Friday, November 5, 2010

Lync Call Recording

Greetings all, its been a while since I've updated this blog and for good reason.  I just got back from a week-long trip up to a VERY remote mine site above the Arctic Circle in Alaska.  I did an Exchange 2007 to Exchange 2010 migration, including UM. It was cold, dark much of the time but starkly beautiful.  Not somewhere I'd consider living, but was pretty cool to visit.

While I was away, things definitely happened on the Lync front. It's gone RTM (as I'm sure everyone already knows). It was frustrating being so remote, because the Internet connection just wasn't fast enough for me to download the bits.  Now I'm back home and able to really get into things.

I had a customer call the other day talking about deploying Lync.  One thing he was very interested in is the Call Recording feature. He wanted to have the ability for users to record calls with clients for documentation purposes.  I hadn't spent much time (well, no time) with call recording in Lync, so I figured now was a good time to check it out.


My first issue was that I couldn't find anywhere where I could record a call in the Lync client. Recording has to be enabled in Lync Control Panel, or Powershell. Browse to Conferencing - Conferencing Policy and edit the appropriate policy (in my case "Global"). You can enable conference and/or peer-to-peer recording, as shown below.

When conference recording is enabled, presenters and attendees (or even anonymous participants, if you check the appropriate box) can record the session.  This will work with any type of endpoint: Lync users, legacy Communicator users, and PSTN callers. The key here is conferencing.  For call recording to be available in this scenario, you must be in a conference with more than one other user/endpoint. For instance, if you call someone via PSTN, you WON'T be able to record the call.  If you conference in a second PSTN caller (or Communicator user), you WILL be able to record the call.

Peer-to-peer recording ONLY works between Lync clients. You cannot record calls between a Lync user and Communicator user, or PSTN phone number.  Interestingly, it appears you also can't record calls made to a Lync phone.  To be able to record a call with a PSTN phone number or legacy Communicator client, you must escalate the call to a conference (as shown above). 

For example, if I make a call to a co-worker's cell phone, when I try to record the call, this is what I see:

If I add another PSTN caller, Communicator or Lync user, the peer-to-peer PSTN call is escalated to a conference, and I can now record the call.

I'm sure there's a very good technical reason why you can only record calls in this manner.  Hopefully, the ability to record peer-to-peer PSTN calls will be added in a future release.

When recording starts, PSTN callers are notified by voice that the call is being recorded.  In Lync, you'll see a notification that the call is being recorded, and you can pause or stop it at any time.

When you either stop recording or finish the call, the Lync Recording Manager kicks in and processes the call content. The user is presented with a screen that allows them to rename the recorded call and save a copy as a WMV file.  Options for the WMV recording allow you to select which portions of the call is recorded to WMV format (ie. voice, video, shared content, IM).  It can take a while to process a call, so be patient. 

Once processing is complete, you will be notified by a pop-up balloon, which brings up the Lync Recording Manager.  From here, you can view and delete your recordings, both in Lync and WMV format.

Lync recordings use an easy-to-navigate interface to choose what content to watch while playing the meeting.   WMV recordings starts off with a title card against a black background outlining the name of the conference, the start time, duration, organizer, and attendees.  This fades away and the conference begins.  If there is only audio recorded, the screen simply shows a simple title card against a black background saying "The meeting has only audio" while the audio plays. If you have video and share content, the video will shrink to a small portion of the screen while the shared content takes up the rest.  For my simple tests, the resulting WMV files were quite small (a 1 minute video was 4MB).

So, in a nutshell, that's the call recording features available in Lync.  This feature will be well-received by anyone who wants to record calls.  However, the lack of peer-to-peer recording support for calls with non-Lync endpoints is puzzling.  I'm sure there's a very good technical reason why its not available.  Hopefully, it will be added in a future release.