Recordings and HTML5 audio tags

Christian Stredicke
CEO of Vodia Networks

Recording phone calls is an important feature of any PBX. Phone calls sometime need to be recorded for legal purposes, for example for broker companies that need a proof when trading agreements are made over the phone.

On the snom ONE PBX, we differentiate between automatically made recordings and recordings that were started manually. The manual recordings are treated similar to voicemail messages and are shown in the voicemail section of the web interface. Because there are usually only a handful of such recordings, the manual recordings are no big problem.

The automatic recordings are generally generated in bulk. Especially in busy call centers with thousands of calls every day, it generates a difficult question on how to archive and access the recordings.

The first answer to this question is the file system. By putting the recordings into directories that are organized by the domain and the date, we make it easy to access files for those who have file system access. Also it is easy to permanently store those files on remote storage services. There are several synchronization services available today for this.

However there was always the demand to have the playback for the recordings right from the web interface. HTML5 has added the audio element, which makes it possible to stream the audio directly to the browser without the need to store it and then play it externally. In other words, it becomes possible to play a recording back with a simple click. Also it makes it possible to grant access only to certain recordings, for example only to those made by a certain agent group without having to tweak file system access. This is what we have added to the upcoming 5.1.3 release. For the various recording locations, we have put a little triangle next to the recording record. When the user clicks on it, it makes the audio player visible and starts the playback.

While we were on it, we also started to add the playback feature in other places like the auto attendant IVR control (see screenshot). This makes it easier, faster and more fun to set the attendant up.

Recordings and HTML5 audio tags

Most desktop browsers support this method. Unfortunately, Internet Explorer is again an exception here because it is not able to play back simple WAV files. Encoding the recordings in MP3 or even AAC is not an option for the PBX, so that we are not able to offer this feature for IE users. However, in most installations users have also other browsers installed, so that it will be possible to use this new feature for practically all users. Also the feature availability for mobile users is limited. Here we expect that over time, more and more mobile devices support the HTML5 audio tag with the WAV format.