Paperfree Office (core)The term “paper free office” is a little bit of a stretch in the way I am using it here as really all of the services together make up an office environment in which printers are unnecessary and fax machines outdated. The financial and communications systems do make up huge portions of business activity and the cloud content management ensures that no documents need to be filed anywhere but in the cloud.

There are however a number of services which we have not yet spoken about in the office environment. Unfortunately going all cloud for your business does not mean you do not have to deal with businesses out there which still go about their business the old fashioned way. The services outlined below allow you to do business with them and ensure that you can address their way of doing business.

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The core services around our “paper free office” address the fact that

  • Faxes need to be sent / received.
  • Contracts need to be drafted & signed.
  • Forms need to be filled.

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Let’s look at them one by one. I will identify services which address these requirements and where there might be overlap between various services I am also going to explain why I chose a combination of services.

Here we go:

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Receiving Faxes

Fax-to-Email is an old hat in internet terms. It has been around for a while, is well established and local fax numbers that are forwarded to an email address of your choice are readily available almost anywhere in the world. These fax numbers are often available for free and do usually not require any additional software but can be set up and configured straight from your browser.

This is not revolutionary but essential in order to facilitate business where your counterparty might still not be as technologically advanced as yourself.

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Note:

many local fax to email numbers do NOT allow you to receive faxes from international numbers. Make sure to enquire / research from your local provider if you require faxes from your international business partners. Some providers offer opening up the number for a fee.

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Sending Faxes

Email-to-Fax is as old as Fax-to-Email but largely due to the costs involved, this services has not seen the traction and proliferation as its sister “Fax-to-Email”. This stems from the fact that in most parts of the world (as in telephony) the sender incurs the cost of transmission while receiving phone calls or faxes is free.

There are however service providers who offer this type of functionality. This is often a prepaid offering, where you load an amount into your ematil-to-fax account and that money is then used to pay for the transmission cost (typically per minute) at a rate determined by the service provider.

Most times these days email can substitute faxing but in some cases (especially in the developing world) this is still a requirement. As it is typically a pay-as-you-go arrangement, this is not too heavy a burden to enable this functionality. It’s well worth it for your cloud-based, paper-free office.

HelloFax & FaxWhiz.com are good service providers. I have reviewed their functionality and choice of functionality selection here.

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Multiparty

Contract ManagementMultiparty contract management can be a tedious and time-consuming exercise. Anybody who has ever been involved in this type of engagement requiring more than two parties to agree toand eventually sign an agreement of this nature will be able to attest to this. Often this becomes even more complicated as the parties may be spread out across the world and bringing their niche-expertise to your project. Faxing 10s of pages or even hundreds in some cases, is not only cumbersome but also unnecessary. There are cloud-based solutions which enable the facilitation of multiple parties electronically signing the same version of your contract independent of place and time, and (almost) independent of device. My favourite service in this space even allows a combination of physical signatures (including the faxing back) and electronic signatures and is able to combine the various signatures into one final version of the contract signed by all parties.

Our favourite “full-featured” contract management service is RightSignature.com. We have reviewed it in more detail here.

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Simple Document Signing

There are times, when a full-featured contrant management solution is simply overkill though. When you just quickly need to sign a document that has been sent to you by one of your business partners (maybe via fax), loading it into a service like RightSignature is too honorous and does hardly provide any benefit to you, as you do not need to facilitate a singing-process.

In this instance, I would revert to a much simpler offering which simply allows you to include your signature in the document and thus enables you to electronically sign the requested document and immediately email or fax it back.

A service that facilitate this (as part of its form filling capability) is HelloFax.

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Electronically Filling in “Paper-Forms”

As I indicated above, sometimes, we just need to attach our physical signature to a document and send it back. A full-feature solution is not really adequately address our needs when we assessing it based on the tradeoff between time and effort & value-add for this type of activity.

A quick solution for this matter is a service which allows us to load the document, fill in the date, place and attach an electronic version of our physical signature and send the document back on its way.

Cloud-based services allow for this. Many allow you to upload any type of document (as long as it can be “printed”) and enable you to add your information in a non-destructive manner (on top of the document content). This is great for forms that were designed for non-cloudified humans in the real world. These forms would present a hassle to us cloud-enabled individuals, as many of these forms exist in non-editable formats and even the editable ones do NOT usually allow us to attach electronic versions of our signatures, properly.

HelloFax is one of the services which allows you to upload (or even email) any document, add text, checkmarks & signatures and return / forward the populated document via fax or email.

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