There was a time when faxing was a widely used option for transmitting and receiving documents. Today, the fax is rarely used, its functionality having being almost completely replaced by email.

Nevertheless, the technology is not yet completely dead in the water. Many professions still require signed documents as part of their authorization processes. Banks, accountancy firms, lawyers and state agencies are among those who like to see a signature on documents.

The reliance on signed documents that are electronically transmitted is rather peculiar. It is arguably the case that a signed document transmitted by fax is far more likely to be a forgery than an email sent from a private email account. It would be very simple to get a copy of somebody’s signature, paste it on to a document, and then photocopy the document before faxing it off. On the other hand, it could be a lot trickier to hack into somebody else’s email account with the intention of doing something bad.

Dedicated fax machines are now a rarity. Businesses that may need to send or receive faxes on an occasional basis can cope by using 3-in-1 printers. It is almost certain that the faxing option will be the least used feature on these machines, and it may not be long before fax functionality is no longer supported on new printers.

The fact is that there are better or faster, and more cost-effective, alternatives to having an in-house fax machine that is hardly ever used. Most cyber cafes offer faxing services, and are a convenient option for any businesses that are located nearby. Businesses can also turn to online faxing services. Many of these provide a once-off facility as well as on-going service for a monthly fee.

Yet another option is to download a low-cost software package to send faxes directly from a computer. This is probably a little less satisfactory than other methods, since it may be more time-consuming. It might be necessary to print off the original document, sign it, scan it, and then fax or email it. This messing about can be eliminated, of course, simply by having a scanned copy of a signature already on the computer.

One more option is to use smartphones to fax documents. It may seem very unintuitive to think of iPhone and faxing as well-matched bedfellows, but you can send faxes from your iPhone, complete with your signature on the documents.

Apps like MaxEmail make sending and receiving faxes via your iPhone a breeze. You can use the phone’s camera to take a picture of a document, and the app will convert the document to a black and white document that can be faxed. You can attach a cover page if you wish, and then just go into the Send option to input the destination phone number. The app is free, but there are fees for sending and receiving faxes. There are three different subscription options, so you should find one that suits your needs.

This type of app usually works through an Internet faxing service provided by the app’s owners. Most apps provide you with a dedicated private fax number for inbound faxes. The received faxes are automatically forwarded to you via email.

The MaxEmail app also lets you upload documents directly to its server, or you can use your email service to do so. One of the many advantages of using the app is that faxes can be sent or received no matter where you are.

With the range of alternative options available, most businesses can manage perfectly well without a dedicated fax machine, so these machines are likely to become even more rare in the future.