Fact Checked

What Are the Different Types of Professional Answering Machines?

Laura M. Sands
Laura M. Sands

Professional answering machines come in multiple varieties, including cordless, digital or those that record messages on tape. A telephone answering machine (TAM) may also come with periphery devices, such as a built-in fax machine or scanner. Some professional answering machines are featured as separate systems that are attached to a telephone via an electric cord, while others are built into telephone devices.

Also known as a message machine, professional answering machines operate with the same purpose as do voicemail systems. Telephones accompanied by a messaging device are used for recording messages left by inbound callers. Such minimizes or eliminates the need for a live person answering phones and writing messages for individuals who are not available for phone calls at a given time.

Answering machine services may be built into telephone devices.
Answering machine services may be built into telephone devices.

Some professional answering machines record outgoing and incoming messages on a removable tape. Such allows the tape to be changed intermittently and previous tape recordings to be physically stored in a safe place. These types of machines are sometimes preferred by individuals and organizations with a need to archive certain messages and keep them in storage for long periods of time.

Other professional answering machines record and store messages digitally. While different storage options do exist for this type of TAM, messages are usually digitally archived. In some instances, recordings can be digitally transferred to another device, such as a memory card, for long-term storage or for use on other computing devices. Whether professional answering machines use tape or digital recording, however, both operate in much the same way. Differences are sometimes noted in the quality of a recording with digital recordings often being of a higher quality than other types.

Many digital answering machines also offer automatic memory backup. Such is particularly useful to businesses and individuals concerned about the safety of messages in the event of a power failure. Some also offer owners the opportunity to record entire phone calls in jurisdictions where such a practice is legal.

Certain answering machines only offer a single mailbox for outgoing and incoming messages. Other professional answering machines, however, offer multiple mailbox storage solutions. While many offer multiple mailboxes for incoming messages, certain systems allow for only a single outgoing message before offering a caller prompts corresponding to the mailbox she or he would like to leave a message in. Some manufacturers also offer professional answering machines that can be attached to a personal computer, which is often an ideal solution for home office workers.

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Discussion Comments


At the office where I work, every person has their own built-in digital answering machine. If I get to work and my phone is flashing, I know that I have a message.

This system allows everyone their privacy. We all have certain codes that let us listen to our messages. Without these codes, no one can access the messages.

These messages remain in the system until we erase them. I have some from four years ago that I have just forgotten to erase.

I was recently able to go back and listen to one and retrieve the number of an old client that I had lost. I made quite a big sale by calling her, because she said that she had wanted some of the company’s products, but she only wanted to do business with me.


My parents had an answering machine with a tape inside when I was a teenager. If we didn’t want to keep any of the messages at the end of the week, we would rewind the tape so that we could record new ones on it.

I used to use the answering machine to screen my phone calls. We didn’t have caller ID back then, and I was trying to avoid an ex-boyfriend who wouldn’t stop calling me.

So, I waited for the machine to pick up after four rings. If it was one of my friends, they would tell me to pick up, but if it was him, he would just hang up.

That answering machine was crude in comparison to newer models, but it got the job done. It made my life a lot easier, because I didn’t have to speak to my ex.


I had no idea that anyone was using an answering machine with a tape in it anymore! I almost don't think that even makes sense, even for archival purposes.

I haven't seen a tape player at the store recently, have you? I think it's totally possible people might store a bunch of these tapes and then have nothing to use to listen to them!

I think digital files make a lot more sense for archival. Even if their format goes out of style, so to speak, you can always convert digital files to other formats. And I don't think computers are going anywhere!


@indemnifyme - That sounds mildly annoying about only being able to erase the message from the actual phone. I bet that will change in the future though.

I feel like for the most important trait in a professional answering machine is reliability. If customers or clients call you, and you don't get back to them because you didn't get the message, that reflects really poorly on the business. So I think I would trade some of the bells and whistles for reliability if I had to!


We had a digital professional answering machine at my old office. It worked pretty well. We each had our own mailbox, and then we had a mailbox for the "sales team."

One feature I really liked is that the system would also sent you an email with a digital file of the voicemail. So you could listen to your voicemail through your email box, no matter where you were. Very convenient.

The only thing I didn't like was that after you listened to the message in your email, there was no option to erase it from your mailbox. So you still had to do that on the actual phone.

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    • Answering machine services may be built into telephone devices.
      By: Alex
      Answering machine services may be built into telephone devices.