Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Which Asterisk Or Other VoIP System To Deploy?

Cliff posted more than 7 years ago | from the seeking-advice-and-suggestions dept.


ubercombatwombat is looking for a bit of advice: "On the 9th of November, I have a meeting to discuss an Asterisk based phone system for a new elementary school. I am the network admin for the district. Currently, we are migrating from a T-1 based Nortel (option 61, 2 x option 11 and 7 x Norstar 8x32's, for those who care) to 1GB data fiber and a 2nd pair per site — to allow simple copper-to-fiber for the split T-1/Norstar's. We also just got a 10MB (scalable to 100MB) connect to the Internet. I can keep the VoIP basically on a separate network if need be as well. What do I install? Are there Asterisk vendors that are available and have enough experience?"

"The hardware support we can handle just fine, it's the software that's the big issue. One thing to keep in mind is that E911 is priority one for any brand or type. No exceptions. Other than that one thing, the field is fairly open.

I see two possibilities:

- A Cisco system or Shortel system — education budgets vary wildly from year to year and recurring cost have to be kept down.

- Hybrid of Cisco, Snom, or Polycom handsets with a custom Asterisk box with good third-party support. I see a few options such as Fonality or Digium. If anyone is aware of online options with good service, please suggest them.

Trixbox may or may not be what I use. I have had systems going 24/7 for over a year and am very happy, but the product's future is unclear just now.

So, what and who? I won't go there without third-party support. What suggestions can Slashdot offer me?"

cancel ×


Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

A mac solution (1)

lordsid (629982) | more than 7 years ago | (#16701367)

My company works with Mac OS X. I wonder the same ask slashdot, but for Macs only.

No I'm not a fanboy. I just need a solution also.

Re:A mac solution (1)

ThinkingInBinary (899485) | more than 7 years ago | (#16701669)

My company works with Mac OS X. I wonder the same ask slashdot, but for Macs only.

I'm not trying to be a troll, but you're probably stuck with a PC for the server hardware. I'm sure you can find a good softphone app for Macs if that's what you want, but I just can't see a vendor offering a Mac with a pile of telephony cards in it. Besides, using a Mac for telephony wastes most of the benefits you get with a Mac, which are the nice-looking hardware, the user-friendly interface, and the extra software, like iLife. When it comes to telephony, you might as well just run some other *nix, and use cheaper hardware, since there's even less difference between the hardware now that PC's and Macs use the same processor.

Re:A mac solution (1)

ubercombatwombat (803501) | more than 7 years ago | (#16701757)

Well, we are a Mac based district. And we will include Eyebeam softphones for those who request it. I have no problem running a *nix box as we run several already. The hard thing to figure out, as this field is do young, is who are the good vendors of Asterisk systems. On our test Asterisk systems (Trixbox powered) we are using Digium cards plus Snom 320 and Cisco 7960 handsets. So, we will not be going cheap on the hardware. Robert

Re:A mac solution (1)

ThinkingInBinary (899485) | more than 7 years ago | (#16701837)

I have no problem running a *nix box as we run several already.

Ah. I thought you meant you wanted the telephony server to run on Mac OS X. (Or is that what you meant?)

So, we will not be going cheap on the hardware.

Oh, I didn't mean cheap as in crappy. I just meant that an equivalent PC without Apple's "extras" (that are most useful on desktop systems, not servers) would cost less. It might be a moot point, though, since the telephony cards are likely to be the biggest cost, not the server itself.

Re:A mac solution (1)

ubercombatwombat (803501) | more than 7 years ago | (#16702037)

You know I would prefer OS X based. But as we all know, that just isn't possible yet. One thing I didn't mention is that our (new) mail system is the Zimbra Network edition running on RHEL (which is available on OS X.) It may be possible to integrate Zimbra with Asterisk as Digium and the Zimbra folks are part of the Open Ajax Alliance. html [] Robert

Re:A mac solution (1)

nacturation (646836) | more than 7 years ago | (#16703307)

One thing I didn't mention is that our (new) mail system is the Zimbra Network edition running on RHEL (which is available on OS X.)

I think you mean your RHEL is available for Apple hardware. Given that OS X is an operating system, it's unlikely you're running RHEL on top of OS X unless you're doing some funky emulation in which case I'd be curious to know more.

Re:A mac solution (1)

ubercombatwombat (803501) | more than 7 years ago | (#16703527)

What I meant was Zimbra is available on OS X. The Zimbra Network Additional on RHEL has a few more features than the OS X version. So, we run it on RHEL. Robert

Re:A mac solution (1)

bprice20 (709357) | more than 7 years ago | (#16702423)

I have an asterisk installer for os x on my site. I would be willing to help anyone with a custom solution on the cheap. brandon at!

Re:A mac solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16702233)

Asterisk will work under MacOSX. Just stick to ehternet based phone gear.

Which Asterisk? (1)

WedgeTalon (823522) | more than 7 years ago | (#16701467)

How about ZoIP [] ?

Re:Which Asterisk? (1)

ubercombatwombat (803501) | more than 7 years ago | (#16725181)

Very funny Wedge! However, I like to try things. So, I have ZoIP running. Took about 15 minutes. I have a Trixbox 2.0 beta running on a spare box and just for fun I upgraded to FreePBX2.2Beta1 and there was Zork as a Module just waiting to be installed thus creating ZoIP. Voice command navigation of a virtual environment. I can think of some security and/or directory applications that might be real cool with this as a front end. How about handsfree callback? Or DISA style functions? Robert

Trixbox ? Try freePBX (2, Informative)

gregmac (629064) | more than 7 years ago | (#16701479)

Why not just use freePBX [] ? It's the web frontend/configuration that Trixbox uses. It can be installed on basically any distro (I run it on debian), so you can pick the one you're most comfortable with. Having it installed separately also means you can upgrade components separately.

FreePBX (1)

Kevin of Whitebridge (11783) | more than 7 years ago | (#16701533)

As gregmac pointed out, FreePBX can be built and used on just about any distro. We are using it, with Asterisk, on CentOS servers at two of our facilities, with two more to come in the next few months. We do both hardware and software support in-house, so the situation isn't quite the same as yours.

Re:FreePBX (1)

ubercombatwombat (803501) | more than 7 years ago | (#16702391)

How large is your deployment? Robert

Layers (3, Informative)

lathama (639499) | more than 7 years ago | (#16701599)

You will need many layers to this project. As an Asterisk Consultant I can advise you but am far to busy to help.

Network Layer - Proper planning and routing on paper a month before install.

Hardware Layer - People care about phones, they may not mention it but they do. For a school where emergancy services are key I would look for a ten year solution. Water cooling, oversized tyan system with raid->lvm->xen->ntp,bind,asterisk,www,tftp,etc.... .

