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May 31, 2007
ARCHER DANIELS MIDLAND (ADM), the 105-year-old supermarket to the world, needed a change. For years, its Minneapolis contact center recorded all calls on tape. The multibillion-dollar company fields global inquiries and is required to document them. ADM buys crops soybean, corn, wheat and cocoa from farmers worldwide. It then turns those yields into ingredients, including corn sweeteners, emulsifiers and soy protein, and sells them to processors like Kraft Foods Inc. All of the recordings in the Minneapolis facility were kept on tape; those tapes periodically were shipped, via FedEx, to a warehouse.
Imagine the overhead.
Who Wants IP Call Recording?
A couple of years ago, ADM moved to IP with the help of vendor Sphere Communications and the Sphericall IP PBX. Sphere also switched ADM to IP call recording, the software-based recording and archival of audio, text and even screen-captured interactions. ADMs per-line recording costs plummeted from approximately $1,000 to around $299. Better yet, those hefty shipping and storage charges disappeared.
For the longest time, only large enterprises had wherewithal to afford the $40,000-$125,000 for legacy equipment. Now, IP telephony has made call recording affordable for entities of all sizes, even down to the mom n pop operation with five phone lines. Banks, Wall Street traders, medical providers, government agencies, lawyers, bill collectors, large enterprises, schools and universities, even radio and television broadcasters all are using or demanding IP call recording. Its not just the savings that are driving them to it. Many of these segments must comply with accounting regulations, and health and financial privacy laws (the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). IP call recording is proving the easiest method for managing and archiving exchanges between companies and their customers and suppliers. And, the application has turned into another opportunity for channel partners to help clients make the most of their IP investments. Done right, partners can earn residual commissions for the life of the contracts.
While low first cost or regulatory compliance may get many customers to the table, they are not the only things driving interest. These days, call recording really is a lot more than call recording, say Bob Cordes, vice president of product management and marketing for IP call recording vendor Telrex.
Many call centers and other businesses want to protect their employees from abusive or threatening callers. They also want to use recorded interactions to train workers. Some hotels, for example, are asking VARs for help programming menus and graphics into the screens of room phones so guests can record data such as wake-up calls. Teachers are using IP call recording to contact absent students and track details of those calls. The applications are nearly endless, which means the potential to cash in is equally unlimited.
How It Works
First, though, partners need to know how IP call recording works. Nearly all IP call recording platforms are vendor-independent, built on common VoIP protocols to work with just about any IP switch, server and phone. A number of companies also provide hybrid recording options for businesses that have not fully migrated to IP.
So what does IP call recording actually do? Well, think of those space-hogging cassettes. Outta here. Those bulky pieces of recording equipment? Gone the way of the Commodore 64. If a call center, for instance, wants to record IM, e-mail or phone conversations between agents and customers, its done with the click of a button. The uses for IP call recording run much the same gamut as legacy systems from dispute resolution and compliance with federal regulations, to improved employee training and productivity. Its just that IP call recording is better on a number of levels. Its usually far less expensive. It gets rid of most hardware. It offers one-click recording and search tags users no longer have to punch fast-forward, stop, play. It lets administrators eavesdrop on calls in real time, even from the other side of the country. It comes with security assurances, such as encryption and digital watermarking to discourage misuse. Demonstrating these features often closes the sale, vendors say.
When explaining the technology, vendors highlight how painless it is to use. Recording interactions ought to be a straightforward process, say developers. Most platforms work with Windows or Linux operating systems, so the screens are familiar to users. One part displays the communications methods (e-mail, fax, IM, phone, screen shots and the like) that can be recorded. Another section shows presence data who is logged into the system and whether they are on the phone or chatting over e-mail or IM. From there, an administrator can click a name to start recording interactions. Those recordings can be saved to a local machine or disk, attached to an e-mail or archived on the storage area network.
Queuing recordings should be as effortless as choosing a scene on a DVD, says Nora Freedman, a research analyst with IDCs Enterprise Networking group. There also should be multiple ways to obtain those interactions. To wit, ASC telecom AG designed its EVOip system to let users fetch recordings from the Internet, the LAN or through the IP telephone by entering information such as date, caller or agent identification. In some cases, recordings can be delivered through an XML service, says Franz Hock, director of product management for ASC.
The question of security will arise as soon as a client learns to maneuver the program. And thats the odd thing about IP call recording security is harder to ensure with IP call recording than it is on cassettes.
Tapes are more difficult to tamper with because someone has to wade through layers of physical security to get to them by, for example, stealing a key to the vault containing the tapes. But digital recordings can be very easily compromised, copied or altered because they are electronic, says Andy Mercker, director of marketing for Telrex, maker of the CallRex line. In response, programmers have developed deterrents such as digital watermarking.
