Gettting Ready for Asterisk

Carl Weinschenk

Asterisk is open source IP PBX software that a company can either deploy on its own or roll out with the help of a consultancy, managed service provider or some other outside organization that will configure the software and provide necessary support services.


A key question before taking either of the approaches is whether the organization indeed is ready for open source in general and Asterisk, which was developed by Digium, in particular. This VOIP News story deals with that issue by posing a series of questions.


The questions range from how many people the IP-PBX will be called on to support to the operating system used by the organization. It's interesting that three of the questions deal with the skill level and time availability of staff. Clearly, companies should do some serious conceptual, operational and pragmatic thinking before going with Asterisk.


Some of that thinking is put in a real-world context in this very nicely done case study at IT Manager's Journal. It looks at whether Asterisk will play in Peoria -- literally. The piece looks at the use of the technology by the O'Brien Automotive Team, a car dealership based in the city.


O'Brien needed a phone system to support 200 employees in its new facility as well as staff in nine other locations in four states. The price tag on a traditional phone system was high, so the company began looking at open source. Asterisk was chosen after a test suggested it could meet the company's needs.


An important bit of food for thought is that the IT director went through three vendors before finding one that seemed to know what it was doing. Even then he couldn't be sure, since no vendor standards exist, the story says. Companies should take this "wild west" element into consideration before opting for this approach. The story has a happy ending, as the company O'Brien settled on had the system installed and working well within a couple of weeks.


That company was NeoPhonetics, which last month released a network assessment tool that can be used to determine whether a company's cabling, switching and routers are up to snuff and if there is enough bandwidth available to support VoIP.


There is a bit of unintended humor in this eWeek article on a Fonality product introduction. The company's Asterisk-based trixBox Pro business phone system and trixNet in-network calling service are being combined. Together, they will enable businesses with five to 500 employees make free calls and access features such as auto attendant, music on hold, call hunting, e-mail and Outlook integration for free.


The humor is in how easy the company makes it seem. Says CEO Chris Lyman:

Say you're a computer consultant in Saskatchewan. You can download (trixnet Pro) for free, burn it to a CD, install it on a server, and it becomes your PBX. They you go buy IP phones and our software detects them, configures them and you have a PBX running in your business. It's slick.

Lyman's explanation makes it sound like it's possible to download and configure the product during lunch hour -- with time left over for a tuna on rye. Admittedly, we are poking fun -- Lyman obviously was referring to people who know what they are doing. We doubt most people will be able to deploy it so easily.


In any case, Asterisk has many admirers. This TMCNet.com top-10 list of why the writer loves the software goes a long way toward explaining the attraction.

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