Software Layer - For optimal performance I would document the current system and call flow. Then redocument it with the receptionist. Submit this to a professional like Digium to work your dialplan and config the needed modules.

Training Layer - Users will have to see some change or they will start complaining that it is not the old system. Be calm and polite, normal personel rules apply.

Documentation Layer - Extension Directories, move-add-changes, redundancy systems. You and others need to know how it all works, and the users need to know who to call.

Re:Layers (1)

ReaperEB-Moo (628237) | more than 7 years ago | (#16702691)

I agree with lathama on the above and would like to add to the networking and hardware layer parts. It doesn't matter if it's Asterisk, Cisco, Nortel or the garden variety VoIP and it doesn't matter how big your pipes are, you're ultimatly going to need to implement some sort of QoS to protect the jitter/latency sensitive VoIP traffic. This being said, your network infrastructure will have to support QoS both tagging and trusting. Calculating number of calls that are being router across various pipes is something else that needs to be looked at. This is a big issue for sites that have remote sites hanging off of them. Say the pipe is designed to handle 12 calls, if someone picks up and tries to make a 13 call, that 13 call will affect the other 12 calls so you have bad 13 bad calls. If you have a call manager that knows how to police these sort of things or you keep this in mind, you'll save yourself alot of headaches. We've currently got three buildings running VoIP phones approximately 5000+ in number. This is made up of a combination of Nortel phones and signaling servers and Cisco c3750-PS-E/S PoE switch stacks in the IDF's. We're currently scaling this to allow the server to backup each other, and adding 2 more large buildings with 4000 more IP phones. There is also a "Toll By-pass" feature that we're working with to connect our 400+ remote sites that are connected via T-1's and DS-3's. I should mention that we also have video conferencing at over 100 of these sites and 50 with in the MAN that we have. Just something to think about that could save you time, headaches and possibly you're job.

Re:Layers (1)

ubercombatwombat (803501) | more than 7 years ago | (#16729727)

Are you using the Nortel BCM? Which Phones?
Someone else mentioned the BCM too.

It is a lot to look at. I just want to get it right the first time.


Re:Layers (1)

Etyenne (4915) | more than 7 years ago | (#16710773)

Hardware Layer - People care about phones, they may not mention it but they do. For a school where emergancy services are key I would look for a ten year solution. Water cooling, oversized tyan system with raid->lvm->xen->ntp,bind,asterisk,www,tftp,etc.... .

Excuse me ... are you seriously suggesting running a phone system on a water-cooled rig ? This is not your LAN party boxen, pal. Why not buy a good mid-range server from a top-tier manufacturer (IBM, HP, Dell, Sun, whatever), along with a 4 hours onsite extended warranty ?

And what exactly does Xen provide in this setup ? What is wrong with running on the bare metal ? Xen is still a pretty young technology, I would not trust mission-critical system to it. But that's just me.

Re:Layers (1)

Slashdot Parent (995749) | more than 7 years ago | (#16734971)

GP is an Asterisk consultant. It's hard to sell consulting services while recommending sound business decisions like "just buy a mid-range server with a top-range service contract".

I mean, how much would you pay a consultant who recommends you "just go to and buy something."

Re:Layers (1)

capsteve (4595) | more than 7 years ago | (#16751769)

no, he's not talking about a water-cooled rig. he's talking about chilled water cooling, a method used by big buildings (i.e. high rise offices, hospitals, schools) for environmental control. occasionally you need to plan to have chilled water brought to a new build out (i.e. server room) so that it has appropriate cooling.

i agree with your top tier manufacturer suggestion, at least with sun and ibm.

i also think bare metal is prolly a better solution than xen.

Two tips for you. (2, Informative)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 7 years ago | (#16701623)

#1 - do not cheap-out on hardware. your project will fail miserably if you buy all cheap phones and cheap linecards. Echo will live in your nightmares and make you fail. get real digium cards, nothing else. This stuff actually works. Get decent phones. If it says budgetone on it it is absolute crap and you need to stay away from it. Figure $150-$200 per phone for decent quality. Watch it buying used Cisco SIP phones. I have been burnt buying used onesthat are locked and nobody knows the codes, cisco dont care so they will not help.

#2 - E911 is very easy. you need a real analog line in that area for the e911 outgoing line. set up a dialing rule that routes any 911 calls out that analog line and voila! 911 works perfectly.

Re:Two tips for you. (4, Informative)

walt-sjc (145127) | more than 7 years ago | (#16701961)

I agree with "don't use cheap hardware," but I would go with Sangoma cards. Digium cards are too finiky with the PCI bus. Sangoma has been doing network cards for MUCH longer, and "just work." Furthermore, they use Octastic echo cancellers which are top in the industry. Sangoma supports Asterisk Very Very well. I've used both, and won't buy digium T1 cards again - been burned too many times.

Second, he will use T1 lines (PRI) and not a "vonage" like VoIP service. No need for the analog line. One analog line and E911 won't work well for schools anyway. You need to be able to map the exact location in the building for 911. You do this by making sure you have a DID for each phone, and setting the callerID info correctly on outgoing calls. The telco provider will work with you to ensure that the 911 database has the location in the school of each DID number. That way, when the 911 dispacher gets your number, it shows not only the school address, but the exact location in the school of the caller. This system doesn't depend on the phone system at all. What you CAN do is set callerID to the generic main number for all calls EXCEPT 911 (where you send the full DID number) if you normally don't want extensions shown to callee's.

Re:Two tips for you. (1)

lowlands (463021) | more than 7 years ago | (#16702209)

Furthermore, they use Octastic echo cancellers which are top in the industry. "

The latest generation of Digium cards use this chipset too.

Re:Two tips for you. (1)

Miniluv (165290) | more than 7 years ago | (#16704333)

Yep, and they also still use a timing chip that is only recommended for development use and slips like crazy. There's just no reason to use Digium when Sangoma offers price competitive and technically superior products. Their sales and support structure is also much easier to work with. Digium genuinely seems to think that RT is an acceptable customer interface.

Re:Two tips for you. (1, Informative)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 7 years ago | (#16704159)

Second, he will use T1 lines (PRI) and not a "vonage" like VoIP service. No need for the analog line. One analog line and E911 won't work well for schools anyway.

this is great for normal day to day. but when the whole schjool is in the dark, only the plain old POTS line will work. this gives you a line that will work no matter what, lead the principal to the phone closet and pick up that line, better yet.... Put one red phone in the office labeled "EMERGENCY" and now no worries are needed. Honestly sending E911 exact room numer is way overkill. EMS or police will always come to the office first before responding, and the office will lead them there instead of having them wander looking for room 302. much faster and in an emergency speed is more important.

Re:Two tips for you. (2, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#16704637)

this is great for normal day to day. but when the whole schjool is in the dark, only the plain old POTS line will work.

Actually, you're wrong. 100% wrong. Completely, utterly, and totally wrong.

