For years now, I have been resisting writing about faxing.
Perhaps resisting is the wrong word. Back when my wife and I bought our first house in 2003, there was a mountain of paper to sign and fax. Since we didn’t have a fax machine, I used a popular electronic faxing service at the time. The software and service was so terrible (not to mention expensive), I think my lizard brain has always found something to write about instead of online faxes.
In addition, my typical attitude towards faxing is summed up pretty well by this Wil Wheaton tweet:
My geek snobbery and emotional scarring aside, faxing remains a big part of many peoples’ workflows, and it isn’t going away any time soon. It can be hard to go paperless if you have people sending you faxes that need signatures all the time.
I’ve had my eye on a service called HelloFax ever since they launched, but my aforementioned issues prevented me from giving it more than a cursory glance. Besides, at the time that I checked it out you couldn’t request a Canadian number, so it wasn’t terribly useful for me.
All this changed last month when I went to the Evernote Trunk Conference and at the afterparty, I wandered upstairs to the unfortunately placed vendor area and lo and behold, there were the HelloFax guys talking about the product and their newest offering, HelloSign.
These guys are extremely passionate about helping people go paperless, so I decided to give HelloFax another look. I’m glad I did.
Sending A Fax
One thing I liked about HelloFax right away is that it is extremely simple. You can tell that they have put a lot of thought into the question “what is the minimum amount of stuff that we need to put on the screen for people to get things done, and how can we arrange it in an intuitive way?”
Right away when you log in you are brought to the Send a fax tab, where there are just two steps: what do you want to send, and where do you want to send it?
You can either upload a file, or get it from a cloud service (more on that later). You can either send it to an e-mail address, or send it as a fax to 70+ countries (here is the list, I didn’t count).
Receiving A Fax
If you want to be able to receive faxes, you will need to subscribe to one of their plans which start at $4.99/month. Once you sign up, you are assigned a fax number, and you can choose the country (US or Canada) and then the State/Province and area code.
When a fax comes in for you, you’ll receive an e-mail. I have to admit, at this point I was a bit surprised. In the e-mail was a PDF attachment of the received fax.
That’s super-convenient, but in some cases the whole reason that people are using faxes vs. e-mail is for security. If that’s the case, they may as well have just e-mailed it.
Fortunately, I noticed that there is a setting to turn this behavior off:
Either way, you can see your received documents in the documents list and from there you can download it, forward it, etc.
One surprising and cool feature of HelloFax is its integration with cloud services like Google Drive, Box, Dropbox, and Evernote.
If you turn on integrations for any of these services, you will be able to fax documents that reside in the cloud, and documents that you receive can be automatically saved to the cloud.
For example, I turned on Dropbox integration, and when I click Get from on the Send a fax screen, I choose Dropbox and then navigate my Dropbox folders to find the document that I am looking for.
Evernote works the same. I can navigate to the Notebook that I want, then choose the note that I want to fax. If the note just has a PDF attachment, it will send that. If it is just a text note, it will send the note contents.
Signing A Fax
One of the main uses for the dreaded fax machine is when someone sends you a fax, you have to sign it, and fax it back.
HelloFax has built signing right into the site. With any document that you have received or uploaded you can edit and modify it.
Once you are editing the document, you can sign it, add some text, or even check off checkboxes.
For the signatures, you can upload your own signature image, take a picture of it with your phone, draw it in with your mouse or finger, or type it in with a signature-y font.
Once you’ve made your additions, you can save the document and fax it or e-mail it.
Requesting A Signature
If you are on the opposite side of the equation and you need to collect a signature from someone, the site has the ability for you to upload your form and then have someone sign it and send it back to you. They don’t need to be HelloFax members for this.
First you upload the document that you want someone to sign. Then you tell HelloFax what information you want to collect from people, and where you want the signature to go.
The person will receive an e-mail, and when they click the link, it will ask them to sign the document and then click Accept.
One slightly weird thing about this part: the recipient cannot upload their own signature. They can only sign it with their mouse or finger, or type their signature in.
According to HelloFax these are both legally binding, but you will want to consult your own legal professional for your area of course.
Security and Legality
Of course, there are some people who would never upload sensitive documents in the first place, so for those of you who fall into that camp, you’re not going to be giving up your fax machine any time soon.
For others, on the company’s Legal page, they have this to say about security:
We take your contract information security seriously, which is why sensitive communications with HelloFax are protected by 256-bit SSL encryption. Additionally, we encrypt all of your statically-stored user files and signature information in Amazon’s S3 servers, which is an SAS–70 certified data center, and restrict physical and employee access to it.
Nice to know that your “at-rest” data is encryped and not just the in-transit data.
As far as whether electronic signatures are considered legally binding, the company has some information in their FAQ.
If all you want to do is send the occasional fax, they have a Free plan that lets you send 5 pages a month and pay .99/fax after that.
If you want to be able to receive faxes, there is the Basic plan which gives you a number, 50 pages/month, and 10 signature requests. That’s $4.99 and there is a 30 day free trial.
The plans go up from there based on volume.
All-in-all, I really like HelloFax. They seem to have focused on what is important (to me anyways) in an online faxing company and as I said before, the company is focused on helping people go paperless. I look forward to seeing where they take this and other offerings.
Do you do online faxing? Are you a HelloFax user? I’d love to hear in the comments how you do it.