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Digitisation of tape recordings

8 min read
Author Business Systems UK
Date Dec 20, 2016
Category Call Recording Technology

[Last Updated: March 2018]

The way call recordings are stored, plays an important role in ensuring organisations are able to access audio assets either for compliance or business intelligence purposes. Magnetic tape represents one of the riskiest storage mediums for recordings as it has a finite lifespan (10-20 years) and is susceptible to premature degrading dependent on storage conditions and access frequency.

In the past, keeping multiple copies and transcription have been the recommended failsafe methods. Today however, digitisation (moving the audio data to a digital environment such as a hard drive or the cloud) has become best practice as it helps organisations reduce disadvantages and risks that come along side magnetic media.

For example:

Accessibility: Finding a specific recording that is on tape, someone has first to look on which tape the recording has been stored, then physically find the tape amongst the thousands stored, put it in the appropriate audio machine, and rummage through all recordings to find the one needed. This process is likely to take days and ads to the wear and tear of the tape. By migrating to a digital environment, recorded calls can be easily found and retrieved through their metadata and quickly made available upon request.

Life span: Tape as a means of storage is subject to time degradation or damage, consequently rendering the recording inaccessible. Tape manufacturers often claim that tapes can last up to thirty years if kept in absolute optimal environmental conditions (humidity, temperature, cleanliness etc). But even in such cases, there is a risk that the tape lifespan will surpass the lifespan of the play back equipment making it increasingly difficult to find working recorders to play the tape. A more realistic lifespan is between ten or twenty years. If you are storing sensitive data on tape, we recommend keeping them for no longer than 7 years to avoid possible losses. (for more information on the life expectancy of tape can be found here)

Physical Space: Not only does storing tape recordings take up physical space, organisations also need to ensure they are kept in a secure location where they cannot be tampered with. Creating and maintaining safe physical environments, made to meet the recommended environmental conditions, often results in elevated costs. Moving tape recording to a digital space removes the stress factor of having to find a secure location that is inaccessible to unauthorised individuals as well as present the best possible storage conditions.

Costs: Aside from the obvious physical storage costs, a storage medium should also be evaluated in terms of the potential repercussion of losing the recorded information. When this cost is considered, it may become economically smart to invest more in a medium/system that offers reliability in the long term. This is particularly relevant in the financial industry, were recordings need to be available for longer periods of time in order to meet compliance.

So what does the process of moving recordings from tape to a digital environment entail?

Security: When moving call recordings from tape to a digital environment, the process should be carried out in a secure environment where tapes can be safely stored with access only to those involved in the process to avoid tampering or loss of data.

Time planning:

  • Retrieval: The tapes are inserted in the retrieval server/logger and the retrieval process is commenced, which can take anything from one to twelve hours depending on the tape type and size, the number of recordings on it and any damage to the data.
  • Administration: A note of the date, time, folder name and tape number are accurately kept in order to correctly match the data and find recordings once the migration is completed. The administration of each tape can take anything from one to two hours.

Note: If the tape is in poor condition, there is a high probability that retrieving calls will not be possible. Tapes are prone to fast deterioration, so if you have any tape recordings that have been stored for longer than five years, it is important to start thinking about retrieving the data stored within them as soon as possible.

Additionally, you need to consider your call recorder manufacturer as calls may have been stored in different formats and potentially have encryption. At Business Systems we partner with a number of manufacturers, including NICE, Verint and Red Box Recorders, and can help extract calls from current and discontinued recorders, so to homogenise the data and provide you with a single point of access.

Do you still store your call recordings on tape?
If you want to find out more about the digitisation of call recordings, feel free to contact us: 0800 458 2988, [email protected].