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Commentary by Steve Adams

RISMEDIA, May 12, 2008-In the past few years there has been a trend toward increasing corporate social responsibility. And a part of this trend has been taking measures to reduce both the consumption of natural resources and the generation of waste.

Organizations across the country have installed bins to recycle paper, glass and aluminum. They’ve participated in “lightless Fridays,” where office lights are left off for the day to conserve electricity. They’ve lowered their thermostats in the winter and raised them in the summer, reasoning that their people won’t mind suffering a bit to help save the planet.

Yet each day they walk blithely by one of the biggest resource wasters in the office. No, it’s not Fred in Accounting, who tosses his Coke cans in the regular wastebasket and never quite seems to turn the water all the way off in the kitchen sink. It’s the fax machine.

How can that be? According to Energy Star, a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy, fax machines are one of the most energy-intensive pieces of equipment in a typical office. They are referred to as “energy vampires”; they are constantly drawing power around the clock because they need to be available at any hour to send or receive a fax.

Then there’s the amount of paper they consume. Every page of every fax is printed out, whether it contains useful information or not. Each fax usually includes a cover page to identify the proper recipient, adding to the total. If the fax transmission is interrupted, or the sending machine grabs two pages of the document instead of one, or the fax becomes garbled on the receiving end, even more paper will be consumed to correct these problems. And time will be lost as well.

Still, how big of an issue can this paper consumption be? It depends on the industry. Real estate agents, insurance brokers, mortgage brokers, doctors, lawyers, construction company managers, truck drivers and anyone else whose business requires handwritten notes or authorized signatures often send and receive thousands of pages of business documents each year. When it’s all totaled up, it represents acres upon acres of forest to make the paper for those faxes. And then what happens? Often the businesses scan those pages to create electronic documents that are easier to save and share. And then they discard the original paper.

If they don’t scan and discard, they have to purchase filing cabinets, banker’s boxes, and space to store all their paper files until they don’t need them anymore – or the government says they can be discarded. It all seems terribly wasteful.

There is a simple solution to all of this waste, however: Internet fax services. These services allow users to send and receive faxes instantly, without the fax machine. The only requirements are an Internet connection and a PC. Users can then send and receive faxes either through their regular e-mail accounts or a secure online server.

Using an Internet fax service allows users to:

- Get rid of their current fax machine, or avoid purchasing one at all, helping to cut back on energy usage; it also eliminates future problems with disposal of office equipment
- Severely reduce paper consumption; users only print the pages they choose rather than every page of every fax
- Eliminate the cost of garbled pages or mis-feeds that use paper without providing the information that’s needed
- Eliminate the need for a second phone line, saving those energy and material costs as well

Of course, environmental responsibility isn’t the only reason to use an Internet fax service rather than a fax machine. Since it can be used anywhere there’s an Internet connection, it allows users to send and receive faxes when they’re out of the office – which is far more convenient for mobile workers. The account can be set up so the same inbound fax is received in multiple e-mail addresses, assuring it gets to all team members at the same time without additional handling. There’s never a busy signal either, so users don’t have to worry about missing an important document.

Outbound faxes can be sent to multiple recipients all at once with a few clicks of a mouse, rather than one at a time while someone stands at the fax machine sending the same document over and over.

Then there’s the security aspect. With a fax machine, confidential information (such as social security numbers, customer credit card numbers, or patient history) is left out in the open, where anyone can view it. Since Internet fax services deliver faxes directly into an online or e-mail account, only the people who are supposed to see it will see it. This also means that every fax is just a couple of mouse clicks away. That’s certainly a lot more convenient than trying to carry paper files around, or find older files in an off-site storage room.

The best news is that unlike many corporate responsibility programs that wind up costing more than conducting business as usual, an Internet fax service actually helps organizations save money. It can reduce start-up costs 93 percent by eliminating the cost of the fax machine and installation of a second phone line. It can then reduce their monthly costs by 89 percent by eliminating the cost of toner for the fax machine and fees for the second phone line, and selectively printing only the required pages. All in all, it’s a pretty good deal.

Do both your business and the planet a favor. Save a tree (or a few thousand) by tossing – make that properly disposing of – your old fax machine for an Internet fax service. It will help you make every day Earth Day.

Steve Adams is vice president of Marketing for Protus, provider of the MyFax Internet faxing service for individual home users, small businesses, and large corporations. MyFax has won a number of awards in head-to-head competitions for ease of use, reliability, and best overall value. He can be reached at sadams@protus.com.

For more information, visit www.protus.com.

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