Your phone system box and your phone system switch go on UPS and then hopefully generator power beyond that - getting more common in higher education anyway. You use Power over Ethernet (PoE) to run the phones. The phones have a switch in them, and you plug your PC into it; if your PC is on UPS, it'll still work as well. The phone works as long as the switch has power; you can also use a normal switch and use (or build, but I wouldn't for something like this) a PoE injector that adds power to a normal half-duplex ethernet connection.

This is precisely what we do where I work, and although we do have a full-facility generator (we're a casino, so it's a HUGE generator) I have successfully remained on the phone while the power has gone out. There's a short delay before the generator cuts in.

Having per-room E911 would be very useful in the case where there's some looney with a gun in your classroom. Take the phone off the cradle, turn the volume all the way down (as opposed to mute which is the opposite of what you want) and dial 911, then put it on speaker (again, the volume is down all the way.) If you're sneaky and quick you can do it before they notice. Then the cops know what room the problem is in, and can hear what's going on. Of course it's a long shot that you will get to do it, but if it's not set up properly, then you definitely won't be able to.

Re:Two tips for you. (1)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#16734329)

Your phone system box and your phone system switch go on UPS and then hopefully generator power beyond that - getting more common in higher education anyway.

This assumes that the cause of power loss is due to the power company, not due to (say) a fire in the building that could take out the generator as well. The phone company's battery backup systems are more reliable than anything you could ever concoct. Besides, in the case of a severe blackout, who's to say that some Internet switching equipment won't become unavailable? I'd say that having one (or a few) POTS lines going out for 911 and those times when VOIP is being worked on/is down isn't a horrible idea.


Re:Two tips for you. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#16736789)

The phone company's battery backup systems are more reliable than anything you could ever concoct.

The phone company's battery backup system consists of a room full of batteries that, if they catch on fire or some shit, will shut down the entire CO. It does happen.

But anyway, I haven't found POTS to be very reliable at all. I had a phone go out after the SBC strike (not during it) and they told us our line would be out of service for three days. We switched to cellular and never looked back at those assholes. Anecdotal, yes; but if I were really concerned about having a phone that would work in negative situations I'd budget a dual-mode digital/analog cellphone for the purpose.

Re:Two tips for you. (1)

walt-sjc (145127) | more than 7 years ago | (#16705209)

As another poster said, UPS. Yes, you will STILL probably have at least one analog phone anyway, more for faxing than anything else however (faxing and PBX's, especially soft PBX's, don't mix. In asterisk specifically, success rates vary widely.)

As for 911: In an emergency situation, you may not have someone in the office that knows what is going on, or even available. You want as much detail as possible going to emergency responders. If I have MY child in the school, I would sure as hell want this. Furthermore, the office may not even KNOW about a 911 situation. Could be a teacher alone in a classroom after hours who has a heart attack.

Large office buildings have the same issue, and it is even MANDATED in some places that detailed location information be provided. Since it costs close to nothing to do (other than time) why not do it?

Re:Two tips for you. (1)

gregmac (629064) | more than 7 years ago | (#16709523)

What you can easily do with an open-source PBX such as asterisk, is have a special handler for 911. Dial it normally, but when you see 911 being dialed, run a script that does something - eg, sends an IM or page/SMS to key staff, telling them which room called 911. If you have an electronic display board, you could have it display the message there. You could even stick a little 2x20 char LCD beside your fire panel that shows where the emergency was ("911 call @ Room 203 / Take stairs on right, turn left"). The LCD (or VFD) could be done for $100 in parts and 15 minutes of scripting, if you're familiar with asterisk.

Re:Two tips for you. (2, Informative)

ReverendRyan (582497) | more than 7 years ago | (#16712131)

Honestly sending E911 exact room numer is way overkill. EMS or police will always come to the office first before responding, and the office will lead them there instead of having them wander looking for room 302. much faster and in an emergency speed is more important.

I work at a school, and am the phone admin. Washington state law requires that room identification is provided with E911 coming from schools, and I would imagine that this is true for other states as well.

EMS or police will always come to the office first before responding, and the office will lead them there instead of having them wander looking for room 302

We're required to provide up-to-date campus maps for our fire department.

E911 is not something to skimp on, even if it isn't required by state and local laws.

Source [] [pdf warning!]

Re:Two tips for you. (1)

smbarbour (893880) | more than 7 years ago | (#16705539)

Our system is configured to send the generic "office" number as well as the extension. Standard CallerID systems only display the generic number, but more sophisticated systems (such as a 911 dispatcher's equipment) display the entire string. We do it this way because the majority of extensions on the phone system do not have DID numbers.

Re:Two tips for you. (3, Informative)

lowlands (463021) | more than 7 years ago | (#16702173)

"get real digium cards, nothing else."

I can strongly recommend reviewing Sangoma cards too. Do some googling around and search for the reviews/comparisons of both Digium and Sangoma cards and you will see why you should give the Sangoma cards a good look/test too. Ask around and you will likely hear that Sangoma's support gets a major thumbs up. My personal experience with Digium's support is not good. The proverbial "Mike" in India was totally useless. If I call the Support dept. of a company that makes cards that interface with voice E1/PRI lines, then I should not have to explain to this guy what a g.703/704 interface is, period.

Do also compare the hardware echo cancellation specs of both the Digium and Sangoma cards. Don't use the marketing specs but review the real nitty gritty stuff like how many tabs the echo cans support at which tail length. Iirc the Sangoma cards have better tail length specs when the max amount of tabs is used. One thing about echo on a phone line: if you have it, you have a problem. If you have it and you can't make it go away, you run the risk of having to look for a new job. So make sure you go with the solution that works best for your infrastructure/financial environment and provides your users with crystal clear phone calls.

The Asterisk-Sangoma cards combination is a very strong one. That is definitely not to say that deployments based on Asterisk-Digium cards suck. On the contrary. There are many, many installations that work fine. You just have to make sure that if you go the Asterisk route, your decision to go with a certain brand of interface cards is based on some serious testing of *all* combinations on your shortlist.

Re:Two tips for you. (1)

splante (187185) | more than 7 years ago | (#16706781)

I've used Digium support several times and always been pleased. They have always been able to ssh into the box and fix any problems I've had.

Re:Two tips for you. (1)

Marillion (33728) | more than 7 years ago | (#16702319)

I agree with the E911 - with an additional step. Put a classic analog phone on that same line in the main office. If you feel pretentious, make it a red phone. My aunt used to be the Dean at a university branch campus and they did the same thing - PBX everywhere on campus and legacy analog line on the wall of the Dean's office.

