I was with a customer last weekend who struggled with jugging a fax machine and a normal telephone on the same line because once a month his mother-in-law sent them a letter via fax without warning. Often the fax would pick up the phone when he didn’t want it to and often another member of the family would pick up the phone when he really wanted the fax machine to take the call. He seemed to be getting himself in quite a muddle for the sake of just one fax a month.

This got me thinking that surely there was an easier way to deal with this without him having to get a dedicated line and having heard a long time back about online fax to e-mail services I thought I’d investigate further. Many different companies are available that offer this service so I would recommend that you do look around but today I thought I’d use www.pumaone.co.uk just as an example of what is available.

The principle of fax to e-mail is that a company such as the one mentioned above will provide you with a phone number (either 0871, 0870 or local depending on the service you select) which you then give to business or personal contacts as your private fax number. When they wish to fax you they simply use the number you have provided and then once the fax is complete the contents of their message are forwarded to you via e-mail.

If required there are packages that allow you to also be able to send faxes and in this instance you simply e-mail them the number you want to fax along with any text or attachments and they’ll send the fax on your behalf.

I’ll review two of the packages that this company offers so you can get an idea of the costs involved:

Pumaone Free Fax
This service is completely free of charge for the user and instead the company make their money up by giving you a 0871 number which charges those sending you a fax 10p per minute. As most faxes only take a minute to send at most this probably won’t be an issue for those people thinking of contacting you. Unfortunately with this service you can’t actually send faxes but you could use your computer or existing fax machine for this purpose.
Primarily this service would be advantageous over sharing a fax on your current line as it would avoid you having to continually second guess whether an incoming call is a fax or a voice phone call and best of all you wouldn’t have to pay a penny!

Pumaone Professional
This service costs £25 per year but offers a number of advantages over the free service. First off they are happy to provide you with a standard national number for you to give out to those needing to fax you rather than a higher cost 0871 number. The service also allows you to send them an e-mail of a fax that you would like sending and they will forward it to a number of your choice for a variable fee starting at just 2.5p per minute.

I currently have a dedicated fax number myself which is costing me around £120 a year in line rental so by switching to Pumaone Professional I certainly wouldn’t be losing any of the benefits that I currently enjoy with my dedicated line but including the annual fee I would still be saving myself best part of a ton. I’m sure other readers and especially those of you with your own businesses will be in a similar situation.

Those of you who have been asked whether you have a fax number once or twice in the past should consider going for the free service. It’s not going to cost you anything and even if you only use it once a twice a year it might be worth 5 minutes of your time now to get it set up.

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