Basic question - right forum?

I have a very basic question. If this is the wrong forum to post this, please advise on better one.

I run several small companies out of a single office. It is getting very complicated to keep all the different incoming phone calls apart, and downright messy when I am not there. I am using Vonage for a total of 4 lines, one of them a fax line. I would love to set up a system that allows me more flexibility, in particular an auto-assistant for each line, various [caller selected] options per line, and a possibility to use one desk phone and an option to select a specific outgoing line (so that the person on the other end sees a specific caller-ID). I was looking at the Asterisk solutions, and I am a bit puzzled by the Asterisk - Vonage connection. I understand that it is nearly impossible to connect directly to Vonage and use Asterisk on a PC (unless you buy Softphone, which then limits the use to 500 minutes), but don’t the Vonage boxes convert the IP lines into POTS? Why can’t I take the output of the Vonage boxes and feed them into Asterisk via one of the analog input cards that are offered (for example the TDM410)? Would that not take me around all those issues? Granted, it’s a bit stupid to take a VoiP signal, convert it to analog and then back to VoiP, but if it does the job?

Here is what I want to do. Perhaps someone can tell me if that is possible? I’d appreciate it. thanks.

  1. A separate auto-attendant for several lines (call coming in on line 1: “You have reached company A. For X press 1, etc.”, call coming in on line 2: “You have reached Company B. For Y press 1, etc,).
  2. Voice mail boxes and call forwarding features for each line.
  3. An analog fax machine on one of the lines
  4. “Distinctive Ring” or other ID option. I would like to use a single line phone, but be able to identify which line the call comes in on. If someone calls line 2, for example, the display on the phone should identify that and say something like “line 2” or “Company B”
  5. Outgoing call management. I would like to be able to select the outgoing line. For example, I’d like to press the button “2” to get an outgoing call on line 2, so that the caller ID on the phone of the person I am calling shows the correct number.

I don’t know about Vonage.

Distinctive ring tends to require that you are directly talking to an IP phone and is phone model dependent.

Asterisk can do the other things, although I think you will need to configure it directly, and it may take a few iterations to get right.

Fax handling is possible, but needs some care to get it to work well.

Thank you. I think I could probably live without the distinctive ring. I could perhaps hook up a multi-line phone to the output of the Vonage boxes parallel to the Asterisk box, and it would show me where the call is coming from. That’s something I can figure out. Does Asterisk actually support IP phones? I am thinking that I would use the analog outputs of the Vonage box(es), feed them into the Asterisk box, and connect the Asterisk box to the internal network, and then use a phone that also connects to the internal network. Would that work?

Asterisk supports, and is extensively used with, IP phones, using SIP, IAX (an Asterisk specific one), H.323, the Cisco proprietary protocol, and maybe others. SIP is probably the best supported.