Telecom Tips - Recording Telephone Conversations and Conference Calls On Demand

by Brian McConnell

Recording Telephone And Conference Calls On Demand

Recording telephone or conference calls is as easy as making a three-way call to a unified messaging service. No special handset or call recording software is required. When you need to record a call, simply make a three-way call to a voice mail service, which will quietly record whatever it hears on the line. This works any telephone (fixed-line, cellular or VoIP) with three-way calling capability.

You can use your cellular phone company's voice mail service to do this, except that most voice mail services do not forward voice mail to email, and also limit the length of the recording to about a minute. You'll be better off to use a unified messaging service such as uReach, or even better to use a service that is specifically optimized for call recording. Unified messaging services will email you a copy of the recording, usually as a WAV file (although many also cap the duration of the recording to several minutes at most).

Trekmail offers a free call recording service that allows recordings up to 20 minutes in length. To use it, you simply make a three-way call to a San Francisco area telephone number, it records whatever it hears on the line, and then emails you a compact MP3 audio recording of the conversation. (Disclosure: the author works for Trekmail).

Hosted Conference Calls

Many conference calling services offer call recording as an option, so if you are hosting a conference call, you can usually activate this option via the conferencing service's web administrative interface. These services will typically enable you to access the recordings either via the web or email.

Of course, individual conference participants can use the technique mentioned above to make their own recordings independently of the conference host.

Recording Fixed Line Phone Calls

Recording calls from fixed line telephones is easier, because it is trivial to connect a telephone call recorder to the telephone line. This equipment has been around for years. The first systems recorded to cassette tapes. Newer devices record calls digitally and can export recordings to computers via USB, removable storage media, etc. Hello Direct, a telecom catalog retailer has a good selection of call recording appliances to choose from.

A Word Of Warning

IANAL. Check your local regulations to make sure its legal to record calls in your jurisdiction. Generally speaking this is OK if one party is aware the call is being recorded, although you may be required to notify the other parties as well. It is good business and social etiquette to let people know that you're recording the conversation. I use this primarily to record telephonic board meetings, conference calls, and occasionally, verbal agreements with vendors (although I generally get everything in writing anyway so this is unnecessary).

Do you know of other utilities and services that can be used to record telephone and conference calls? Post your suggestions and links here...


2005-04-20 08:32:00
Trekmail + Silence = emberassing situation
So I tried recording a call by conferencing trekmail in. Well, there was a bit of silence on the line as the party on the other end looked up something on the computer. Then, out of nowhere, this voice comes on asking me if I'm satisifed with my message.

I grumbled something about having a new phone system and had just been checking voice mails and hung up...

2005-04-20 11:27:10
I too had problems with Trekmail
This seemed like a great idea, because I had a couple voice-mails on my cellphone that I wanted to archive. The problem was, once I setup the 3-way with trekmail and my voicemail, the touchtones to get the message to play caused trekmail to change modes. So while trekmail said press # to stop recording, any touchtone seemed to cause it to change modes. And there was also the silence problem mentioned above, if I wasn't fast enough. Nice idea, but not fully baked.
2005-04-20 11:33:16
Any cellphone provider email mp3 of voice mail?
I have wanted cingular [formerly attws] to provide an option to email voice mail audio for a longtime. Are there any providers that provide this option? I like this option with vonage, although the emailed wav files can be large, not a very efficient coding.
2005-04-20 11:33:38
Trekmail Recording
FYI, I forgot to point this out, Trekmail listens for DTMF tones, so it works best to conference Trekmail into a call after the other parties are on the line. The reason it is set up this way is sometimes you only want to record a short segment of a call. To terminate the recording, you dial # and follow the prompts, after which Trekmail should hang up and remove itself from the call. Especially long periods of silence will also throw it off.
2005-04-20 11:34:58
Any cellphone provider email mp3 of voice mail?
The best way to do this is to subscribe to a unified messaging service such as uReach or J2, and then change your busy/no answer forwarding settings to point to the telephone number for your UM inbox. Watch for a telecom tip that details how to do this later this week...
2005-04-20 11:48:54
Trekmail Recording
In the case of trying to record a voice mail, I couldn't get it conferenced quick enough to avoid losing part of the message. This is the reason I was trying to use touchtones to play the messages. It would be very useful to have an option to disable all touchtones in trekmail once a recording has started, except #, or even better a user setable key.
2005-04-20 11:53:32
Any cellphone provider email mp3 of voice mail?
Using a unified messaging service sounds interesting. But don't all cellphone providers charge for each forwarded call? A couple years ago I tired this with attws to the company pbx, but every transfer was 25¢, which adds up fast. If there is a cellphone provider with free forwarding, I would love to know about it.
2006-02-07 13:36:57
TrekMail acquired by Visto
When Visto acquired TrekMail, the voice recording service appeared to disappear.