How to receive incoming faxes in the FreePBX Distro for free, without spending $150

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Here is how to receive incoming faxes in the FreePBX Distro without spending $150 on their FaxPro module (which IMHO is severely overpriced, given that several other distros offer a comparable faxing solution for free, including Elastix and Incredible PBX, though I do not necessarily recommend either of those distributions for various reasons). It may be possible to do outbound faxing by installing Hylafax+ and AvantFax. (EDIT: If you read Russian, you could try following the instructions in this article – hint: Google Translate is your friend – but please do a full backup of your system first and be careful, because installing AvantFax in particular may overwrite a portion of your FreePBX GUI!).

If you only have the need to send an occasional outgoing fax, you can use FaxZero, which allows you to send up to three free faxes a day, with up to three pages in each fax. But, here is how you can easily receive incoming faxes in the FreePBX Distro.

First, create a new Virtual Extension:

Create Virtual ExtensionClick Submit.  When the next page appears, give the virtual extension a name and an extension number:

Virtual FAX Extension Settings 1Now you must Submit the page and reload it, otherwise the fax settings will not appear. Now on that same page, fill in the fax settings. The Fax Email is the email address at which you wish to receive your faxes. I suggest using a PDF file as the output format:

Virtual FAX Extension Settings 2Now Submit the page again.

EDIT FOR FREEPBX 14 AND NEWER VERSION USERS: The above is only partially correct for FreePBX 14.  In that version, you must have the User Management module installed.  Start out by creating a new Virtual Extension as shown above.  Under the General tab, enter the User Extension and the Display Name, and make sure that in the User Manager Settings, Link to a Default User is set to Create New User.  Under the Advanced tab, set Call Waiting to Disable. Click Submit.  Go to User Management (under the Admin menu) and under Users find the newly created FAX user and click the edit button. Click the FAX tab and set Enabled to Yes, and Attachment Format to whatever you want (I suggest PDF).  Then click the User Details tab and fill in the Email Address, and click Submit.  Now continue on with the instructions below.

Next, create an Inbound Route using your FAX number as the DID Number. This can be any number coming into your system that is dedicated to FAX usage. In my experience, even a Google Voice number will work fine for this purpose most of the time. Do NOT set “Detect Faxes” to YES unless for some reason you want to use a single DID for both voice and FAX. If you can get a separate free DID just for receiving faxes, that’s far better than sharing a DID for both purposes. Instead, at the bottom of the page under “Set Destination”, select “Fax Recipient” from the dropdown and then the FAX extension you created:

Set Fax RecipientSubmit that page.  Finally, you need to set an outgoing email address.  Go to Settings and select Fax Configuration, then on the Fax Options page, fill in an Outgoing Email address (sender address) for faxes sent by your system. After doing that, go to the bottom of the page and click Submit, and only then should you go up and click the bright red Apply Config button.  Don’t forget to Submit all your pages after making any changes or you’ll need to do them over!

Set outgoing fax email addressNow you can have someone try sending you a test fax. They should send it to your DID and the call should be answered with FAX tones and after the fax is completed, it should automatically be sent to your specified email address (the one you chose when setting up the virtual extension) as a PDF attachment. If it doesn’t arrive in a reasonable time, check your spam or trash folders. Some email providers (Google, I am looking at you) seem to think that any incoming fax is a spam message. You may need to tell your email provider that such messages are “not spam”, or add the email address of your system as an “approved sender” or something like that. If you don’t find the fax in either your inbox, or your spam or trash mailboxes, it may be that your system is not properly configured to send email. That is another topic entirely and is beyond the scope of this article.

Note that the above has been tested on a recent version of the FreePBX Distro, but your experience may vary depending, on which version of the Distro you are using.

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