how does email fax work?

​Each passing year, more and more businesses are starting to harness the power of email-to-fax technology.  

Created as a way to combine the speed of email with the security/reliability of traditional faxing, ​email fax has become a must-have tool for companies that prefer using digital documents and want to reduce the amount of paper waste in their offices.

But... how does ​email fax work? Do you need a line or additional equipment?  ​What happens ​after you send your email?  These are just some of the questions we will be covering in this condensed guide to email fax technology.

​Online faxing has forever changed the way we fax, making our transmission much more reliable, while ​making the jump to this new technology a breeze, free of the need of a fax machine ​and a phone line.  Read on to learn more about it!

​Behind the Magic: How FOIP ​Works

​FOIP is very similar to VOIP technology, in the sense that both transmit information over Internet.  VOIP stands for Voice Over Internet Protocol, and is ​used to make phone calls over a virtual line.  Although it's possible to connect a fax machine to a VOIP line, these lines are not designed to transmit fax ​images, so the results are often distorted and unpredictable.

​You might be able to send a short fax, but suffer from the interruption of longer ones; or perhaps you may be able to receive but not send any fax. Keep in mind that as the name implies, VOIP has been designed to send and receive audio, which is different from a fax signal. 

​This kind of unpredictability ​can be a ​major ​problem for most companies, especially those that belong to industries such as finance, law and healthcare, which require increased security measures.  Instead of having to deal with these problems, you need a technology that is able to send and receive fax signals clearly.

That's why FOIP was introduced.

FoIP (Fax Over Internet Protocol) was developed in the year 1998, as a way to share fax transmissions through the Internet and other IP based networks.  The main goal of its creation was to make faxing more affordable and free of the problems that traditional faxing had.

​In order to send and receive fax over Internet, online fax services use the T38 Protocol, which describes how to transmit a fax using a computer data network. ​The protocol converts the fax to an image and then sends it to a T38 fax server, which converts the image to an analog file signal. It ensures that digitl fax remains compatible with the million of fax machines that are still used all around the World.

Owning a fax server with FoIP is recommended only for big companies with a technology department and a big budget, th​e rest of us can use the fax servers provided by online fax services​. When you pay for a plan, you are paying for the ability to use your provider's servers ​linked to a virtual fax number.

This makes faxing more affordable for small businesses and individual professionals.

​The Process of Sending a Fax

​The fastest and most popular way to fax online is through your email.  It's a method that provides familiarity to most users, and it doesn't take more than a minute to set it up.  

In this section, we're going to take a look at what happens each time you transmit a fax from email. To learn about the necessary steps, we invite you to check out our guide on "How to Send Fax from Gmail".

​Once you finish setting up your fax and press Send, the document will be emailed to your fax company’s fax servers (that’s why you add @faxprovider.com to the recipient’s number in the TO field). ​The file you have attached to the email will be considered the main content of your fax, so the service will convert it to a fax image, usually a TIFF file.

These servers are very powerful​ and use the T38 Protocol, capable of converting a digital file into an analog fax signal in just a few seconds​. Each page in your file will be treated as a new fax page. Refer to your service's file compatibility list to see what file formats you can fax online. ​

​After the document is converted, it's sent again, this time as a ​fax signal, to the number you entered on the TO field.​ The digital line used for this purpose is able to send the fax to any fax machine or computer, so nobody will have trouble receiving faxes - even if they are using a machine from the 90s!

Keep in mind that this all happens in the background.  As a the sender, you'll only need to compose and send your email fax and wait about a minute for the confirmation message to arrive in your inbox.

​The Process of Receiving Faxes

When you receive fax on Gmail, it follows a similar procedure to the one described above, but this time the other way around.

​People will have to ​send you fax using the Google fax number provided by your ​selected online fax service. This fax number works ​through virtual line that is capable of transmitting the fax signal clearly to their servers using the T38 Protocol.

​Once in their fax servers, online fax providers are able to convert the fax signal into a digital file.  By default, most services use the PDF file format, since it's a type of file that doesn't weight too much and is readable an almost all digital devices for free. But you can aslo receive faxes as TIFF and BMP files.  Each page you receive will comprise a new page on the PDF file.

​Receiving faxes via email is a 100% automatic process.  You literally don't have to lift a finger to receive a fax.  It works just like common emails: they will arrive to your inbox whether you are on your computer or not.  You just need to check your Gmail account, or activate mobile/desktop notifications.

In Conclusion

Online fax technology doesn’t have to be complicated.  We wrote this article trying to keep things simple so you can understand how your fax travels across the Internet.  If you have more questions about the topic drop us a line on our Facebook page, we’ll be happy to talk to you!