With technology that has grown increasingly portable and digital, many believed that the fax machine would become one of those business machines that would eventually disappear. Some expressed thoughts that the noisy, messy machines would become obsolete, with email and other digital technology taking its place. The fact is that the fax machine is not only still an important part of most offices, sales of the units are increasing, say many experts.
More than a half million fax machines were purchased over the past twelve months, according to the NPD Group, a company that conducts market research. Although Internet fax services are available, some business machine companies are finding an increased market for fax/copier/scanner combination machines that provide more options for the user. In some industries, such as law, accounting, real estate and insurance, a signed document must be kept on file or provided to other parties, which makes email or computer transfer less appealing. With a combination machine, documents may be scanned for an email or an original sent as a fax.
In addition to legal requirements for actual signed documents, faxes provide a paper trail that makes it easier to track documents, and in some cases, reduces an overload of requests as it takes more time to send a fax than to click on buttons to send emails with attachments. In addition, because there is no industry-standard for cloud-based services, it is difficult for electronic file sharing to occur between various industries.
Surprisingly, in the Japanese business culture, nearly 100 percent of businesses and 60 percent of private homes have fax machines, and in some instances, faxes take the place of emails in the country. Despite the attempt by some companies to modernize, the Japanese continue to prefer faxes over electronic submissions. One company who attempted to implement online ordering found that sales dropped so significantly, they returned to faxed orders.
Despite the explosion of technology that offers instant notification and delivery of documents, it appears that fax machines provide valuable services that email and other electronic means of communication do not provide.