How To Record A Phone Call

How To Record A Phone Call
Last Updated on April 8, 2024

How To Record A Phone Call

How to record a phone call

Recording a phone call on its face seems like a fairly easy and straight forward operation. However, the moment you begin to dig a little deeper you quickly discover that to record a simple phone call is not so simple after all.

There are a number of factors to consider when recording your calls. This article will be a general overview of the process and steps to consider, but in no means will this article dig any deeper than a broad overview. Because of the number of factors and options, getting in touch with a phone recording software provider is your best option to discuss a solution based on your particular scenario.

The Main Things To Consider

Here is a basic list of things to consider when you are trying to record.

  1. What type of incoming lines do you have?
  2. What is the PBX, or do you even have one?
  3. What are the phone models (extensions) that need to be recorded?
  4. How many actual phones/extensions do I want to record?
  5. What is important to me, what do I want to do with these recordings?

What type of incoming lines do you have?

Some of you may be wondering what does this even mean? When a recording provider asks you this, we want to know what line(s) you have entering your business from the outside world. These are often referred to as “trunk” lines. Imagine a trunk line as a big thick wire coming from the outside worked (your phone provider) and leads right into your building. This line can be analog lines, T1, E1, PRI lines or a combination depending on the size of your company. Knowing what type of line coming into the building allows a call recording provider to properly size and determine if recording on the trunk side is a viable option, or if recording on the extension side is more practicable.  

If you are unsure how many trunk lines you have coming in, or the type of lines coming into your business, your best bet is to call your phone provider. They will have this information. Also, if you wanted to know the number of trunk lines being used within your business, a good test is to test how many concurrent calls your business is able to have. In other words, if 5 people in your office are on the phone, and you call into your business and get a busy signal, it is a safe bet that you have 5 trunk lines coming in. If you had 6 trunk lines, then that 6th call you received would not get a busy signal but would ring another extension.


Another important factor to consider whether to record a phone call on the trunk side is to determine the cost-benefit versus recording on the extension side. Let’s take for example a PRI line coming into the business. The PRI can carry 23 lines, thus, a PRI line can have 23 concurrent calls, but the 24th call would receive a busy signal. To record this PRI line, you would need to obtain 23 recording licenses to properly capture all inbound and outbound calls that go over this PRI line. Trunks are random when a customer from the outside world calls your business, one of the trunk lines on the PRI will be used, however, there is no set order when it comes to trunk lines. Meaning, anyone of the 23 lines on the PRI may be the one designated to be used and enable the communication between the business and the customer. Thus, you must get 23 recording licenses to record that phone call to properly cover all the calls you may want to record.

Want to record on the extension side? This is discussed further in the article.

What is the PBX, or do you even have one?

A PBX is the Private Branch eXchange within your business. It receives the calls and routes them to the appropriate person. Think of the PBX as a box that is connected to all the outside lines (like the PRI discussed above), and when someone calls in, they are greeted with a recorded message, and the customer selects “2” on the phone to be connected to the “support department.”  The PBX takes this selection and correctly routes that call to whatever extensions are configured for option 2.

There are plenty of PBX manufacturers, and depending on the PBX you have, it can handle a variety of incoming lines, such as PRI, T1, analog, BRI, etc. The phones connected to the PBX may then be analog phones, VoIP phones, or digital phones.

For more details on what a PBX is, take a look here (

Knowing the brand and model of the PBX sometimes helps a phone call reordering company decipher what type of lines you have, and also if it is viable to record on the trunk or extensions side.

You do not have a PBX?

It is ok if you do not have a PBX, this does not prevent you from recording your calls. A PBX in the equation allows the recording vendor to determine the most appropriate step, as well as determine if SMDR or CDR integration will work with your particular system. We have a plethora of call recording scenarios you can review. All are typical scenarios we run into and if your particular scenario is not listed, please reach out, there usually is a way to properly record your phone calls. 

What are the phone models (extensions) that need to be recorded?

The phones after the PBX also tell a phone recording company information about the type of lines and appropriate cards required to properly record a phone call. Although one type of line may be coming into the PBX from the provider, the PBX may convert this into a different line type, such as a digital line, and knowing this will determine what type of recording card is needed.