Re:Two tips for you. (1)

ubercombatwombat (803501) | more than 7 years ago | (#16702473)

Interesting you mention that. About six years ago, I tapped into the secondary alarm lines and placed one RED phone in every admin office. This is a practice I will maintain at the new school. Robert

Re:Two tips for you. (1)

Etyenne (4915) | more than 7 years ago | (#16710915)

Echo will live in your nightmares and make you fail. get real digium cards, nothing else.

Digium hardware is far from echo-proof. Actually, I had a pretty bad echo problem in my last PABX job, using brand name Digium analog line-card (TDM400P). Asterisk software echo cancellation is a waste of time. Digium now have hardware echo cancellation on some card. But so does Sangoma and it is reportedly much better than Digium.

Asterisk (1)

HeadbangerSmurf (649736) | more than 7 years ago | (#16701697)

I've installed 6 or so Asterisk systems in the last 8 months and they all work very nicely. I've done a bunch of Cisco VoIP stuff and actually used Asterisk as the voicemail end of the Cisco Call Manager Express system we were running here in the office up until March of this year. Take the time to learn Asterisk and hand write the config files. It's a bit of a learning curve but there are a ton of people out there that have proven quite helpful. Of course, when 1.4 comes out there's supposed to be a GUI but I haven't yet looked at it. Either way, I'd go Asterisk just because of the control you have and you're not always worrying about support contracts and such, unless you decide to go with the business edition. Tom

Re:Asterisk - Voicemail Quality Problems? (1)

ZackStone (729714) | more than 7 years ago | (#16702413)

I've built and configured asterisk numerous times. My production server attempt was a dual AMD 64 Opteron but I am having VoicemailMain quality problems. Have you, or anyone else here, who have installed asterisk numerous times, run into anything like this? I can't be the only one. See my email at asterisk forums for more detail [] . Any insight is appreciated.

Re:Asterisk - Voicemail Quality Problems? (1)

rsd (194962) | more than 7 years ago | (#16704555)

My suggestion is dont use forums. Use mail lists instead.

Re:Asterisk (1)

MavEtJu (241979) | more than 7 years ago | (#16710537)

The Cisco Call Manager express, is that using the proprieatary[sp] SCCP or SIP?

We're looking for a way to overcome the silly licensing issue with the CCM Unity voicemail, but have not a solution yet on how to access the voicemail from the messages-button on the 79x0 phones.

My suggestions (1)

alienw (585907) | more than 7 years ago | (#16701739)

Get Digium's version of it that they provide support for. Buy their cards. I suppose you can use SIP phones, although that's far more expensive than just keeping the copper wiring, getting a channel bank, and using analog phones. SIP phones do offer a number of benefits, although people may be more comfortable with simple analog phones. I suggest asking the actual users of the system for their input.

Re:My suggestions (1)

ubercombatwombat (803501) | more than 7 years ago | (#16701941)

Digium's Asterisk business edition is part of our evaluation. It is right at the top of the pack. I have been looking at Asterisk 1.4 Beta. I have installed with FreePBX as the built in GUI hasn't surfaced as of yet. Whatever I use, my non-CLI coworkers need to be able to do adds, moves and changes. Robert

Re:My suggestions (1)

walt-sjc (145127) | more than 7 years ago | (#16702235)

I agree with going with ABE (Asterisk Business Edition) but I would get Sangoma cards. They work in more (all) systems. You can go analog for "common" extensions, and something like Polycom 601's for "office" extensions where you generally need more functionality. Add a sidecar for the "operator" stations. Most likely, he is not going to be buying equipement for this off of ebay, so good channel banks can get expensive. The cost of a good analog phone plus the cost of the channel bank is about the same as a polycom 301. The cost of cabling is the killer. Most schools I've seen have horrible wiring.

Polycom is my personal favorite, having tried a number of alternatives. The only thing I don't like is the lack of a backlight for the display, but it hasn't been a major issue in practice. Cisco is nice but be VERY aware of all the licensing issues - it makes them MUCH more expensive than polycoms. Avoid cheap SIP phones - they just suck and will give you nothing but trouble.

Re:My suggestions (1)

chris234 (59958) | more than 7 years ago | (#16702547)

I'll second the recomendation of Polycom phones. BTW, I believe the 650 has backlighting, we haven't got ours in yet though. We've also had good results with Hitatchi's WiFi handset, and Dlink's terminal adapter for serving fax machines.

Re:My suggestions (1)

ubercombatwombat (803501) | more than 7 years ago | (#16702703)

Thanks, are far as wiring...This is a new school. Nice MDF and Cat5e to all locations. I am standardizing on Cisco switching. Robert

Re:My suggestions (1)

alienw (585907) | more than 7 years ago | (#16710811)

I would recommend against Sangoma. Asterisk exists mainly because people are willing to buy Digium's products. Sangoma is pretty much a parasite -- they don't contribute to Asterisk, they make money by competing with Digium. You also have to consider that Sangoma has little experience with the Asterisk codebase, and Digium might not be able to help you troubleshoot certain problems with Asterisk if they involve third-party hardware and drivers.

Re:My suggestions (1)

walt-sjc (145127) | more than 7 years ago | (#16711915)

If Digium hardware products were as solid as Sangoma, you may have had a valid point. That is not the case however. Their existance also pushes Digium to improve, much like Firefox forces MS to improve IE. I hear what you are saying, which is why I encourage ABE, but I'll still buy Sangoma hardware. Sangoma's support is very good (better than digiums) on interface issues anyway. Paying Digium for ABE should be enough. If they won't support you for non-interface issues just because you don't have digium boards, then their paid product is worthless.

Re:My suggestions (1)

lowlands (463021) | more than 7 years ago | (#16702401)

"Get Digium's version of it that they provide support for."

I tested a setup with a couple of Asterisk Business Editions and decided against deploying it in our environment. The reason was that the ABE version we got was based on an ancient version of Asterisk (1.0.x) and lacked required functionality that was only present in Asterisk 1.2. Call Digium sales and ask them if the most current ABE version is based on Asterisk 1.2 or 1.0. At the time they weren't too forthcoming with that information and I had to push them a bit to come clear. Also get an overview of the functionality in the ABE and compare that to the functionality that you require for your environment. If stuff is missing then I guess the non-commercial Asterisk is your only option.

Thanks (1)

Medievalist (16032) | more than 7 years ago | (#16706413)

Thanks for the tip, I'll hold Digium's feet to the fire if necessary. I'm hoping to be able to use their product in the near future, but support is the key issue (otherwise I'd just roll my own).

Re:My suggestions (1)

HeadbangerSmurf (649736) | more than 7 years ago | (#16706241)

I would suggest talking to people who have used Asterisk Business Edition before going that route. ABE is a nice product but so far their support has been goofy. ABE B.1-1 has a problem with .lock files in the voicemail directories. I was told they knew about the problem. No fix for my clients, nothing. B.1-2 just came out so I'm hoping it was fixed in there. Group voicemail is a joke too, but I've only got one client that actually uses it. So far we're waiting patiently for that part of the system to become workable. I've had good luck with the Digium cards but I'd almost recommend running the open source version and using the forums at before I'd buy ABE.

