the Fax Machine” (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015) and professor of history at Texas A&M University.

Faxes operate on telephone lines today, but early faxes (short for facsimile machines) used telegraph lines, which transmitted text messages using codes of long and short pulses, such as Morse code. In fact, the fax was invented in 1843, three decades before the telephone. Faxes have kept the same fundamental design and function since that time, but the mechanics have changed, Coopersmith said.

In the 19th century, a fax machine’s stylus moved over a document that was held in place. Each document had a message that was written in ink coated with a treated dry resin known as shellac powder. “As your stylus goes, most of the line will be blank, but then it hits shellac, which raises the stylus and sends a beep to say there’s something here, there’s black here,” Coopersmith told Live Science.

Today, faxes optically scan documents without physically touching them. These machines shine a light, which reflects off of the black (or printed) areas of the surface but not the white (or blank) areas.

The key to functioning fax is having two separate telephone lines, Lopes said. One line for the actual phone and another for the fax. “If the fax uses the same line as the phone and someone picks up the phone in the middle, that will interrupt and knock off the transmission,” he said. That means paper jams, starting over, or both.

Although fax machines may seem outdated today compared with the convenience of attaching a PDF to an email or collaborating on a Google Doc, many medical offices and small businesses still rely on faxes. And there’s home use, too.

The Advantages

You’re probably more used to answering emails than dealing with fax machines, but faxes are still used by many companies and employees. While email is certainly more convenient, several advantages make faxing a preferred method of communication.

  • Reliability

Emails require your recipient to have the right software or technical knowledge to open any document you send. That’s never a problem with a fax machine though. All you need is the machine and a recipient fax number.

Fax machines are therefore easy to use, not to mention much more secure. Faxes do not have viruses like emails and won’t have potential programming malfunctions like computers. Mail won’t get lost like it does when you send it manually either.

Faxes are simply sent to the right number as soon as you enter the information.

  • Installation

Installation of fax machines is really simple that doesn’t require any special training. There is no complicated cabling process or various pieces of hardware needed for the setup. Only the fax machines needed to be connected to the telephone line and the wall socket. And then it will be ready to be used.

  • Security

Computers and emails can be hacked, with the documents you send intercepted. If you’d like your office to be secure, a fax machine is the safest form of communication you can have. There’s no risk in receiving fax either, unlike if you get an email that might contain a virus.

On top of that, no harmful software can damage your files. At the same time, you receive proof that your document has been sent. This means that you have evidence that your document has gotten to where it needs to go right away.

If you’re part of an industry where documents must be received immediately, fax machines are invaluable.

  • Convenient Method

As mentioned, when you send a fax, your recipient gets it immediately. While emails do move quickly, they can take time if the file is large. It’s also much easier to send physical documents when you’re using a fax machine – you just insert it into the machine and enter a number.

Emails, on the other hand, need to be scanned, uploaded, and sent to the right person. With fax, you’ll save some money transferring physical documents too.

Instead of sending the document yourself, a fax machine provides you with a quick and cost-effective method of document transmission.

  • Legality

Fax machines allow the sender to transmit handwritten documents to the recipient so that they will be having exact copies of them. As a result, this kind of documents can be used in legal procedures including in court.

  • Ease of Use

Since fax machines have been used in offices for decades now, most people know how to use them. Even if you don’t know how though, they’re easy to operate and you won’t spend too much time trying to figure it out.

The Disadvantages

The fax will never be obsolete due to all the advantages that accompany this piece of technology. However, there are still some real disadvantages to relying on fax technology. Like any other piece of technology, it has its problems.

  • Technology Failure

If you depend too much on your fax machine and it fails for some reason, you’ll have some problems finding a new way to operate. You can’t fully rely on any one piece of technology, including the fax machine.

  • Security Questions

Fax machines are very secure since they cannot be hacked like emails can. However, that doesn’t mean that they’re completely safe. Information thieves know how to pull data from old fax machines or discarded printing cartridges.

This means that when you submit a document, there’s still a possibility that someone could access your data or the data of your customers. People can also see all of the faxes sent if they physically pass by the fax machine.

In other words, having your fax machine in the copy room of your office means that anyone passing by can see it.

  • Malfunctions

Similar to other technological devices, fax machines too fail after some time. For sending and receiving a fax, both of the machines should be functioning properly. If either of the machine fails, there is no way to transmit documents unless the machines are repaired or replaced.

  • Required Maintenance

Fax machines need maintenance. This means that you need paper, ink, toner, and other equipment for you to be able to transmit your faxes. Make sure that you have a checklist to remember everything you need if you want your fax machine to keep working.

  • Landline Phone Number

You can’t use a fax machine unless you have an actual landline phone. This is less common these days, as everyone uses cell phones. However, you have to have an actual landline if you want to use a fax machine.

Of course, you can also fax your documents online with the many online services available now, so you’re not necessarily unable to fax if you don’t have a landline.

  • Less Convenient

Faxes are convenient in terms of speed, but they also cannot be reached easily. If you’re out of the office and you need to send a document, you can’t send a fax until you return. You also cannot multitask with a fax machine.

It’s not possible to send and receive a fax at the same time or send multiple faxes at once. This means that when sending to more than one people, you have to send multiple faxes.

  • Multitasking

Fax machines don’t support multitasking features. Which means that they cannot send and receive faxes at the same time. Moreover, they don’t have the capability to send multiple faxes simultaneously. For example, if a fax document needs to be sent to 20 recipients the process must be done individually.


Many companies continue to use fax machines even with the age of cellphones and emails. It’s not uncommon, considering the ease of use, security, and convenience of a fax machine; yet, there are serious disadvantages too.

Faxes are less convenient in some ways and require you to maintain them. With both advantages and disadvantages to using a fax machine, you may or may not want one for your office. However, faxing online is also a possibility, so you might want to consider that too.