eFax How-Tos

What Is a Fax?

Explore the fundamentals of faxing and the functionalities of a fax machine.

Fax Definition and Meaning

Fax, short for facsimile and also known as telecopying, is a form of communication that involves scanning and transmitting printed documents from one machine to another. This facsimile meaning traditionally involves fax messages being sent from a telephone number associated with a fax machine, printer or other electronic device. In the modern world, fax technology operates digitally without physical paper or printers.

Fax systems are often used when businesses need to share documents quickly and securely. Fax technology works by enabling people to instantly send data over long distances, which saves time and money compared to other communication methods. The systems use fax numbers, which offer security as each document receives a code that ensures only authorized recipients can access their contents.

Fax technology has grown in popularity recently, enabling people to send large files and multiple documents simultaneously. This is ideal for organizations that distribute vast quantities of information via computers and smartphones.

How Does A Fax Machine Work?

Traditional fax machines work by scanning a document, which transforms the original text and images into a single fixed graphic image and converts it into a bitmap. Now in digital form, the data can be transmitted to another fax machine through electrical signals over the public switched telephone network (PSTN). At the other end, the receiving fax machine converts the digital version of the data to print a copy of it.

Most fax machines conform to the Group 3 communication standard, developed in 1980 to protect communication through the PSTN. What is fax standard involves scanning information with a charged-coupled device, which is a solid-state scanner with thousands of photosensors. Each photosensor generates a variation in voltage depending on whether scanned spots are black or white and a scan of a single sheet can generate up to two million variations in voltage.

The variations are converted into binary digits or bits and then sent to a source encoder that compresses the bits to speed up transmission. The encoded bit stream is submitted to a modem that transmits it to the telephone network. The transmitting and receiving fax machines then exchange signals to establish features like modem speed, printing resolution, and source code. Page information is transmitted and followed by a signal that informs all pages have been sent and the calling machine can disconnect the line. The receiving machine then demodulates, decodes and stores the signal to release it to the printer.

Modern fax machines use a xerographic printing process that uses a beam of light from a light-emitting diode or semiconductor laser across a rotating drum. The drum collects toner powder relating to the black spots on the sent document and transfers toner to the paper.

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How Fax Systems Have Evolved Over Time

Are you wondering ‘when was the fax machine invented?’. The telephone fax machine was first produced by Xerox in the 1960s. However, the fax definition has its roots in the electric printing telegraph invented by Alexander Baine in 1843, which simulated a two-dimensional image on paper to extend the capabilities of the telegraph. Fax technology developed rapidly over the next century, including the RCA which invented the Radiophoto, which used radio waves rather than telephone lines to transmit information, in 1924. It became standard business equipment by the end of the 1970s, and a copy and scan function was added in the 1980s.

Early fax technology operated a manual process that relied on voice confirmation and only allowed users to send one page at a time. But in 1966, Xerox’s Magnafax Telecopier became the first commercial fax machine. It enabled higher-quality printing and was smaller, lighter, and more affordable. Later fax systems used digital technology to enhance flexibility and remove the need for specialist paper types.

Modern fax machines use laser technology, the Internet and energy-saving features to maximize performance. Internet-based fax systems were introduced in 2010 to enable paperless faxing, allowing users to send documents quickly and securely from home. As a result, organizations have turned to cloud-based servers and online phone numbers to facilitate the sending and receipt of fax messages.

What is a Fax Number?

fax number is a dedicated phone number that enables users to send messages to other devices and digital solutions. Fax numbers work similarly to phone numbers, using audible tones to transfer documents. However, the sender also receives a tone response when they dial a fax number.

A fax number enables users to send and receive documents both locally and internationally. Most fax numbers have ten digits, depending on the recipient’s location and area code, and some fax machines have phone lines to test connectivity and make phone calls. Fax numbers enable users to securely share data like personal health information or documents containing personally identifiable information (PII). They help businesses communicate efficiently and manage their electronic files more easily.

fax number is formed using the country and area code, as well as a three-digit prefix and then four additional digits. For example, a user in New York’s fax number would contain the country code +1, the area code 917 and the number 1234567.

Benefits Of A Fax Communication System

Modern digital fax systems offer significant benefits for companies across all industries. They enable fax-to-print solutions, removing the need to rely on physical paper copies of critical documents or information and reducing the risk of data being lost or stolen. Some benefits of communicating via online fax include:

Sending faxes can rack up significant costs, from maintaining fax machines and stocking up on paper, ink and toner to purchasing dedicated phone lines. Online faxing removes the need to acquire physical machines and companies can buy toll-free fax numbers.