Re:My suggestions (1)

splante (187185) | more than 7 years ago | (#16706861)

I suppose it's a little cheaper to keep your phones and get a channel bank, but only just cheaper. You're going to pay more than 2000 for a full FXS channel bank plus ~$500 for the T1 card. You can get Polycom 301 phones for ~$115 each (probably less at that quantity) which comes to $2760 for a much better solution. We use all Polycom phones with Asterisk and they work great.

Re:My suggestions (1)

splante (187185) | more than 7 years ago | (#16707133)

I saw elsewhere that it's a new school. It's definitely cheaper to go with IP phones if you'd have to buy analog phones anyway, plus you only have to wire network connections, not analog phone lines too. Get some Polycom 301s, 430s where you need speaker phones, and 601s for operators and receptionists. The 650s are nice because they are backlit and do HDVoice, but they're not out yet--just announced. I'd say they're more for the "executive" market. It looks like you'll be able to get them for $300-350 or maybe a little more.

I'm not sure about the others, but the Polycom phones are great for large installs. You just put an entry in your DHCP and they'll pull their config from a ftp or http(s) server. You can enter the MAC address in Trixbox and have it (with some help) auto-create the XML configs. We have created some software to do that. We will be releasing it to the community soon--you'll find it at We're just trying to clean it up a little at this point.

The 601 (& prob. 650s) have an option of a microbrowser that will be handy for integrating with Asterisk for various tasks and we're excited about doing some of that. I think this stuff is great--it really brings out my geek-side.

CommuniGate Pro (1)

sk8king (573108) | more than 7 years ago | (#16701857)

Why not give the personal version of CommuniGate Pro a try for testing? Its a enterprise level mail server that for the last two years has been promoting SIP capabilities.

CommuniGate Pro operates on dozens of platforms [Linux, UNix, Windows, VMS, OS/2...check out their website [] ]. The same binary that runs a free 5 user license is the same one that operates clusters of millions of users.

Technically, it could replace all computer communications with email/SIP/video/VoIP. Here is an article [pdf] outlining their attempt to expand to home users: HERE []

I forgot to mention Zimbra. (1)

ubercombatwombat (803501) | more than 7 years ago | (#16702215)

One other compelling reason to go Asterisk based is Zimbra and click to dial functionality. While there exists a way to get Outlook to integrate with an Asterisk box, we are kind'of belong to the anti-exchange group and don't want users of Outlook. The split is 85/13/2 Mac/PC/*nix. So, we went to Zimbra for email and such for our 700 or so users. It may be possible to integrate Zimbra with Asterisk as Digium and the Zimbra folks are part of the Open Ajax Alliance. html [] To be clear, I have the Asterisk Zimlet running on a non-production box and have seen no recent advancements in this arena. I figure once someone catches their breath...That they will put some energy back into Zimbra/Asterisk. As it is, Zimbra displays NXX-XXX-XXXX phone numbers as calto: links and [] has a VoIP client that accepts this tag and will place a call. In six months or so I see full directory integration with Zimbra/Asterisk. Possibly being able to drag multiple contacts to a conference bridge and have 2-10 way audio conferences on the fly. Robert

Uhh..... (1)

Some guy named Chris (9720) | more than 7 years ago | (#16702437)

If you don't know the answers, why are you selling yourself as an expert to this poor school?

Re:Uhh..... (1)

ubercombatwombat (803501) | more than 7 years ago | (#16702573)

Chris, where did I say that I was? But, since you asked.... The phrase "I don't know" is the pathway to knowledge. That being said, I am no slouch when it comes to technology. This is part of my process. Also, having several production Asterisk based systems running almost two years now does give me just a little insight. Robert

Re:Uhh..... (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 7 years ago | (#16702781)

Um, because he isn't selling himself as an expert? He's the existing network admin, and IS the expert on the existing network technologies installed, including the legacy phone system.

The school wants to move into a "new" area of networking, and hence the article submitter needs to move into that area too.

Re:Uhh..... (1)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#16734353)

If you don't know the answers, why are you selling yourself as an expert to this poor school?

He may be an expert in networking, but there's nothing wrong with seeking advice from others. You may even learns something or see a new product that you didn't realize existed.


school and 911 (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 7 years ago | (#16702713)

In a school You should keep real phones with real 911.

Re:school and 911 (1)

lathama (639499) | more than 7 years ago | (#16702935)

Emergancy services are not what you think they are. I have in the past created my own 911 directory in a dialplan to keep calling dispatchs until one answers, the truth would scare you. The OP ask about a VoIP PBX not VoIP Services as he wants to replace a PBX, not the telephone company.

Re:school and 911 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16703011)

No they shouldn't, there are several better alternatives. Traditional phone lines are getting older and in many cases, much worse. More outages, higher prices.

Re:school and 911 (1)

mathx (988938) | more than 7 years ago | (#16709309)

or just drop to a fixedline if the voip call fails. its not rocket surgery. There are ATAs that have this built in now and are cheap. Easy to do a better job with better equipment. -mathx

Re:school and 911 (1)

ReverendRyan (582497) | more than 7 years ago | (#16712249)

I posted this elsewhere in this thread, but I'll post it here too so more people catch it:

I work at a school, and am the phone admin. Washington State law requires that room identification be provided with E911 data coming from schools, and I would imagine that this is true for other states as well. One or two POTS lines used for outgoing 911 will not be sufficient to comply with state and local laws.

The way it works is when dispatched EMS knows exactly which room they're going to via E911. We have provided our local fire department with detailed maps of our campus in addition to the posted maps that the fire panels, so they can get to the location where 911 was called without needing to stop by the office and ask for directions.

E911 is not something to skimp on, even if it isn't required by state and local laws.

Re:school and 911 (1)

ubercombatwombat (803501) | more than 7 years ago | (#16725351)

Double R, Thanks. I am aware of this. Hence the statement in my original post "One thing to keep in mind is that E911 is priority one for any brand or type. No exceptions." That being said, I still will have an analog line available, cell phones, bus radios and anything else I can think of. I take emergency communication very seriously. In a previous incarnation I was a very proficient law enforcement officer. In my current incarnation I work at this place and have three children attending. The Fire and Police departments have been all through our facilities and E911 truly is a high priority for us. I'd like the ability to force open an intercom from the location the E911 call was made for remote listening. I'd also like to see an easier way to keep the DB updated and forwarded to the Call Center. Robert

Been there, done that. (3, Informative)

deque_alpha (257777) | more than 7 years ago | (#16702875)

I am a former tech coordinator for a public school district. One of my last projects before I left was to develop a district-wide communication upgrade plan. Unless you have a lot of time on your hands and/or have a local vendor who can support it an Asterix-based solution is probably not a good idea. There are a lot of vendors out there that are experimenting with it, but I have yet to see one that has a solution I would call "fully baked". Whatever you go with, a proven track record and a local vendor who is certified to support your gear (and also has a good track record) is paramount. Nothing will make you look worse than a phone system that is a pain to use or is flaky. People have very high expectations when it comes to the behavior of phones, and absolutely will not tolerate the kind of BS they up with from their computers.

