Passive, Active and Integrated Call Recording

Many of you face the dilemma of passive, active or integrated call recording when making a decision to acquire an in-house call recording solution. So what is the difference and what is the impact on your business?

Passive Call Recording

Passive call recording equipment is completely transparent to your existing telephone system and the way you use it right now. The call recorder is a separate device to your telephony system and will connect to your telephone lines via what is known as a “high-impedance tap” in order to capture call information and conversations. There is no need to modify your existing telephony system equipment in any way.

Passive call recording equipment does not interact with calls in any way. As a matter of fact, your staff will not even know that it exists (if you choose to not tell them). With most equipment you will be able to control recording (start, stop, pause …) during calls by entering a pre-defined sequence of digits on your telephone key-pad, or by deploying a separate application on your desktops.

One of the drawbacks of passive call recording equipment which is used to record VoIP calls is the fact that it will need extra capacity on your business data network. This is direct result of the technology used to implement ”high-impedance” taps for VoIP telephony networks. So ask your solution provider about this and whether you need new or additional equipment for your data network.

Active Call Recording

Active call recording equipment is never transparent to your existing telephone system. However, just like passive call recording equipment, it can be completely transparent to the way you use your telephone system.

Unlike passive call recording equipment, you will have to modify, or upgrade, your telephone system to support what is known as CTI (Computer Telephony Integration). CTI is usually a function of telephony equipment that is available only if you pay for it. It is very unlikely that you received this function on your telephony equipment when you purchased it, unless you explicitly asked for it.

In addition to the CTI function, the telephony system needs additional telephone lines which will be used to connect the call recording equipment to the telephony system. Typically, you will need to purchase additional “line cards” for your telephony system in order to add the additional telephone lines to it. Finally, if the telephony equipment and call recording equipment are not collocated, then you may have to purchase additional interconnect lines from a telecommunication service provider to connect the sites where you house your telephony system equipment and call recording equipment.

Active call recording equipment needs the CTI function and the telephone lines between the telephony system and itself in order to capture call information and conversations.

Active call recording equipment always interacts with your calls. However, this interaction can be transparent to the way you make calls as it occurs in the background between your telephony system and the call recorder. If this is the case, with most equipment you will be able to control recording (start, stop, pause …) during calls by entering a pre-defined sequence of digits on your telephone key-pad, or by deploying a separate application on your desktops.

On the other hand, the interaction can be fully non-transparent. In this case, one of the call participants needs to “invite” the call recorder in the call. This is usually done by pre-programming a button on your handsets which (in the background) conferences the recording equipment with an active call.

Note that in all cases, the call recording equipment is an active participant in calls. This has its advantages in that you can use the equipment to play a recording beep tone (a legal requirement in many countries), or play announcements during conversations. This is not possible with passive recording equipment.

Integrated Call Recording

A number of telephone systems now come with a built-in call recording function. This is what is known as integrated call recording.

Usually, you need to pay an additional license fee to enable this function on your telephone system. However, you do not need to purchase any external call recording equipment as you do with passive and active call recording.

Integrated call recording works differently on different telephony systems. On most systems it behaves as active call recording does. Discuss this with your telephony system provider.

This is probably the most cost effective alternative when it comes to call recording. However, recording channel capacity, storage capacity and scalability are usually an issue. Integrated call recording is unlikely to be able to cover all your telephone lines at the same time. In addition, storage space may be limited on your telephony system and you will need to provide an external disk space. Finally, integrated call recording does not scale at all. It is basically what you get in the “box”, the box being the telephony system.