Thursday, March 12, 2015

Part III: Using Digital Dictation in Professional Situations

This, part three of three, will discuss how digital dictation can be shared via the Internet.

Basically, there are three ways for an author to get digital voice files produced by a recorder to their transcriptionist:

  • E-mail.
    Sending voice files as e-mail attachments.
  • FTP.
    File Transfer Protocol. Sending voice files to a FTP server to be later retrieved by the transcriptionist.
  • VPN.
    Virtual Private Network. A secure link between the author's computer (or server) and the transcriptionist's computer.

E-Mail Transfers of Digital Dictation
The transferring of any digital file, whether it be a Word document, a spreadsheet or a digital voice file is quite easy with e-mail. You create a new e-mail message in your e-mail program (Outlook, Outlook Express, Thunderbird, etc.) and attach the voice file just as you would any other document.

However, if you want to automate this process using the Olympus DSS Player Pro or Philips SpeechExec Pro dictation software - which can be a great time saver and will help manage the workflow of your dictation - there are more considerations involved.

If you are using Outlook (as opposed to Outlook Express), each program handles the transferring of the dictation file to Outlook for sending quite well. This is because Outlook is a "MAPI" program (Messaging Application Programming Interface). The dictation software will prepare and send the outgoing e-mail and attachment to Outlook, which handles the actual sending of the file as part of Outlook's normal sending function.

On the other hand, if you do NOT use Outlook (and I'm certainly NOT suggesting you do), using e-mail as part of the automated workflow process gets geometrically more complex. Other e-mail programs (there are other MAPI programs out there, but Outlook is the most prevalent), such as Outlook Express, AOL, etc. are not MAPI-compliant. This means that the dictation software cannot communicate with them. Therefore, the dictation software must do the sending instead, acting as it's own e-mail program. While this appears a simple thing, it is not, for several reasons:

  • While sending dictation would cause no conflicts if you use your regular e-mail account, if the transcriptionist uses her software program to receive the voice files, s/he will run into problems, as they now would have, in effect, two e-mail programs checking the same e-mail account. If Outlook Express, for example, checks first and downloads a message with a voice file attached, the transcription software (e.g.,
    ) would not find the message when it checked the e-mail account.
  • These configurations require a POP (Post Office Protocol) e-mail account with external SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) access. AOL and many other "Web-based" e-mail accounts don't allow other e-mail programs to check their e-mail accounts. Gmail requires a SSL (Secure Socket Layer) encryption connection, which the dictation and transcription software programs do not, at present, support. Therefore, making sure you have a compatible e-mail account is certainly another consideration.
  • Most e-mail providers restrict the size of e-mail attachments to keep their servers from being overwhelmed. Digital voice files, depending on the quality setting of the file, can get quite large. If they get too large, the e-mail host may reject the e-mail and it's attachment.

In short, if you're not using Outlook or another MAPI compliant program, and your e-mail provider places restrictions on attachment sizes, you would be better off considering one of the two following methodologies.

FTP Transfers of Digital Dictation

FTP is one of the oldest Internet protocols, but one of the least known. Just as you are able to copy files to a server on your network, FTP allows computers to upload and download files over the Internet. It's usually easy to set up, fast and has fewer size restrictions than e-mail. Both pro systems support FTP transfers, and they can be sent (and received by the transcriptionist) without needing any other application on your computer.

  • American Dictation provides very inexpensive FTP hosting services with over 99% uptime.
  • Depending on the FTP service and program configurations, you may or may not have as much of a log of activity as you may need for tracking uploads and downloads. This varies widely, but you should have an idea as to how much information you need for auditing or management purposes before you choose the software and provider.
  • You can use a FTP client program to also access your FTP account. This may be helpful in monitoring activity or diagnosing any problems.
  • You will need to make sure FTP transfers are not blocked by your firewall. Opening FTP ports is a common practice, and your IT consultant can certainly do it quickly for you.

VPN Transfers of Digital Dictation

Virtual Private Networks are commonplace in the PC world. Macs can easily establish similar connections using Apple File Sharing. In essence, one computer connects to another over the Internet such that the "client" computer can see the "server" computer just as if both computers were on a network in the same office.

Using a VPN connection is by far the easiest and safest way of moving digital dictation files between author and transcriptionist. It also gives the transcriptionist easy access to other shared folders where finished work may need to be stored for retrieval by the author.


This series of articles was designed to help you better understand some of the sophisticated features today's professional digital dictation recorders bring to your operation. Before you spend thousands on a complex installation to manage your dictation work, check with a digital dictation expert to see of "out-of-the-box" offerings might just do the same job.

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