Contemplating the fax of life

Cancun can wait.

Back in the day, faxes were the latest technology, spewing typed data on rolls of thermal paper that were ripped from the machine with a frenzied flair.

At the Boulder County Business Report, where I worked soon after graduating from the University of Colorado, graphic design was handled by a company in Lakewood, with completed pages inching their way out of the fax machine in Boulder for proofing. It wasn’t easy checking for typos on paper that curled beneath your fingers and required a magnifying glass to make out the text, but the job got done (even as my eyesight worsened).

Fax machines evolved, of course, becoming more efficient and spitting out crisp copies on normal paper.

For awhile, faxes were integral to our business work flow. Advertising contracts, press releases and submissions for our research surveys meant that numerous pairs of eyeballs would check the machine regularly. Mail slots were constantly filling with important documents.

Many business journals around the country launched an innovative feature, the faxed newsletter, with daily content found nowhere else.

As email grew, however, legitimate faxes became more and more rare. I can’t remember the last time our publication received a press release via fax. Advertising contracts are emailed. And most of our research surveys — probably 95 percent — are returned via Web-based submission.

At some point, legitimate faxes became outnumbered by unsolicited, spam faxes — despite laws prohibiting such “junk.” Vacations to Cancun, incredible deals on business loans, life insurance — it’s amazing the offerings that come across the machine, wasting page after page, ream after ream, of paper.

The junk-fax problem became so severe that earlier this year, we signed up for a service that sends all faxes to an online account, where we can filter what we want and delete what we don’t, without printing.

I recently took a look at this online portal and was stunned by the result: Out of almost 300 faxes in the system, only 15 — 5 percent — were non-junk. Those 300 faxes were for a period of three months, meaning that we receive only about 100 faxes per month — a fraction of what we would see “back in the day.”

It’s becoming easier to conceive of eliminating our fax numbers entirely. When you can scan a document and then email, why bother with a fax at all?

Yes, I know that some view the fax machine as more secure than email. Faxes are sent via an analog signal that is more difficult to intercept. But what about the security issues of confidential faxes sitting on a machine until routed? And electronic signatures are now common in real estate and many other industries.

Should we eliminate faxes entirely? It would mean educating a few research respondents, steering them to use our Web-based system — probably not a big deal.

So, don’t be surprised if we eliminate this buggy whip from our business repertoire. No more insurance offers. No more pitches for business financing. No more trips to …

Wait a minute …  a trip to Cancun sounds pretty good.

Christopher Wood can be reached at 303-630-1942, 970-232-3133 or via email at cwood@bizwest.com. Don’t even think about faxing him.

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