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What Is a Fax Number, and Why Is It Still Used?


It seems to have disappeared off business cards, company contact details, and application form fields, but there was a time that fax numbers were as common as phone numbers. Hard to believe, we know. But not having a fax number for your business would have been considered a little odd as recently as a decade or two ago.

The fact is, however, that many businesses still have fax numbers. The only difference is that they don’t advertise them too commonly. If you ask most companies for a fax number, it might take the confused secretary a moment or so to gather their thoughts. Eventually, after a moment or two of shuffling through papers and opening draws, a fax number will be found and given to you. It’s just not a common thing to ask for these days.

If Many Companies Have a Fax Number, Fax Machines Must Still Be a Thing, Right?

Right. But why, you might wonder? Why, in this digital age of instant internet communication, would anyone need a fax number for a machine that makes a beepy screechy squawky sound before taking two minutes to spit out a bit of paper that could have been sent far easier on email or something? There are lots of reasons, believe it or not, why someone would require a fax transmission over alternative methods.

Wait, You Have Lost me… What Is a Fax Machine, Anyway?

And why does the fax transmission make screechy beepy squawky sounds? We cover this in slightly more detail over in our blog post, what is a fax machine and how does it work, but essentially it is simply a desktop phone with a scanner, printer, and modem built in. The fax machine is then connected to a landline, using that phone number as a fax number.

You feed a document into the paper tray, which is then scanned and copied. After entering a recipient fax number, you next hit the send or go button. Minutes later, an exact document copy is printed at the recipient’s end. Simple. By the way, it makes those screechy beepy sounds because that is the sound of the modem doing its thing when transmission starts.

What Is It Used For?

A traditional fax machine is used for sending and receiving exact replications of any document you wish to send to a third party.

Pre-internet, the only way to get documents to a third-party location would be by your own leg-work, courier, or post. In some parts of the world, maybe a donkey would have been deployed to transport documents in some way!

The fax machine (in its current form) came along in the sixties and revolutionized document sending, enabling instant broadcasting of contracts, agreements, hand-written directions, letters, announcements, newsletters, etc. Providing you and the recipient had a fax machine with a fax number, documents could be fired out whenever needed, quickly, and easily.

But What Is a Fax Number Anyway?

With traditional fax machines, a fax number isn’t technically a thing in its own right. A fax number is simply a landline telephone number used for regular calls. By plugging the fax machine into that standard landline, you are using the phone number allocated to that landline as a unique fax number.

Many businesses would have two telephone numbers on two landlines. One landline would be for regular phone calls – the other would be a dedicated line as a fax number only. When a fax is sent to you, the machine’s fax tone answers the call, switching it from voice to fax.

Some businesses would not bother with this extra line, providing them with a unique fax number, and would instead connect the fax to their regular phone line. However, this would be problematic; when someone sends a fax to them, the fax machine would ring for a few seconds before detecting the incoming fax and receiving it.

The problem is that many people, assuming a phone call was inbound, would pick up the handset before that detection was complete and say “hello.” Usually, a fax tone answers the incoming call, but with a human answering, the call is terminated, and the fax would not receive. For that reason, it was common to have a second, dedicated phone landline used only for sending and receiving faxes. In other words, a fax number.

How many digits in a fax number?

Honestly, People… Fax Isn’t Going Anywhere

You might have presumed fax is an antiquated technology, consigned to the doldrums as an old-fashioned communication system that is no longer needed. Fax is so nineties, you might think; lost to a period in time belonging to CD players, polaroid photographs, and Vanilla Ice.

As internet-based technologies began to creep into modern communications, the humble fax machine was almost viewed as suffering from a terminal illness in some way. But still, clutching onto an IV drip, it soldered on. Not long now, people would think. I give fax until the end of this year, and it will be gone, they would say.

Plucky Mainstay

But fax hasn’t gone anywhere and is probably here to stay for at least another decade or two. More than that, however, the fax machine is still the default method of communication for many businesses and industries worldwide.

Medical institutions and law offices – or any industry which must adhere to HIPPA regulations owing to the management and transmission of sensitive information – use the fax machine as a default device to send documents. Over 60% of documentation sent or received by these two industries is broadcast through fax. Think about that – it must be millions of documents every month alone.

Internet Fax, a New Era

You might have noticed through this article that we refer to ‘traditional’ fax machines. There is a reason for that. Over the last decade or so, there has been a popular development in faxing, commonly known as internet faxing. You can view online fax services as a distant cousin to traditional faxing.

Internet faxing delivers the ability to send and receive faxes without the need to maintain an actual fax machine. Companies (and even just regular individuals) might have a need to broadcast a fax message but no longer own the primary fax machine to do so. Or maybe they have a poorly maintained machine (out of ink or simply refuses to work).

That’s where internet faxing through a fax server comes into the fold. The Fax Burner App is an excellent example of how convenient, ultra-low-cost, and quite frankly brilliant ease of use internet faxing is for your company. Let’s take a look at how it works.

Internet Faxing

In short, as an online fax provider, we do most of the work for you by using internet faxing to send documents through our fax server. The whole Fax Burner process is simple. The first step is to download our Fax Burner App – or simply sign up for an account with our online service. Log in to the app or online anytime you need to send a fax. You scan a document directly from your handset, select it from the gallery/file location, and load it into the app.

Alternatively, just select a file on your computer and upload it through the online service – there is no difference either way. It depends on which device you find more convenient; handset or computer. Next, enter the recipient’s fax number into the app or online and send. You will soon receive a confirmation showing the result of the broadcast.

Your Own Fax Number

We even provide an online fax number for you, either a temporary 24-hour number (under our free service) or a permanent, dedicated number (under our premium service). Internet faxing through the Fax Burner App is effortless, really, and begs the question of why anyone outside of doctors and lawyers would ever need to use a fax machine again.

Having said that, given the vast contributions fax machines have made over the years, we are happy for it to stick around and hope it continues to be a feature of offices and businesses for a long time to come.

But if you are looking for something a little quicker, a lot cheaper, and requiring far less effort, go ahead and sign up for our outstanding online faxing service today!

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