Q: I no longer have a fax machine and only need to send and receive faxes on occasion. Any suggestions on the cheapest way to send and receive faxes once in a while from home? — Anne

As someone that has lived in the technology world for 20 years, I am astonished at how many companies and government agencies still only accept certain communications through a fax machine.

Scanning documents and sending them via e-mail makes so much more sense, not to mention it’s ‘greener’ since no paper is required to view the information. Electronic documents can be printed as needed versus faxes that chew up trees as a matter of course.

Nonetheless, the reality is that most of us need the ability to send or receive faxes from time to time, so I researched a number of resources that may fit the bill.

A rather large number of companies are offering various levels of service and most offer a free trial, but require you to give them a credit card number so they can start charging you as soon as the trial expires.

There are a few truly free options available, so I will start with them.

If you only need to receive faxes, one of the oldest services, eFax, does have a free, receive-only sign-up that is well hidden. You can’t find it via the home page so if you go directly here, you can sign up for a free, receive-only account.

You don’t get to choose your number, so you won’t get a local number to give out to senders. If you are planning on getting faxes from folks outside of your local area, it’s no big deal, but your local senders may have some heartburn from faxing to a long-distance number.

Of course, eFax will do everything it can to convince you to upgrade to one of its monthly pay packages so you can choose your number, send faxes, or other features that may not be important to you.

If you only need to send faxes on occasion, I found a couple of different resources that are completely free.

The first is FaxZERO, which will work for faxing anywhere in the U.S. or Canada. It does add its logo and slogan to the cover page, but it isn’t overly intrusive.

You simply go to the Web site, enter your info (requires a valid e-mail address), the name of the receiver, the receiver’s fax number, then browse to the document you want to send (either .DOC or .PDF). If you only need to send simple text, just type it into the text box.

Once you click on the ‘Send Free Fax Now’ button, you will get an e-mail message requiring you to click on a link to confirm (this is to keep fax spammers from abusing their system). In my tests, the fax was delivered within a few minutes without a hitch.

FaxZERO limits the fax to three pages and no more than two times per day for free. If you have a fax that is more than three pages or you exceed the daily limit, you can send additional faxes up to 15 pages with no ad on the cover page for $1.99 per fax (PayPal only).

Another free send only service is available from MyFax and it uses a similar interface to FaxZERO. MyFax, however, will allow you to send a fax to over 40 different countries.

It limits you to two free faxes per day with file sizes up to 10 MB and 10 pages (including the cover page). It supports 178 different file types including XLS, PPT, TIF, GIF, JPEG, HTML, and even Photoshop files.

If you have the need for a little more flexibility, another interesting option is from MaxEmail. Its ‘lite’ package has an annual cost of $24 with a $10 activation fee and allows you to receive 100 faxes per month (five cents per page for overages), while charging 10 cents per minute for sending faxes (domestic only).

The last resource from FaxIt Nice is a pre-paid, send-only service. Buy credits that never expire up front ($20 minimum), then pay as you go without paying monthly fees. The basic rate is 15 – 18 cents per page in the US (based on the number of pages per fax) and International rates vary.

Ken Colburn
Data Doctors Computer Services
Data Doctors Data Recovery Labs
Data Doctors Franchise Systems, Inc.
Weekly video tech contributor to CNN.com
Host of the award-winning “Computer Corner” radio show