Fax modems perform the same basic function as fax machines, but through your computer and modem rather than through a stand-alone fax machine. However, a fax modem sends electronic messages only, not paper documents, so whatever you're sending has to be stored electronically before faxing. Consequently, the advantage of a fax modem is that you eliminate the need to print out the document first, if you already have it in electronic form on your computer. You can then fax documents to a receiving fax machine or fax modem. On the other hand, if you have a printed document that you wish to send via fax modem, you'll need an optical scanner to send it electronically. Also, with a fax modem you can send your documents to several receiving sites simultaneously, whereas with a fax machine, you usually can only send to one place at a time. Fax modems also can be less expensive, produce sharper text and graphics, and transmit the documents faster than a traditional fax machine. There are also modems that operate as both regular modems and as fax modems. Fax modems, like data modems, can be installed internally or externally, allowing you to determine whether you need to save desk space with an internal modem, or whether you want the easy installation of an external model. If you're using a fax modem, someone sending you a fax enters a phone number that essentially acts as an e-mail address for your faxes, meaning that sending and receiving faxes via modem is just as simple as using a fax machine.
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