- A Cisco system or Shortel system -- Education budgets vary wildly from year to year and reoccurring cost have to be kept down.

I find it laughable that you mention keeping costs down and Cisco or Shoretel in the same sentence. I have a Shoretel system in my office at my current employer, and it's very nice. However, it is also very expensive, and it's less costly than than Cisco... You are factoring in handset costs and extension licensing when you look at the cost of the system, right? Right? You are, right?

The best solution I found (and the one I recommended before I left) is the Rauland Telecenter VI. It gives great bang for the buck and is a highly integrated complete comm system designed for schools, so if you have bell, intercom, and clock systems that need to be upgraded as well, you get to do that nearly for free. It also lets you use Voip phones where you need big feature sets and $10 analog phones where you need "just a phone". Handsets are where a huge portion of the expense of a big phone system deployment go, after all. There also is no per-handset licensing, if I remember correctly. []

Re:Been there, done that. (1)

ubercombatwombat (803501) | more than 7 years ago | (#16703039)

Yes, handsets are part of the equation. I agree that the phones are held to a higher level of expectation. The reason Cisco and Shoretel are mentioned with budgets is for exactly that reason. So, I know I have to be careful here. Robert.

Re:Been there, done that. (1)

sharkman67 (548107) | more than 7 years ago | (#16710141)

Also look into the Nortel BCM 50. It is Linux based and can do both VOIP as well as regular hard wired phones. I just installed one of these systems and it was a breeze.

Have you looked at Swyx? (1)

godoffsck (943749) | more than 7 years ago | (#16703085) [] is a fantastic product, the graphical scripting editor is amazing, get a good reseller and you'll have top notch support and you might well find the TCO is lower than for alternative systems like Asterix. If you give Swyx a call, they can probably recommend you a good reseller. (Full disclosure: I work for a UK-based Swyx reseller)

Re:Have you looked at Swyx? (1)

ubercombatwombat (803501) | more than 7 years ago | (#16703715)

No offense, but I am trying to reduce the number of MS servers. Robert

How many user endpoints are you supporting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16703243)

The number of endpoints that you must support on this system is an important factor in deciding which solution to look into.

How many endpoints are you planning to support?

What other features are the staff expecting to have on their system?

The Inter-Tel CS-5000 supports up to ~100 SIP phones and has the ability to throw on extra digial endpoints as well. It's a very feature rich system and fits nicely for our office. Not cheap, but priced more competitively than a ShoreTel system.

Erate and some other notes... (1)

chris_martin (115358) | more than 7 years ago | (#16703361)

The E-Rate folks just approved VoIP solutions. Before it was only centrex type services, but now they are allowing VoIP. That just went through last week or so. You may be able to afford more than you think, or even outsource the whole project as a service if needed.

That said, I have very little experience with VoIP. We have not deployed it yet as we were waiting for ERate to help a bit. I have installed and currently have a trixbox running for my personal testing and I had a cisco demo kit (call manager, unity vm, several phones) installed for a few months. As several people mentioned, regardless of solution:
1. Make sure you get good folks to iron out your dial plan. Yours shouldn't be too bad as it's one school, mine has 40 sites off of 5 different CO's, it will be a challenge.
2. Iron out the 911 stuff with your phone company. Also make sure to have analog lines and regular non-powered phones off of them just in case. Make sure the process is documented and trained. (ex. call 911 from your desk, if it doesn't work, alert the office, the office staff will call using the analog line OR dial plan will forward all 911 calls to the office staff first, if no answer, dial 911 for real, etc.) 911 MUST work in all cases. We will be migrating from ISDN phones, which have been known to go down (backhoe's, dead batteries, etc.) so our folks are trained now that if their phone is dead, contact the office which will call 911 from the fax machine or other analog line if needed.
3. The phones are the interface to the people. Don't get cheap ones. The ones that feel cheap will give a bad taste in the users mouths.

I like the trixbox solution, it was easy to set up and get working (Linksys SPA941 and Cisco 7960 hard phones, xmeeting for OS X, X-Lite for OS X and Windows softphones, Cisco 5350 for dialin-out) but I haven't done any dial plan support, just basic call in/out type stuff. HUDLite is neat as a master interface (office/receptionist staff)

The Cisco solution worked great too. It was more difficult to get running with the 5350 for call in/out and there was a delay when placing calls (took a few seconds to ramp up the H323 call to the 5350 and grab the PRI line) The integration and management of the phones was great though. Being able to provision extensions, reset phones, etc. was great. (I believe you can script similar solutions for trixbox, but it's not setup out of the box)

We will most likely be going with the cisco product because that is what we are familiar with (routers, switches, remote survivability, general integration with what we already have, etc.) and it works well. We also are very confident in our VAR in working out our dial plan, E911, etc as well as out line carrier being very familiar with the product.


Re:Erate and some other notes... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16712203)

You know, Mitel just won the Chicago school board under E-Rate. It's apparently the biggest school board in North America.

I can testify to the quality of their IP products and support (hence the anon posting, though to be clear, I'm just a happy customer). Really, the hardware cost is a small part of the TCO. You might want to consider them as an alternative to the Cisco's and Nortel's. Mitel is a consistent 3rd, 4th or 5th vs the big players worldwide and are growing steadily. They have a 30-year track record in the PBX space, so support every damn option under the sun from legacy to future-proof (including adapters for Nortel Meridian P-phones, so you don't have to replace all the sets).

Also, IP Trunking might be available in your area - certainly not from the ILEC, but from XO, Covad or some other competitive carrier, which could hold your costs down by avoiding expensive hardware, reducing access charges and permitting toll bypass over an IP link (a school board near me pays over $1M/year in LD charges because its schools' wire centres cross all sorts of LD boundaries).

Food for thought.

Re:Erate and some other notes... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16730347)

You may want to go shopping for a new Cisco VAR...

First of all, the 5350 is a poor choice for a voice gateway in a new install. You can't use MGCP (vs H.323), which is the way of the Cisco IPT world now-a-days. MGCP allows centralized administration of voice gateways.

Additionally, if the dialplan is configured correctly there should be NO pause for H.323 to "ramp up".

Personally, I'm a fan of Cisco IPTel systems. They work well, and the support is excellent. You need a good installer who has experience when putting it in for you, otherwise the cutover from the new to the old can be challenging...

