Written by: Alan Lindsay
It is very interesting to look at the additional features different VoIP phone systems and services offer. Many of them offer completely wild functionality that nobody ever ends up using. And then critical functions may or may not be missing. The only way to be sure is to make a thorough list of every function you need and then use it as part of your selection process. Call recording is one of these functions that many people either need or would like – and others could care less about. But it isn't available on many VoIP phone systems. It IS on every call center application or VoIP extension service since it is a common requirement either for training or regulatory reasons.
But many people don't realize that you can still record just about any kind of VoIP call. It just takes a little hardware or software and some planning. There is one exception – there is no free and completely reliable way to record a wireless VoIP call over a cellphone.
First off, though, it is illegal to record a phone call secretly as a private person in the US. You are required to inform the other party on the phone that the call is being recorded.
If your VoIP Phone System has a recording option then you are best off using it. Consult your manual and reference guides and make sure you understand the system and can activate it. Test it on a practice call.
You can also get third party add-ons for some systems. Typically, free internet-based VoIP services, like Skype, have been hard to find recorders for, but nowadays there are services like Pamela Call Recorder that can make recordings. You can find others in the Skype extras section of their site.
This method uses the same techniques that were available to any phone user for the past 30 years. You can buy add on pieces of hardware that attach to your phone and either pick up the audio directly from the wire by passing the call into and out of the device – or that attach to your handset and record the audio by reading the magnetic signals in the speaker and microphone coils. This solution works very well if your VoIP system has physical handsets that are anything like a regular phone. One of the best places to get these devices is Radio Shack. Here are a couple from their catalog (1) (2) – but please read the comments and get the details before buying. Some only work on some kinds of handsets.
The final solution is for when you use VoIP on a computer via a softphone or program. You cannot easily use hardware to record from the computer headset, speaker or microphone. Instead you use software to capture the computer system audio and save it as a WAV or MP3 file. The best solution is an open source multi-platform audio editor called Audacity. You can download it here. Download it and then install it. When you run it you need to make sure that it uses the standard system sound input and output. Now when you do anything involving audio, including a VoIP call, it passes through Audacity and by clicking the red record button you will record it. Test it a few times to make sure you understand it and how to get it to work with your softphone or VoIP program. Audacity is also a great audio editor so if you are recording a conference call or interview, you can use Audacity to cut out the unneeded portions and improve the audio quality before you save the recording.
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