As more and more people do business over the Internet, some companies whose customers aren't connected or that don't want to spend money on a server may feel left out of the loop. Now there are some new services that offer the chance to ride the technology wave without getting soaked.

ActionFax International Inc. (214-931-5800), in Dallas, gives customers a chance to send and receive E-mail using a fax machine for $20 to $30 a month. First, a customer receives an E-mail address. Then, when someone E-mails him or her a message, the ActionFax Internet FAX Gateway, which constantly scans the Internet, picks up the message and converts it to an electronic fax, which it then sends to the addressee's fax machine. Subscribers who want to send a message through cyberspace can fax a message to ActionFax, which will convert the message into an E-mail message and whisk it off to the receiver's Internet address. "There aren't that many small businesses on-line," says Michael Sheriff, president and CEO of ActionFax. "The fax will be the preferred method of distributing information for a long time."

And for the super image-conscious, move over vanity license plates; vanity E-mail addresses have arrived. If you're an individual or a small company, a customized E-mail address from American Information Systems (AIS) (312-255-8500; can make you appear huge. "It makes it look as if you have your own server," says Michael Stahulak, a consultant to Knowledge Products, a computer-service bureau in Nashville and an AIS subscriber.

Here's how it works. You choose an Internet domain name for your company ( Then individuals in the company can fashion their own E-mail addresses ( For a fee of $100 to $200 a year per alias, AIS intercepts your messages and routes them from and to any E-mail carrier "I'm not going to say it makes the difference between a 1% or a 2% response from customers," says Stahulak. "But it costs next to nothing to have, and it adds prestige to the business." -- Sarah Schafer

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