What Is a Two-Line Answering Machine?

Mary McMahon

A two-line answering machine handles calls placed to two different phone numbers. Such equipment can be useful for small businesses and home offices where it may be necessary to have two telephone lines to handle different kinds of calls. Other machines are capable of handling even more lines and may offer more functionality for medium to large businesses with more demanding needs. It is usually possible for consumers to install and program their equipment on their own, without assistance from a telephone specialist.

A two-line answering machine handles calls placed to two different phone numbers.
A two-line answering machine handles calls placed to two different phone numbers.

This equipment is designed to handle both lines simultaneously, playing a recorded message and recording voice data when callers want to leave messages. It's also possible to change the outgoing messages independently if different messages are required for different lines. Some can route calls to mailboxes, depositing voicemail directly into boxes linked with specific people to make call handling easier. They may store messages indefinitely until the two-line answering machine runs out of space, at which point it deletes older messages to make room for new ones.

Historically, this equipment used tapes, which could cause problems with message retrieval and control. Most modern two-line answering machine equipment is digital, which provides more room for information storage and is also easier to handle. Users can skip, play back, and slow messages as needed in addition to picking up calls for different mailboxes. The machine may also have a display to show caller identification and other information that might be important.

Setting up a two-line answering machine requires plugging both lines into the equipment and programming it for the desired functions. A default message may play when none has been recorded or the machine has been reset. Otherwise, users can customize the outgoing message as well as the mailbox preferences, if this function is available. For users who want to store old messages without worrying about running out of space, it is important to select a two-line answering machine that can connect to a larger storage drive or that has removable storage media for message archival.

Multi-line functionality may be available on some answering machines, allowing for the handling of more than two lines. This may come with features like more storage space, mailboxes, and so forth to increase flexibility for the user. Base costs for different types of units can vary considerably. Buyers may want to think about how and when their businesses might expand when deciding what kind of telephony equipment to buy, as a smart original purpose may extend the time between necessary upgrades.

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