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Commentary By Steve Adams

RISMEDIA, Sept. 19, 2008-At a key point in the Christmas classic “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” movie, Rudolph and his traveling companions stumble across the Island of Misfit Toys. It’s the place where toys that don’t quite measure up to expectations are banished, forever wishing they could serve a useful purpose.

Of course, this being television-which requires a happy ending for all except the bad guys-at the end all of the toys find a happy home. Seems like they were useful to someone after all.

In the real world, however, things are a little different. Once an office product or technology has outlived its usefulness, it’s time to banish it to the Island of Obsolete Office Equipment. The steno or dictation machine has surely found its way there. Hardly anyone dictates letters for secretaries or stenographers to type up. We type our own letters on computers now. (This is progress?)

The classic typewriter itself is in that class too. There may be one hanging around to address a quick envelope, or sitting on the desk of some crusty old timer who just won’t give it up, but for the most part typewriters are now part of our nostalgic past.

There are plenty of other examples as well. Then there are those that should be there, but haven’t quite made it yet. I’d put the fax machine in that category. Not because faxes aren’t used anymore – in truth more faxed pages were sent in 2007 than in any year in history, including real estate industry. But because there is a better way to send and receive faxes than hovering over a machine waiting for it to scan pages and slowly transmit the data over phone lines, bit by bit. Or standing by the machine waiting for it to spit out pages in fits and starts. We’ve all been there.

That better way is by using an Internet fax service. These services allow you to send and receive faxes as electronic documents, either through your e-mail account or via a secure online server. With the e-mail option, received faxes appear as attachments (either in .PDF or some other common format), with the ability to preview, forward and/or save the fax to any folder you choose. With the online server option, you can read the fax online, download it to your PC or other device, forward it as a fax or e-mail, and store it. Either allows you to do all of this from your desktop, anywhere you can get an Internet connection.

When you send a fax, it also goes directly from your desktop, much as you would send an e-mail. Yet the fax goes to the recipient’s fax machine (unless he/she has also wised up and ditched the machine for an Internet fax service), creating a seamless connection between both parties.

Making the move to an Internet fax service has several benefits, including:

– Greater mobility. With a fax machine, the limiting factor on where you can be to send and receive a fax is the location of the machine. With an Internet fax service, though, you can send and receive faxes anywhere you can get an Internet connection. In today’s age of the mobile realtor, that alone might make it worth it. In addition, you can store all your faxes on your laptop or other mobile device, allowing you to keep those important documents at your fingertips. Some services even allow you to store faxes online for as long as a year, letting you access them even if you forget your mobile device.

– No (or at least less) paper. Fax machines create paper documents. Paper costs money, can get lost, misplaced or destroyed, and takes up a lot of space in filing cabinets when there is a lot of it. Because documents faxed via an Internet fax service are electronic, they’re much easier to handle and manage. The only time you’ll need paper is if you choose to print a particular fax (or part of it). That’s better for the environment, and better for your bottom line too.

– Lower cost. To operate a fax machine, first of course you need to buy the machine itself. Then you have to pay to install another phone line. Each month you have the cost of paper, toner, electricity to keep it ready to use 24 x 7, and ongoing phone line charges. Maybe even a maintenance fee for the machine. With an Internet fax service, the only expense is the cost of the service itself – which is lower than just about any one of the above expenditures.

– Increased privacy/security. Fax machines tend to be placed in common areas for the sake of convenience. The problem with common areas is that anyone can go there, which means that confidential fax you’re sending or receiving is potentially left open for viewing by anyone who walks by. Not exactly the picture of tight security you need to have when you are sharing all your financial information. Since Internet fax services deliver faxes directly to the user’s desktop, the chances of unauthorized eyes seeing a particular fax are reduced by an order of magnitude. It certainly keeps the amateurs and busybodies away.

– No more lost faxes. As mentioned earlier, fax machines generate paper faxes. Paper faxes can be mis-filed, blown off desks by fans (or co-workers hurriedly walking by), become stuck to another piece of paper, accidentally tossed in the trash or suffer other fates. Should that happen, the contents are lost, sometimes forever. The electronic documents generated by Internet fax services not only are immune to all that. They can also be backed up and restored in case of a catastrophic loss. Not so important if the fax is a general one, but extremely important if the contents are mission-critical. Such as the contract for a new piece of business.

– No extra cost for a toll-free number. If you want to look big in the eyes of your customers by having a toll-free phone number, you’re going to pay extra for it if you’re using a fax machine. And every time one of those customers uses your toll-free number you’ll pay again. Most Internet fax services allow you to choose between local and toll-free numbers for the same cost.

– No extra space required. A fax machine takes up space, pure and simple. So do the filing cabinets required to store paper faxes. An Internet fax service frees up that space. Use it to put in extra desks, or maybe even a few nice plants to dress up the office.

The bottom line is there’s simply no good reason to keep a fax machine in the real estate office anymore. Sign up for an Internet fax service and you can finally banish your old machine to the Island of Obsolete Office Equipment. Don’t feel bad about it, though. It can always turn to the steno machine for company.

Steve Adams is Vice President of Marketing for MyFax, a provider of Internet faxing services 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.myfax.com.

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