Why email and instant messages haven’t killed the fax — and probably won’t

The first reaction people have about fax is “does anyone even use it anymore?” According to market research, 89 percent of small businesses said that they use fax machines or other fax services and 62 percent of IT professionals still support the use of fax machines. Living in the era of WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and emails, it is difficult for anyone to believe that fax machines are not only available, but a majority of the organizations actually use it regularly for daily exchange of information.

A look back

The patent for the electronic printing telegraph (the closest kin of fax) was filed in 1843. The first modern fax machine came into existence in the 1960s. Since then a plethora of new communication tech has evolved and that includes the modern smartphone. One may have expected the use of fax to ebb out by the late 1990s, but the fax machine still stands strong and research shows that it may do so for at least the next decade.


It is difficult to imagine that entrepreneurs still prefer faxing in a time when email exists. However, the truth is that emails are never as secure as faxes. When you send a confidential email, you need to ensure that the recipient’s server is secure. It is easy for a third-party to intervene and extract data from personal emails quite easily.

It is easy for hackers to breach one’s email access his or her stored messages while sitting in the basement of some decrepit building. On the other hand, faxes between two machines cannot be breached with equal ease. The convenience of sending and receiving emails also makes it one of the most vulnerable methods of the transfer of data and messages.

Here are the 10 reasons fax machines have survived the surge of email:

Older users are comfortable with fax machines

comfortable with fax machines

Since the modern models of fax machines have remained unchanged for almost three decades now, the experienced players do not want to shift to something vulnerable like email. Most enterprises have volunteers and employees who dedicatedly communicate via postal mail, fax, and phone.

Compliance standards support faxing

In the health care sector, sending patient information back and forth requires secure lines of communication. Email services require end-to-end encryption to become secure. Since HIPAA considers fax a secure method of communication, most health-care organizations stick to facsimile machines instead of using email services.

There is always a paper trail

Fax always leaves a paper trail when messages are exchanged between two businesses. In the event of a lawsuit, the court can obtain call logs from both ends from their phone companies and subpoena their additional fax logs.

More secure than email


Many users believe that communication via facsimile is more secure than emails. Since email providers allow the storage of emails in digital form, on the user’s cloud and device, it is easy for hackers to intercept sensitive information. On the other hand, if a third-party wants to gain information sent through fax, he or she must procure the physical addresses of each endpoint. Faxes between two standalone machines is impossible to breach especially when there are no records and storage. Learn more about email to fax here.

Even the customers trust fax

Every business tries to keep their customers happy. Therefore, when a customer prefers fax machines for communication, the business has to make room for fax machines. Every leading organization has at least one multifunction printer that has fax functionalities.

A cheaper alternative

Securing an email requires multiple steps. End-to-end transcription and leveraging VPN services are costly. Buying commercial email services that are ideal for businesses is not cheap either. HIPAA and other regulations consider faxing to be the cheaper and safer alternative. Most pharmacies in the U.S. use fax servers, fax machines, and e-fax. EHR (electronic health records) secure messaging for orders is not legal in the U.S.

It is convenient

fax machine
Faxing is easy to learn and master. While processing an outgoing fax from scratch is difficult, modern e-fax machines have come up with easier alternatives. Without one, you can scan the document on your copier or multipurpose printer. Then go back to your desk and print the scanned copy to a drive; this should begin your e-fax process.

Some people love using a fax machine

Many older entrepreneurs heading multimillion- and billion-dollar industries love keeping the nostalgia alive. They have used the fax machines in their youth and now they don’t want it to be replaced by emails. People have difficulty letting go of old tech that they have always used.

An efficient communication backup

Several national banks still use fax machines. Although most of them have state-of-the-art VoIP systems, they have to keep fax machines running 24/7 to prevent a complete blackout of communications. Most of them still use facsimile communication as the final record for big multimillion- or billion-dollar transactions. Additionally, most financial institutions also maintain a backup phone line just in case the digital channels of communication fail.

Fax is the only choice of communication

In many countries, due to strict patient confidentiality and data security regulations, it is impossible to use any other form of communication technology. Health-care providers in countries like Canada stick to fax. Allied businesses have to maintain fax machines to communicate with other fax users efficiently.

Long live the fax machine!

It is clear why fax is still alive and why it will not go away anytime soon. The presence of regulations and compliance issues that dub fax secure and reliable has cemented the fate of fax for the oncoming decade. Unless there is a major breakthrough in the communications technology or any compliance issue that bans faxing altogether, it is safe to say that we will find business leaders using fax even ten years from now. It has entered a logical loop that might not allow fax to thrive like it once did, but it will enable fax to survive amidst the rising popularity of commercial email services.

Featured image: Shutterstock

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2 thoughts on “Why email and instant messages haven’t killed the fax — and probably won’t”

  1. I was curious to see why faxes were still hanging around so I read up on your ten reasons. Let me give you another perspective from the other side of the world.

    In Australia the telecommunications system is undergoing an overhaul. Services such as POTS and ADSL are being phased out and replaced with either fibre, VDSL or wireless internet depending on where they are. There will be a few remote towns that will still have copper but the rest of the country will be copper free within the next couple of years.

    No copper means no analog fax lines. It also means you need to make a conscious effort to put in a VoIP to analog adapter to send a fax. Not difficult but another thing to install and maintain.

    As the POTS is being ripped out we are replacing legacy phone systems with VoIP systems. One question I always is about faxing. About half the customers opt to have inbound faxing (the VoIP server receives it and emails to the admin) and the rest decline.

    Of the dozens of systems I’ve put out, only one has expressed the need for outbound faxing. This is a NFP offering financial counselling services and the banks and lawyers all live in the past.

    And I think I’d disagree with the security of the fax. It takes very little skill to configure the sending ID on a fax machine so you can pretend to be someone you’re not. It’s certainly tougher with an email.

  2. I can see how older people might not want to switch to something new after having to use a fax machine for over three decades. That is a long time with the same, reliable equipment. Maybe we can a machine like this for my grandma who hates using her email.

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