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Q&A: How does message on hold work?

January 3, 2013

From a very basic perspective, message on hold is what your callers hear when you click the ‘hold’ button on your business phone system. How it actually works depends on the phone system you have at your company.

Many businesses are turning to VOIP phone systems, which are entirely computer-based. If your business has a VOIP phone system, there is a mailbox where you can upload audio for your message on hold. Depending on your system, you may need a specific type of .wav file, but some also allow a simple .mp3 file to be uploaded.

If your company has something other than VOIP, you may need a piece of hardware that attaches to your phone lines, generally in a phone closet where all the lines come together.

Just as there are many different types of phone systems, there are many different types of message on hold hardware, including:

-CD players


-Remote load 

CD players are very common, and they work with many types of phone systems. However, the downside to a CD based unit is that when there is new audio available, a CD must be shipped to the location, which can take several days. There is little end user involvement – the user just has to remove the old CD and replace it with the new CD for the update to take place.

USB equipment uses a USB stick (thumb drive, jump drive) from which the message on hold is played. USB units are more convenient than CD hardware because the end user can instantly replace the old audio with the new without having to wait for a CD to arrive in the mail. USB equipment does require more involvement on the part of the end user, as he/she will have to retrieve the USB stick from the unit, plug it into a computer, delete the old audio and copy the new audio onto the stick, then place the USB stick back into the unit.

Remote load equipment can work one of two ways – via connection to a phone or fax line, or broadband Internet connection.  All the work will be done remotely, by “dialing in” or “logging in” to the equipment any time there is new audio available. With remote load equipment, there is generally no end user involvement unless there is a connection issue.

Once the audio is loaded onto your hardware, it will play in a loop, automatically starting over when it has reached the end. When you place a caller on hold, they will hear the audio wherever it happens to be playing in the loop.

If you’re not sure what type of message on hold equipment might work for your company’s phone system, give us a call at 800.584.4653 x6382 or email us!


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