The best way to record VoIP calls is to use an app-based virtual private branch exchange (PBX). Most virtual PBX providers (e.g., NetLines) offer call recording as one of their services. Other call recording methods include:
- port mirroring using a switch and server
- cloud-based recording apps
- using existing software
- using dedicated software
In this post, we explore the “why” and “how” of recording VoIP phone calls. We also investigate the ethics and law regarding recording phone calls and the cost of making such recordings. We conclude with a prediction about the future of cloud-based, VoIP call recording.
Table of Contents
Why Record Cloud / VoIP Calls?
Companies record VoIP calls for a plethora of reasons. Modern VoIP technology makes recording calls extremely easy. More and more companies are doing it and finding several benefits, including:
Monitoring and maintaining the quality of sales and support service calls. The recordings can be a valuable tool in staff training and procedure development. For example, listening to new sales line staff to ensure they have received the correct training.
Protecting the company from legal difficulties when forming verbal agreements with customers and suppliers. For example, recording the conversation when agreeing to a new customer price structure in return for a minimum order value. It can also be used to ensure compliance with industry-specific laws.
Recording and transcribing meeting minutes. There are more virtual meetings taking place than ever before. It can be beneficial to have a transcription of the meeting to email to participants after the meeting. Participants can agree on the content and keep a record in the same way minutes used to be taken. Auto-transcription of recorded calls is becoming very cost-effective, fast, and accurate as voice recognition technology improves.
Responding to customer complaints more effectively. The customer service team can listen to any complaint calls. This can help them identify the exact problem and help them fix it. The calls act as a record of repeat issues that can identify procedure or product problems. The recording can also be used in defense if the complaint is serious.
Call Recording Ethics and the Law
When it comes to recording phone calls, the law can be difficult to interpret. In most states, it is not illegal to record phone conversations. The legality of recording normally depends on the consent of one or both parties (California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Washington). Therefore, automated attendant scripts often include a notice about recording the call. The caller can then end the call if they do not want to be recorded.
Best practices and ethics generally dictate that it is polite to notify callers at the start of a conversation if you are going to record the call. Most people use an automated message at the start of the call. This is difficult if you are using a Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) line. It is extremely easy if you are using a cloud phone service such as NetLines. By notifying the caller of your intent, you give them an option to opt-out by ending the call. If they continue the call, it is seen as giving their consent.
We recommend you check the legal intricacies of your state with your attorney before setting up a call recording system.
Different Ways to Record Virtual Calls
Gone are the days of huge tape recorders, masses of wires, and pressing the big record button at the start of each phone call. Things have moved forward considerably! New VoIP technology means effortless recording and a plethora of post-recording options including automatic transcription and cloud-based audio file storage. The actual recording method depends on your budget and your needs.
Server and Switch
Also known as port mirroring, the server and switch method is now a little out of date. The engineer sets up a port mirroring switch that detects VoIP real-time traffic. Once detected, this traffic is mirrored and sent to a recording server. This server can be onsite in your IT room or off-site supplied by your provider. The hardware takes up space and is difficult to install and configure. It is difficult to upscale and now being replaced by newer technology.
On the plus side, your existing data switch may already have a port mirroring facility. Adding a simple single quad-core processor and storage device may prove cost-effective. This set up works well for up to around 200 simultaneous calls. If there are more, you will need to split the mirrored data between two servers.
So, this system may suit the already established small business.
Cloud-Based Recording App
Hosted recording services often still use a port mirroring switch. The switch mirrors the data and diverts it to the offsite cloud server. This system can be beneficial for those wanting to record calls sporadically. It may not be economical in time, money, or space to set up an in-house server. Paying a simple subscription to the recording service is a simple and cost-effective solution.
As with most such solutions, convenience compromises functionality and quality. Offsite storage can limit access and functionality. The reliance on port mirroring technology and an off-site server can lead to a reduction in quality. Hosted recording can be expensive, especially when it comes to upscaling.
Using Existing PC Software
For the one-off or very infrequent call recording, existing PC software may suffice. Why spend a significant amount of money on something you only need once a month? If you are this type of user, you probably use a free domestic type application to make calls. Examples include free to use versions of Skype and Teams. For example, with Skype, it is as simple as pressing the “record” button. The resulting audio file is then sent to all participants at the end of the call.
Such apps are fine for the occasional general business call but there are limitations when compared to the paid-for alternatives. Recording quality is low and only available in mono. The PC that initiates the recording, records the received audio from the other caller(s). The recording increases the required bandwidth. This can lead to call instability and reduced quality.
So, using existing software may be suitable for the occasional recording of a virtual business meeting, but is not suitable for anything much larger.
Using Dedicated PC Software
Local recording clients let you record your VoIP app (e.g., Skype or Zoom) calls directly to your device memory. You download the software or app to your device (computer or smartphone). You start the app before the call and set up the software to record. When you start your VoIP call, the recording client starts recording the audio and video. It stores the files in your device storage so you can then open the files later to relisten to the conversation or watch the video. Most recording client’s software offer a range of facilities to help you manage the recorded calls.
This solution is ideal for people who only need to record a few conversations per week. They might not want to have a monthly contract for external storage or a potential security problem with offsite storage. The data is stored on the local device ensuring access and control over its security.
There are however some operating problems with this technique. The software must be reset each time a call is made or received. This limits the use of large call volumes. The cost can be prohibitive when it comes to upscaling because new “seats” for the software may have to be procured for any new members of staff.
VoIP Service Provider Feature
The most recent innovation in VoIP call recording is to use an application based virtual Private Branch Exchange (PBX). These apps turn your mobile phone into a complete business phone system. There is no hardware, no setup costs, no extra room needed in your IT room nor any problems with upscaling. In fact, it’s easier than ever to get a second number on your smart phone and additional lines and extensions for your employees with VoIP phone numbers. The monthly costs are minimal and offered on a month-by-month basis or yearly contract.
Calls can be recorded automatically or at the push of a button on the app. The recording is stored on a remote cloud (no need for an extra storage device) or an in-house server. The files can easily be accessed from your smartphone and used for transcription, quality control, or training.
This cutting-edge technology is quickly becoming the go-to solution for many small and large businesses.
VoIP Call Recording Service Costs
Recording service costs depend on your requirements. If you want to record a one-off call, then you already can record for free using existing software such as Skype. These free methods are not suitable for larger users. Alternatives include the old-style port mirroring technology, but this can cost several thousands of dollars to set up. The remote cloud-based storage apps still require expensive switchgear and can prove to be expensive for high volume users.
The most economical call recording method is the mobile app-driven virtual PBX. Call recording is often an included feature of such services and requires no additional hardware.
The Future of VoIP Recording
The near future of VoIP recording is still going to be a mixed bag of old and new technology. People are still going to be using port mirroring and in-house servers for the next few years. In the near future, as these solutions become obsolete, more businesses will move over to the cost-effective and feature-loaded mobile app-based virtual phone system. These services have a huge capacity for call recording and offer value for money and convenience.