When recording analog or digital lines, a physical recording card is needed. For VoIP, no card is required, as most call recording companies utilize the switch that all the phones are connected to, and configuring a SPAN/Mirror port. However, for analog and digital, there are physical wires involved, and these wires need to be tapped into (split and spliced), and one end connected to the recorder and the other to the phone. Thus, an actual physical recording card is needed to make this connection with the recorder.

Most of the time, knowing the model of the phones helps determine what these lines are after the PBX, and this helps determine what type of cards (if any) are needed.

How many actual phones/extensions do I want to record?


Giving a range of phones you desire to record, such as 20 to 40 phones, may seem ok. But, the issue with this large of a range changes the pricing, and sometimes, depending on what type of trunk lines or phones you have, it may affect what type of solution is the most efficient and cost-effective.

For example, a PRI has 23 lines coming into a building, most companies who have a PRI may also have 40 phones set up after their PBX. This is common, but knowing how many phones actually need to be recorded can change the solution. As discussed earlier, recording on the trunk side we would need to record all 23 lines and get a PRI card, thus, the business would need to purchase 23 recording licenses to cover all 23 lines. However, if the company only wants to record 10 phones, a more efficient solution would be to record on the extension side and obtain 10 recording licenses and the appropriate card (if needed) to record those specific 10 phones.

Thus, knowing the exact number of phones you want to record is important. Also what is important is to know if there is a chance that you may end up recording more down the road. If that same business wants to start recording 10, but eventually wants to roll it out to record all 40 phones, this too is very important information. Because now it would make sense to pay a little more upfront for a PRI trunk side recording, and typically (depending on the recording provider you go with) at no extra cost they can record all 40 lines with a simple change in the software configuration. Since the lines are already tapped into, and the licenses are purchased to record on all the trunk lines, adding additional departments to be recorded is easy because what occurs on the extension side does not affect the trunk side as long as the PRI remains the same.

If however the company was recording on the extension side, and they wanted to record a phone call on an extension they were not previously recording, then an additional license would need to be purchased as well as possibly an additional recording card.

What is important to me, what do I want to do with these recordings


You may be thinking who cares what I want to do with these recordings, or if I am to record a phone call, why would my recording provider care what I do with the recording or how I use the recorder. Although it may feel like a personal question, it provides insight into the recording provider when offering you an appropriate solution.

If your business wanted or needed to listen to live calls, then the ability to live monitor these calls would be an important factor in the solution presented to you. However, if you never expressed this important desire, the recording solution suggested might be to record on the trunk side. How does this affect live monitoring? A great deal.

Assuming you have 40 employees, if you are recording on the trunk side, all you would see on the recording software is that Trunk 1, Trunk 4, and Trunk 14 are all active. No information would be displayed to tell you which of your 40 employees is actually on the phone. This information is captured AFTER the call. This is done via SMDR. The recorder has an additional connection, usually a serial connection, with the PBX. The call comes in, a trunk line is used, and the PBX forwards that call to the appropriate extension. At the end of the call, the PBX communicates with the recorder the call that just occurred went to Extension 101. Additionally, you may have the recorder configured that extension 101 is Bob. Thus, at the end of the call, you know Bob was the one communicating. However, during a live call, you would not know the extension or that it was Bob on the phone, unless you could easily recognize via Bob’s voice that it was him on the call.

Conversely, if the phone call recorder was configured on the extension side, then each line would be designated with each extension and the agent’s name, thus, when a call comes in, and the PBX connects the call with a specific extension, you (the listener) would see that extension line light up. This configuration would allow you to easily see that Bob is on the call when you start to listen to him live.


The above is merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the information and knowledge required to record a phone call. There are plenty of other variables, and complex issues that may come up. Thus, although on its face recording a phone call may feel straight forward, it can become fairly complex once you begin your research. Having a dedicated call recording provider that is knowledgeable on the variety of business phone systems will ensure you receive a recording solution that fits your business for your current and future needs.

Last Updated on April 8, 2024