The Advantages of Email vs. Fax and Snail Mail

4 min read
Advantages of Email vs Faxing and Snail Mail

Advantages of Email vs Faxing and Snail Mail

Before email came into popularity, fax transmissions presented the only way to send written communication quickly. They could provide paper printouts in a few short minutes over hundreds of thousands of kilometers. Nowadays, email has become the preferred method of communication. Consequently, most companies have entirely abandoned fax machines.

The term snail-mail is referred to as posting letters, documents, and packages the old fashioned way, via the post office. The term snail comes from the fact that unlike email, that is delivered instantaneously. Regular mail takes time to be delivered depending upon location. 

The fax machine will probably become fairly obsolete in the coming years since the only reason to still use them is familiarity. In fact, during the coronavirus pandemic, the Judiciary System in the Netherlands completely restructured the use of fax machines across the legal sector as many people simply didn’t have readily available access to them outside of the office. Instead, the Judicial system opted to go with a secure email solution that enabled lawyers and other legal professionals to share confidential information securely, in a safe and compliant way.

Postal services, on the other hand, have seen exponential growth mainly due to e-commerce (which relies heavily on email), this unsurprisingly also increased during the pandemic. The post offices became logistic service suppliers for the delivery of packages. Fewer private letters are sent via snail mail, except for occasional holiday and greeting cards. In comparison, alone shipped over 5 billion items in 2020.

The instant global reach of email has completely revolutionized the way people communicate. Today email is everywhere on phones, tablets, and watches, and the vast majority of people use it. Its influence continues to grow. Email is considered by many as the pen and paper of the modern era.

The disadvantages of faxing over email

There are many disadvantages of using a fax machine instead of email to send information, these include:

  • Constant maintenance: Fax machines need paper, ink, toner, and some other equipment to be able to transmit and receive faxes. You need to have a checklist and always have some spare paper packs, ink, and toner.
  • Needs a landline (fixed-line) phone number: A fax machine cannot operate unless it is connected to a landline phone number. So, wherever you go, you must first make sure whether that place has a landline phone or not.
  • Doesn't support multitasking: This is a significant disadvantage of fax machines. Fax machines cannot send a fax and receive a fax at the same time. Additionally, it cannot send multiple faxes at once. If a document needs to be sent to 50 recipients, the sender must repeat the action 50 times.
  • Can't be reached easily: Say, you are out of the office for a meeting and waiting for a confidential and urgent document to be sent to you by fax. What if the document lands on the wrong hands?
  • Not secure: Where is your fax machine located in your office? Probably in the copy room. Well, anyone who passes by the fax machine may see the content of the received faxes on the tray.
  • Phone bills: Faxing is sending data through phone lines, which turn into phone bills. You need to consider the cost of calling overseas whenever sending a fax to international contacts.
  • Not environmentally-conscious: Forget about being an environmentally-friendly company since every fax received needs to be printed on paper.  

The advantages of email over snail mail

  • Speed: The most obvious benefit of email is the speed at which it's delivered, almost instantly. By comparison, snail mail takes days to reach its intended recipient depending on the location. With email, distance makes little difference.
  • Email is cheaper: You have to pay for stamps to get snail mail anywhere. Email, on the other hand is mostly free. You may have to pay for your internet connection or your mobile data plan, but if you worked out a "per email" cost, it would be drastically cheaper than snail mail. Email also doesn't use paper or ink, which is another cost saving that becomes more significant if you send a lot of mail.
  • Emails are delivered anytime: Snail mail comes when the postal worker reaches your address, with breaks for major holidays and likely only one delivery per day. Email is delivered any time of day, virtually immediately all year around. 
  • Reach multiple people with a single email:  You can enter multiple email addresses into a recipient field. Emailing 100 people costs basically the same as emailing one, but sending traditional mail to 100 people is 100 times more expensive. This offers incredible benefits for businesses looking to send messages to many customers at once.
  • Adding attachments is easy: Adding an attachment to an email is simple. You can send pictures, PDFs, text documents, and even media files this way. For snail mail, by comparison, you would have to print out most documents and stuff them into the envelope (increasing postage cost). You would be much more limited in your ability to send audio clips or other media unless you included a storage device in the envelope.
  • Email is easier to receive: A significant distinction of email is when considering the receiver. To receive a piece of snail mail, you need to be at your physical address. To get an email, all you need is a smartphone or laptop and an internet connection. You can receive an email almost anywhere, any time of the day.

Email is here to stay, use it

It is an understatement that the use of faxing or snail mail for communication is largely outdated and costly. While traditional mail is essential for shipping packages when it comes to communication, nothing beats the speed and convenience of email. Even though faxing is still used daily due to habit, it has absolutely no advantage over email. It is undoubtedly on a path of becoming obsolete. Meanwhile, the use of email continues to increase worldwide and remains the primary means of business communication now and for the foreseeable future.

Is your company ready to abandon the fax machine and snail mail?
Zivver can help your organization communicate securely and comply with data protection regulations such as the GDPR, DPA and CCPA. The service integrates directly with the most popular email clients and can be up and running quickly with minimal training required. 



Written by

Renato Zamagna

Originally published on December 6, 2019

Last update on July 15, 2021