There’s often no substitute for receiving a fax. E-mail doesn’t always do the trick, especially if you need to see a document that’s not in digital form. With more professionals working on the road or from home offices, a universal way to access faxes, voice messages and e-mail has become a necessity. To accommodate those road warriors and home-based executives, we found two companies that have developed innovative ways to enhance your digital life by sending your faxes wherever you are.
JFAX, the first such company, had a rather serendipitous beginning. While on tour in Europe in 1994, musician Jaye Muller grew tired of missing messages and faxes. "We would change hotels daily, so I would always be in another hotel before my messages arrived," says Muller, who used his free time during the remainder of the tour to write a proposal that would route faxes through customers’ e-mail. Though a classic guitarist, Muller drew on the electronics training he’d received in his native East Berlin to explain some of the technical details. After contracting a company to build a prototype, Muller interested several investors, who contributed about $2 million to fund JFAX’s (www .jfax.com) launch in June 1996.
"JFAX made the universal inbox a reality, giving millions of consumers one-stop access to e-mail, faxes and voice messages," says the 26-year-old Muller. By linking a unique phone number to your e-mail, JFAX sends all voice mail and faxes directly to your inbox. Once you’ve downloaded and installed the JFAX software, voice mail will play on your computer’s speakers and faxes will appear as e-mail file attachments. You’ll need to install the JFAX software to view your faxes and a sound card and speakers are required to hear voice mail messages.
For $12.50 per month and a one-time activation fee of $15, users get a local telephone number in one of 60 cities worldwide, which can receive a free, unlimited amount of incoming fax and voice mail calls. Local numbers include Dallas, New York City, Los Angeles, Cleveland, Detroit, Philadelphia, Denver, Miami and several others. A U.S. toll-free number is available for a $30 one-time activation fee and 20 cents for each incoming call, in addition to the monthly fee.
For an additional charge of six cents per 30 seconds, users can send outgoing faxes from their e-mail accounts to standard fax machines. Last year, JFAX introduced Email by Phone, which lets users have their e-mail read aloud by a computer-generated voice. The JFAX software comes equipped with Email by Phone, but for users who request the e-mail feature only, separate charges apply. Email by phone customers pay a $5 activation fee and $9.50 per month for the voice service plus 20 cents for each minute it takes the mobile subscriber to retrieve messages. In addition, 30 free minutes of usage are included monthly. Although JFAX offers the most robust mobile fax package, there is an alternative for the less sophisticated traveler with