Autofax is a generic term covering the various techniques that allow users to send or receive fax messages on a computer rather than a fax machine. This can be an effective way of communicating between somebody who only has a computer and somebody who only has a fax machine. The term can also be used for a system of automated statements in banking.
The most common users of autofax services today appear to be people who need to occasionally send or receive messages by fax, but do not consider it worthwhile or affordable to buy a fax machine. One example might be a small business that does most of its communication via email but deals with some clients or suppliers who prefer to use faxes. Such services can also be useful for people who need to send documents in their original form, rather than simply as a text file or word processing document, but consider it impractical to scan the documents and send them as image files.
The technology behind autofax is relatively simple. The computer simply converts the data in a document to an audio tone, or from a tone back to a document in the same way as a fax machine. This is much the same system as is used on computers that connect to the Internet through a dial-up modem.
Some forms of autofax are designed for marketing purposes. These allow a company to send a fax to multiple recipients without the need to type in every fax number individually on a fax machine. Such systems can also allow a marketing list to be easily filtered for messages designed for a particular audience. The theory behind using such a system is that it is cheaper than using the mail, but more likely to be read than an email, which might be caught by a spam filter or simply deleted without being read.
Within the banking industry, the name autofax is sometimes used for a system where a bank is able to automatically send regular statements to account holders by fax. This could be to a fax machine or to a computer equipped to receive faxes. Such systems are generally seen as outdated, given that most people now have access to email. Standards for security have also risen over time and many account holders and banks would not consider faxing to be a secure way to transmit sensitive financial data.
AutoFax, or specifically Sirvisetti AutoFax is also the brand name of a service sold by a New Jersey company. It is designed to integrate automated faxes with computerized records systems used in the healthcare industry. Among its features is the ability to automatically overlay digital signatures and company logos on to healthcare-related documentation.