Getting Started With Asterisk
Asterisk is a software based PBX system that is open source. That means it is developed by a community of people and made available for free. This results in rapid development and a rich feature set that few PBX systems can match. The catch is documentation and support is not as readily available as would normally be by a vendor. Some responsibility is expected to fall on the operator, however a community of people are willing to help those that require assistance.
Thousands of companies are using Asterisk in Australia and around the world. It is an exciting field and removing traditional telephony barriers, cutting costs and allow smaller companies to compete with the larger business that can deploy complex systems.
What to expect
Expect a few moments of frustration as you work out how to build and deploy your Asterisk PBX system. Time is your friend, there are many articles of how to build an asterisk server in 2 minutes and throw out your old system for free. It is not that simple, but is well worth the effort to learn and build.
How to learn
The easiest way to learn is to start building your PBX. There are some rapid deployment solutions like Trixbox, PBX in a Flash and Elastix. Trixbox is easily the largest of all the systems and has the biggest community support base. They also offer paid trixbox support if you find yourself in a pickle.
Quality VoIP handsets are not cheap, features are many and varied. If you are ever going to use more than 5 Handsets we recommend spending money for the features you require. For example, phone A may offer 8 lines, Phone B may offer 2 lines. Phone A looks better, but you money may be better spent of Phone B which includes an XML browser that can display realtime stock information on the phone screen. Expect to spend around $100-$200 per handset to get started. If you are planning to use your existing phone lines, expect to spend around $300 starting price for a telephony card in your Asterisk server. It all starts to add up, but will generally be half the price of a traditional PBX but offer call cost savings, a rich feature set and future proofing.
If you wish to test, you can download a free soft phone such as x-lite. You will find testing experience better with a VoIP handset, quality is more predictable than a PC and headset. We recommend the Cisco SPA series of phones, but you may want a Polycom, Aastra or Cisco 7 series with an XML browser if you wish to do development.
What Feature can I expect
Many! Trixbox offers, VoIP termination, IAX connections for free calls between office branches, BLF (Busy Lamp) to see who is on the phone. Time of day call routing, IVR systems to route calls to the right department, Call queues that agents can dynamically log in and out of. Tele-Commuters can have a phone on their desk at home or in another country and it behaves like they are in the same office. Call conferencing, host complex conferences. Group paging, Call recording, Follow-Me where you desk phone and mobile will ring so you can answer on either and MUCH MUCH more. It is open source and you can also script CMS systems to log calls.
Asterisk Australia has deveoted this entire site to owning and running your own Asterisk PBX. We have guides to running asterisk on Servers and in Virtual environments.
Books can help with your deployment. If you are starting with Trixbox (good idea) stick with books about trixbox, asterisk dial plans can be complex and should be avoided if you are just wanting to manage a simple PBX.
- Trixbox CE 2.5 released 2009.
Enjoy being the designer of your own PBX system, Don't be too cheap with hardware. Know what you want to achieve, CRM systems, Automated warehousing, call queing, agents, tele-commuters. Community involvement is the idea of open source development, people are generally great with helping those in need.