Look into Sphere (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16703467) [] -- I've had experience with this and it's pretty decent. I don't know if this'll meet your requirements, but they claim their system scales to over 30,000 ports.

Cost? (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 7 years ago | (#16703935)

If you can afford a 100 MBit private network, why not just buy an off the shelf solution? Geek cred?

Re:Cost? (1)

ubercombatwombat (803501) | more than 7 years ago | (#16705141)

The gov'ment helps out with that.

I am very happy with our Shoretel... (1)

ostiguy (63618) | more than 7 years ago | (#16704749)

Yeah, I probably could have spent a month of my time crafting an Asterisk solution, but I wanted something that worked day one. The desktop software works brilliantly in conjunction with the desk phones (the softphone is a license option that is available through the desktop software, we went all deskphone).

Everything is pretty well thought out:
the trunk testing tool on your pc server shows all activity in real time, and is very very impressive.
All admin is done through a localhost IIS install ASP driven interface. It works very well for my needs - apparently there are some defiencies in templates for advanced soft button programming, but we don't have the need.
Desktop software - the call history, Outlook integration are all very nice.

Fonality. (1)

mikelieman (35628) | more than 7 years ago | (#16704797)

Sometime's it's nice to let other people do the work.

Asterisk can be a science project (1)

flyingmike (1022251) | more than 7 years ago | (#16705135)

Hi, Despite the good things with Asterisk many of the issues mentioned here are right on. Support can be a hassel, and there are some things Asterisk doens't do well. Callers on-hold often hear significant static or white noise, RTP streams usually pass through the servers so high loads/peak calling can impact performance, and you are, as you mention, left with dealing with a 911 issue. One option you haven't looked at is a hosted key-system or PBX platform. They offer a lot, remote access via the web and practically zero integration no truck rolls, etc. and usually have more benefits than any IP based premise system does. Hosting providers tend to be regional, if you want to PM me I can make some suggestions, not sure where you are located. Mike

Avaya IP Office (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16705421)

Whatever you end up doing do NOT go with an Avaya IP office solution. I've been supporting one for over a year and a half and find myself waking up in the night just to _hate_ the goddammned product. It's so hard to get the platform to be stable, I wouldn't know where to start with the complaining....

Re:Avaya IP Office (1)

huckda (398277) | more than 7 years ago | (#16706191)

Hah.. Nike's WHQ rolled out the Avaya crap last year...
I sat around laughing as their support staff stumbled over themselves for 6 months...
You'd think after paying that much $$ the install would have been a HECK of a lot smoother.

fonality rules voip (1)

mytrip (940886) | more than 7 years ago | (#16705907)

I work for a var that does fonality PBXtra systems that is based on asterisk but the interface is a nice, clean web based interface and it scales nicely. Voicemail can be emailed to you and you can have extensive and complicated menu systems...We have menus that are for specific numbers calling in from people that we dont want to deal with and they go straight to voicemail or whatever. CMP recently did a story on fonality vs shoretel and others and fonality toasted them. We have a redundant system that uses rsync to mirror config files, voicemail, everything. We transfer calls to cell phones automatically if someone doesnt pick up their office phone within x number of seconds, etc. We are putting in a 120+ phone system for a client with a mixture of aastra and polycom and our existing clients are quite happy with it. Fonality also comes with tech support and updates every few months assuming you have the service contract. It sells itself easily and you get 20% off as a reseller.

Use DUNDi to make free calls to the PSTN in the US (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16706589)

If you are running Asterisk and have local termination capability in your area code and would like to exchange this termination capability for capability in other area codes around the US and Canada, check out []

This is NOT a commercial network and this is NOT an advertisement for a business.

Re:Use DUNDi to make free calls to the PSTN in the (1)

mellowinottawa (1022343) | more than 7 years ago | (#16706753)

Is it specific area codes, so I provide access to area code X and I want to terminate to area code Y or is it just I provide area code X and I can use whatever anyone else in the network is providing in exchange? John

Re:Use DUNDi to make free calls to the PSTN in the (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16707193)

The latter, so you provde area code X (or a country code + area code if outside the US and Canada) and in exchange, you get to access any area codes or country that other members of the network are providing. It is not on a call by call basis either, as long as you allow calls to be made through your line you can make as many calls as you want out (assuming that no one gets abusive or tries to use it for a commercial termination service).

E-rate Eligibility (1)

Jjeff1 (636051) | more than 7 years ago | (#16708345)

Have you determined if your schools are E-Rate eligible? If you're in the US, a PBX is eligible for E-Rate reimbursement, though the handsets are not. If you are a poorer school, you'll be able to fund most (up to 90%) of the cost of the PBX through E-Rate.

Cisco (1)

macdaddy (38372) | more than 7 years ago | (#16709201)

I'm a bit biased because my employer sells Cisco systems (many of which are to large school systems) but I would recommend going that route. This isn't just your phone system that you're investing in. This is the heart of your technological backbone. You're investing in the network. We're not talking about daisy-chaining more $100 LinkSys switches or your eBay special of the week switches. We're talking full QoS, PoE, and a fully redundant network design. We're talking SRST. We're talking a properly designed and deployed wireless infrastructure for your cordless VoIP phones, not a bunch of hacked WRT54G units liberally scattered around the building(s). You're investing in the guts of the IT system. This isn't something to mess around with IMHO.

You're district administrators, board members, and tax payers will want something that 1) the current staff can manage, 2) someone else can manage if they ever have staff leave, and 3) get support in case of an emergency. This is one of the scenarios where I recommend a school thinks like a business by purchasing something that makes good strategic economic sense. I am a Linux and OSS bigot but I wouldn't recommend an OSS phone system for your environment. I would recommend something that anyone with a little networking experience can manage. I would recommend something that I can get top-notch support for at 3am when a maintenance window goes south. This is the return on investment for your money people.

There is likely an Asterisk-based solution that will suit your needs but IMHO it's not the best solution for the environment. If you were to ask if I thought you should run Linux servers and Linux lab PCs then I would say oh hell yeah. A phone system is a different beast entirely. It's not simply a new app to learn. You have to develop a completely different mentality towards your management practices. A system like that demands 5 9s at the least and absolutely no downtime if students are on the premise. The potential (but unlikely) cost difference between a commercial solution and an OSS isn't worth the liability if something were to happen while your homegrown phone system was down. Like I said, were this question about servers or some other service then I would say go the OSS route if you have the ability. This is a phone system though. You just can't take the risk.

In closing I would also recommend the Cisco solution because you will get an excellent discount from Cisco through your local VAR. You can also write off the vast majority of it in E-Rate. Best of luck.

