What Is a Remote Answering Machine?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

A remote answering machine is a type of telephone equipment that is configured to allow users to dial into the device and use a series of passcodes to access and manage any messages saved on the device. Typically easy to operate, answering machines of this type are relatively inexpensive and function with the use of touch tone prompts to access and manage the recorded messages. The use of a remote answering machine is considered an alternative to utilizing other types of messaging options with landline telephone services, such as online virtual message answering and answering services provided by telephone companies.

With a remote answering machine, users can dial in to access messages on the device from anywhere.
With a remote answering machine, users can dial in to access messages on the device from anywhere.

The configuration of a typical remote answering machine requires that the device be connected to a landline as well as a home telephone. The device can be set to answer an incoming call after a specified number of rings, and play a prerecorded greeting that prompts the caller to leave a message after a beep or tone is emitted. That message is recorded on a digital chip or a small cassette that is inserted into the machine itself. When at home, the user can utilize the keypad on the landline phone to access the messages for playback, saving, or deletion. When the machine functions with the use of a mini-cassette, it is easy for the owner to load important messages onto one cassette for permanent storage, and insert a new cassette into the recording device.

One of the distinguishing characteristics of the remote answering machine is that the user can call into the device from a remote location. In order to manage the connection and be able to play any saved or new messages, the user must call in using a line that is equipped with touch tone service. Most answering machines are configured to detect the digital tones emitted as part of that service, allowing the user to enter a passcode that the system recognizes. The touch tone service is also necessary in order to prompt the system to save, replay, or delete any current messages.

Use of a remote answering machine is an inexpensive alternative to utilizing answering services provided by independent companies or even a service provided by the user’s telephone company. This is because those alternatives normally require some sort of monthly charge, as well as the activation of certain other services such as call forwarding. Since a remote answering machine can be purchased for a relatively small amount, the device can easily pay for itself with just a few months of use.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including EasyTechJunkie, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


@burcidi-- That's highly unlikely because most answering machines have three or four digit passcodes which are very hard to break. In order for someone to gain access, they will have to make hundreds of phone calls to your phone to try different passcode combinations. And I highly doubt that anyone would attempt that and actually be successful. And if anyone were to attempt that while you were home, you would know.

If you are extremely worried about security, you can always disable the remote access and check your messages when you get home. But that beats the whole purpose of having this feature in the first place. I think you're worrying for no reason. I've never heard anyone have security issues with a remote access answering machine.


The earlier answering machines didn't have the remote access function, but all the new answering machines now do. Some people don't even realize that their answering machine can do that because they never set it up.

My parents called me up the other day and asked me if there is a type of answering machine that will allow them to check their messages when they're not home. I asked them what brand and type of answering machine they have and looked up the qualities online. It turns out their answering machine already had the remote access function available! I went over and set it up for them over the weekend and they started using it right away. They're planning on going on a short trip soon and they'll be able to keep up with their messages during the trip.

The remote answering function makes life so much easier really. I will get an answering machine with the function too when I get a landline for my place.


What are the chances of a stranger gaining access to a remote answering machine?

I'm considering getting a remote answering machine instead of voicemail. Like the article said, the former is more affordable and will save me money in the long run. But I'm not sure if the answering machine will be as safe as voicemail. I'm not sure how someone could get a hold of passcodes for the answering machine, but it's possible isn't it?

Does anyone use a remote answering machine and had any issues with security?

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