Think of digital watermarking like the wrapper on an aspirin bottle, says Telrexs Cordes. A miscreant can tamper with the contents, but he will have to remove the protective plastic to get to them. Consumers know the aspirin isnt safe if the wrapping is gone or damaged, Cordes says. Following that analogy, a recording is saved with permissions Do Not Copy, for example. Users can open the file and click to verify its authenticity. If the recording has been jeopardized, the application issues a warning.
Its not the same as a lock on a door, Cordes cautions. Thats because developers have yet to figure out how to track who damaged a file and how to bar troublemakers. They are trying, however. CTI Group, and to some extent Telrex and others, offer encrypted recording. With CTIs SmartRecord series, the administrator must save the recording to his or her machine, and then provide log-in information to the recipient. The user cant just forward a link, CTIs Rao says. We dont want to incur the liability of someone saying, We didnt want you to forward that, he says.
TC&C does the opposite. Its application allows users to forward URLs to recordings. The caveat is, recipients must have access to the same system on which the exchange originated.
Most IP call recording vendors shun password protection because users already have too many codes to remember.
Once clients understand the ease and savings and that the security risk can be minimized they are bound to fall for IP call recording. A partners next task is to design the deployment, angling for residual commissions.
IP Call Recording Vendors at a Glance
ASC telecom AG
Entirely software-based; requires no proprietary hardware; works with pure-IP and hybrid networks
A hosted platform
Sphericall IP PBX
An open-source IP PBX that incorporates call recording
Supports single and multisite locations; tailored for Cisco equipment
Automatic recording triggers
Like most programs in telecom, compensation depends on the extent of a partners involvement in a deployment. Referrals net commissions of 5 percent to 10 percent, says Gabor Krivachy, president and CEO of TC&C. VARs and systems integrators that handle installation and marketing get up to 30 percent, he adds. Generally, says Andy Barbour, director of channel sales for LiteScape Technologies Inc., a TC&C reseller, margins are very competitive compared to standard enterprise software resale programs. LiteScape has incorporated TC&Cs CARIN software into its CRM, collaboration and identitymanagement applications for IP telephony. LiteScapes channel partners mostly work with the financial and professional services industries.
In addition to commissions, many partners customize services for clients because those projects fuel ongoing revenue, says Todd Landry, senior vice president of Sphere Communications. Others impose annual software maintenance and per-seat license fees.
Hosting the IP call-recording capability also can be a quick way toward residual revenue. CTI Groups SmartRecord IP software sits in the companys colocation facility or a providers NOC where it is integrated with softswitches like Broadsofts. Under the hosted model, SmartRecord IP resellers can earn margins as high as 50 percent to 60 percent on accounts with large numbers of users, the company says. The option also enables cost-effective call recording in distributed work environments that include at-home or remoteoffice workers or call center agents expanding yet again the addressable market for IP call recording.
The next stages of IP call recording will be all about video and mobility. Sphere Communications Todd Landry paints a picture of a salesman on the road. The salesman will register his mobile phone with the enterprise communications system to get access to applications such as IP call recording. Say the road warrior needs to meet with clients over the phone or lead conference calls. Instead of pulling off the interstate to a hotspot, the salesman can dial the conference bridge connected to the IP call-recording function. When everyone has joined, the salesman can hit a button to record the call because, lets face it, some things like notetaking shouldnt be done while driving. Later, from his hotel room, he can use his PC to access the work server, pull up the call and take notes.
Along these lines, CTI Group recently introduced a prepaid card to initiate call recording. A traveling lawyer, For example, dials the 800 number, keys in the destination number, and the system automatically records the conversation. Later, the lawyer retrieves the exchange online.
IDC analyst Nora Freedman says IP call recording will move outside the enterprise. Home security companies will record over IP networks. This is where youll really see video pop up, she says. Companies will want this same functionality. A manufacturer might want to zoom in on assembly lines so that when a problem crops up, supervisors can take care of it right away and review the incidents handling later.
Freedman predicts the video aspect of IP call recording will come into play in three-to-five years. Customers are still at the crawling stage and the vendors are working on building better sneakers.
Some developers are dabbling in video now. IPcelerate Inc. has added video blogging to IPstudio, its recording platform. Voice and video are becoming documents for archival, says Kevin Brown, president and CEO of IPcelerate. Weve taken recording and blended it with blogging and blended it with alerting. He gives the example of a recent IPcelerate shareholder meeting. Brown sent a URL to participants not in attendance, allowing them to view the recording and comment through a blog function. When Brown is alerted to new comments, he answers them over video and attaches them to the original meeting.
More companies are looking to employ tools that people use in their personal lives, Brown says, referencing functionalities common to popular consumer social networking and content sites MySpace and YouTube.
–With reporting from Khali Henderson
Read more about:Agents
Kelly Teal has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist, editor and analyst, with longtime expertise in the indirect channel. She worked on the Channel Partners magazine staff for 11 years. Kelly now is principal of Kreativ Energy LLC. Follow her on LinkedIn at /kellyteal/.
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