Re:Cisco (1)

ubercombatwombat (803501) | more than 7 years ago | (#16710031)

That is the rub isn't it. Other than cost, you can't go wrong with a Cisco solution. Macdaddy, just so you know - We have a GREAT Cisco VAR, At the very least, our network is Cisco based on a professionally installed structured cabling system. I have a few issues with Cisco when is comes to VoIP: 1) It is a very closed system. PC/VoIP Integration appears only on Windows and we are an Apple based district and 2) They are latecomers to SIP. Also, while I am not positive about this. I may be stuck with Verizon for dialtone. I don't know if the Cisco product can interface with multiple VoIP providers. I would imagine that it can, but this just occurs to me. In closing I can't shoot too many holes in your point. Robert

Re:Cisco (1)

macdaddy (38372) | more than 7 years ago | (#16718673)

Yeah, that's pretty much it. They are most costly but IMHO you'll walk away with a solid system. I'm glad you guys located a good VAR. I've seen both good and bad work from VARs over the years but once you find a good one stick with them as long as they can provide what you need. The Cisco VoIP solution is relatively closed. It is getting better though. For example Cisco Call Manager 5.0 will only run on Linux. I was told to expect Unity to make the switch soon as well. A big downside is the Mac support. Cisco's Mac support is lacking at best. As you can tell from my nickname I am also an Apple-head (related to the fabled Cheese-Heads of Wisconsin, only less cold and more fruity). I don't have a good solution for you there. Many of the schools we've worked in are either partially Macs or mostly Macs. Usually the administrative areas are PC-based and the educational areas are Mac-based. The upside of this is that the call-flow applications are Windows-centric. These usually aren't apps that teachers or students should have any direct interaction with. The downside is if you're 100% Mac, even in the admin offices, then you're not going to have IPCC or CPA. You'll still have a excellent phone system but you won't have these apps available to you if that's something you're wanting. IPCC would be unusual in a school, even a large district. CPA is useful for the operator lines. You could always use a thin PC for these workstations that's dedicated to call routing. As far as SIP goes they didn't go that route in the beginning. They are of course following the industry which went that way. Their LinkSys One offering is 100% SIP-based, though that doesn't really scale over 50-100 phones. It's meant for SOHOs primarily. The SIP integration isn't something that I'm terribly familiar with. I'm sucking hind tit on the Cisco VoIP offerings unfortunately. My assignment pretty much keeps me out of the voice loop, at least the cisco voice loop. Cisco's VoIP services don't care who your TDM provider is. We're out own TDM provider in some areas and we have a plethora of customers who went every route imaginable.

Best of luck with your deployment. There are a lot of options out there. My best advice is to do your homework (which you've already started it seems). It never hurts to demo solutions for a couple months either.

Asterisk or not (1)

Glennsarge (1022841) | more than 7 years ago | (#16720759)

We install asterisk (and others) in Australia. From the information you have provided Asterisk sounds like a good alternative. There are a number of reasons.

1. To set up a mini-test system can be done very cheaply. If you can't make it work little or nothing has been lost.
2. It can be configured with either IAX2 or SIP trunks. IAX2 trunks use much less bandwidth than SIP once concurrent calls are being routed over the net. This may not be an issue if you have plenty of bandwidth.
3. Remote extensions are a definite advantage of VoIP, one can connect to the PBX to make calls from home or anywhare a decent network connection is available. This is so only if the extension is an IAX2 extension! If it is a SIP extension it will not get through the firewall which your PBX sits behind. To make it do so is quite complex and simply not worth the effort! If remote extensions increase communications efficiency for the school then asterisk is the only viable option. We can supply freshtel IAX ata's they work very well and can even be used over a dial up connection to facilitate remote extensions. You could also purchase them direct from
4. I don't know how schools work where you are. But in Australia teachers and staff are mobile within the school and often also have students offsite (excursions and camps). We have been able to connect GSM gateways to Asterisk. These gateways can be an asterisk trunk or an extension. This makes the teachers mobile an extension of the PBX.
It works very well and solves the mobility issue without relying on flakely wireless LANS and expensive or extra WiFi phones. This means staff from the school can be contacted through the PBX to mobile and vice versa. There are many advantages to this, for example parents can contact teachers when teachers are away from the school without the teacher having to give their mobile phone number. Peace of mind, security and call tracking are enabled.
Call detail records from the PBX can be used to differentiate personal from mobile calls. Mobile phones do not need Power over Ethernet supply. The UPS would only be needed on the PBX, modems and gateways.
5. In Australia we can purchase business plans from mobile phone carriers. These plans allow calls between the phones in the business group (and the SIMS in the gateway) to be free or almost free. I don't know if this applies where you are.
6. 000 OK. I just realised you are probably in Australia because you asked about 000 and not 911, but I guess you could still be somewhere else. With asterisk 000 is as easy as putting a digium card with an FXO port in the system and a dial plan for 000. Its that simple. 000 will work as long as the PBX is running.
7. Snom phones are probably an overkill to supply throughout the school, our experience is that users only actually use a small proportion of the functions available and never use the rest. Simplicity and Voice Quality are the most relevant factors. Linksys IP phones will do the job easily and provide good call quality with a quality build and feel for
a much lower cost.
8. Support, once hardware is connected support (configurations, trouble shooting, changes adds and so on can be provided remotely). Hardware failure and how quickly it can be responded to is another matter. As the IT guy I would suspect that connecting and replacing hardware would be a simple task for yourself. Once connected and mapped it would be easy for us, or anyone else to maintain.
9. Digium cards. A total IP solution is much simpler and less buggy in our opinion. But most clients wish to retain there existing PSTN phone numbers! Poring an existing PSTN number to an adequate IP provider may or may not be possible. If not the appropriate cards need to be added to the PBX or an IAD devices placed between the PBX and the PSTN.
10. Another advantage of Asterisk is that it is open source. It may also be considered a disadvantage by some. But it does mean you are locked into a particular Vendors hardware, and it's cost. As you would be aware IT is changing more quickly than ever, who wants to be locked into a single hardware supplier.
11. The real deal with VoIP is concergence to IP. As you can see we can converged mobile and PSTN telephony, we call it CommsFusion. (By the way the killer telephony costs in Australia are calling fixed lines from mobiles nad mobiles from fixed lines. These calls are never made using CommsFusion. No matter whether the caller is using a fixed or mobile handset). Further benefits accrue when telephony is fused with business applications. The opensource environment (asterisk) we believe will provide better solutions faster than closed systems.
12. So the next question is which asterisk to use! Free PBX can be stable. One of it's draw backs is changing script within asterisk, and the using trixbox at a later time to modify the PBX often cause the customised asterisk script to be deleted. We have overcome this issue, and therfore Trixbox is a real alternative, not necessarily because it is less expensive (which it is), but more importantly, modifications are easy to make and at a glance it is easy to see the status of the hardware and PBX software. Trouble shooting can be much quicker with these simple screens available.

Other Asterisk solutions are OK to.

Feel free to contact me, good luck with your meeting.


Check for New Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?