An invention of Alexander Bain, a Scottish clockmaker, the fax or facsimile was first introduced in 1842. It consisted of a machine that could translate signals from the telegraph and reproduce those signals as an image on paper. Since that time, the facsimile has evolved into a sophisticated communication medium that is capable of converting an image into electrical and digital data signals, transmitting them over telephone lines, and reconfiguring those signals back into the original image on paper or film. The facsimile has the capability to interpret and transmit images, texts, photographs, drawings, written words and even entire maps. Businesses all over the world rely on facsimile technology to expedite the transmission of important documents that are time- and security-sensitive.
Fax machines, which are the main source for distributing faxes, work by scanning and reproducing a document into a bitmap image. The image is then coded by the facsimile machine into electronic or digital signals and transmited through a telephone network to another fax machine. On the other end, the receiving facsimile machine will interpret the electronic or digital signals, translate them back into bitmap data, and print out the original image on paper. Users of a facsimile machine accomplish this by using a telephone number assigned to the fax machine, to transmit the fax to another facsimile machine assigned a telephone number and linked to a telephone network. Depending on the size of the document and number of pages, this process usually takes just a few minutes to complete.
With the advent of the Internet, the facsimile machine has faced some stiff challenges from other technological advances that allow for documents to be sent online. A simple method is simply deploying a scanner to scan the document and using emails to send the document as an attachment. Security, however, is sometimes a concern, particularly on unencrypted platforms. Therefore, some businesses still rely on the facsimile to help mitigate the dangers associated with unencrypted platforms that may allow for the document to be intercepted.
In addition to facsimile machines, many businesses will deploy fax servers that will receive incoming faxes and store them on the hard drive of the server. Advantages of using a fax server over multiple fax machines is the reduction of costs associated with printing out several faxes daily, while eliminating wastage associated with printing unneeded faxes. Facsimile providers are also another option businesses can use, allowing for the transmission of faxes over the Internet. Using a provider allows the user to eliminate the expenses associated with traditional faxing methods.