Online fax systems use encryption to ensure faxed documents aren’t damaged, modified or stolen during transmission. Faxing helps to reduce the chances of a security breach by using point-to-point fixed connections.

Using digital transmissions rather than paper copies helps organizations reduce their carbon footprint while maintaining regular communication with clients and colleagues worldwide.

Online fax systems allow companies to gain instant confirmation of when faxed documents are sent and received. They also enable fax tracking, ensuring users can manage message trails and guarantee sensitive data is protected and delivered safely, which is more challenging to ensure through email or physical mail.

Modern Uses of Fax Machines

Fax remains a popular form of digital communication across various industries. Uses of fax in the modern business world include:

The most obvious use of fax in modern business is for users to share files with clients and colleagues. For example, fax is helpful for quickly signing and sharing documents that require a physical signature without having to download additional e-signature apps. Additionally, faxed documents are official records that can be used as legal evidence.

Sharing information via online fax offers a more secure way to share confidential data than other communication methods like email and instant chat. Fax messages are transmitted via analog phone lines rather than through the Internet, which hackers can use to intercept data, and modern systems use security features like encryption and password protection. So sending data through fax makes it less susceptible to common hacking methods and helps to ensure only authorized recipients can access documents.

Fax communication helps send large files that may get blocked by email providers. Fax systems are designed to process large files over telephone lines, so organizations don’t have to use online file-sharing services.

Network blackouts could prevent companies from sending and receiving important documents. But fax machines can operate during blackouts if connected to generators or backup power sources. So companies that rely on around-the-clock communication can use fax to maintain contact with clients and customers.

How Fax Simplifies And Streamlines Communication In Different Industries


Fax communication remains widely used in critical industries and businesses operating in areas with poor internet connectivity. Industries that still rely on fax communication include:

Financial Services

Banks and insurance firms rely on fax to share documents that require a signature and other verification methods. Financial agreements and loan applications often require people to sign them physically, so faxing ensures this information can be signed and shared with ease.


Healthcare providers rely on fax technology to share sensitive medical information like patient records and prescriptions. The communication method is crucial to quickly sharing critical data without the risk of hacking.


Faxes are widely used across legal firms as well as courts and government agencies. For example, some agencies and courts, such as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), require companies to use fax to transmit sensitive documents like emergency motions, legal filings and tax forms.

Real Estate

Real estate firms widely use fax to share purchase agreements and other documents related to critical transactions. The industry uses fax to ensure all parties involved in property sales are on the same page and can easily share inspection reports, loan documents, property disclosures and more.

The Future of Fax: Adapting to a Digital World

The fax meaning has evolved rapidly as the world shifts to digital communication, making sending data via fax quicker, more secure and more accessible. Looking to the future, new capabilities like cloud and application programming interface (API) integrations will help to build fax technology into evolving corporate workflows. This will help businesses to rely on fax as they develop new ways of working while ensuring confidential data remains protected.

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Why Choose eFax for Your Faxing Needs?

eFax is an online fax solution that enables businesses worldwide to reap the simplicity and security benefits of online faxing. The fax technology allows companies in critical industries that rely on fax to utilize a modern solution for sending and receiving documents online. Faxing online with eFax offers greater convenience, simplicity, and versatility over purchasing and maintaining bulky and costly fax machines. With eFax, employees no longer have to visit the office to fax critical documents; they can fax clients and customers from anywhere, anytime and on any device.

Related FAQs

The fax meaning relates to a communication method that involves sending printed documents from one machine to another. Traditional facsimile approaches saw people transmit the contents of a document from their fax machine to a recipient’s fax machine. But modern fax systems involve sending digital fax messages via email and fax numbers.

A fax definition is not the same as email. Fax technology enables users to send messages via fax numbers, whereas email sends information via the Internet. However, fax messages can be sent through email by linking an email address to an online fax solution like eFax.

Yes, facsimile technology is safe and secure. Fax messages are protected by encryption to ensure messages can’t be damaged, modified or stolen during transmission. 

Fax messages are intended to be securely shared between a sender and their recipient. Faxed documents are ideal for quickly signing and sharing documents.

Fax technology is still widely used across finance, healthcare, legal and real estate industries to quickly share critical data. Fax enables users to sign and share sensitive documents like legal agreements, loan applications and patient records.