Asterisk Adventure – Part 1

Asterisk Adventure goes back in time to detail my very first Asterisk Installation.

I need to figure out how to handle the transition from the old-school system to a better one and I work for the cheapest organization in the history of the world so I have no budget.

Luckily I had enough VoIP hard phones for everyone in the office from a previous attempt by the Phone Provider From Hell – PFH for short at sort of transitioning us to a fully VoIP system. For reasons I will not get into this system involved everyone having two phones on their desk and the new phones did not do everything that the old ones did because the PFH sucks at VoIP.

These were hosted phones and the hosting was some odd homebrew looking crap that the PFH just rebranded from some white-label solution that they knew very little about. It sort of worked, but it shared our office data connection with no QoS (Prioritizing the VoIP traffic so it works better) and it just sucked. Also my users are technophobic and having a new phone was scary, and letting them keep the old one doomed everything. Also the system did not do very simple things like park calls or intercom.

I looked into trying another hosted system for a bit but I ruled it out. Hosted VoIP service basically moves the PBX out of your office and into the cloud. It has its advantages,  but they generally nickle and dime every little thing you need to do like add more mailboxes and auto attendants etc…. With all of the bizarre configuration requirements that we have, it was cost-prohibitive and clunky to do hosted.

I looked into getting a turnkey VoIP PBX from about a billion vendors, including through an actual telecom company that would have handled the whole project. Their quote, including equipment was $20K. The cheapest turnkey solution was like $3-4K for the bottom of the line and that still required a ton of configuration.

My exploration into FOSS solutions for the project led me to consider many options, but in the end I chose to go with Asterisk, and more specifically with an implementation called Elastix.

Elastix is a pretty slick web-based GUI made by Digium that configures a basic PBX pre-built on Asterisk it also uses uses freepbx at times (another GUI for asterisk).

To all the linux/Asterisk gurus out there, I will get it over with now, I chose to use a GUI because I am a total noob and you are all better than I. Also because if I really messed things up I could buy support from Digium.

Plus also lets be real. Open Source projects on linux are never fully GUI based. If i was afraid to write a shell script or to edit some configuration files I would have gone turnkey or with a vendor.

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