Can Asterisk do what I need?

Hi there. I’ve spent some time in the wiki and on the site, as well as with google, and unfortunately the time I’m alloted to look into this has run out. I hope to be able to get my answers here. I work at company with ~50 local staff, and ~100 staff at another location on the opposite side of the country (US). We’re looking into upgrading our phone systems, but I’m pretty new here and don’t have a lot of information on what’s here currently, and I’m not terribly familiar with PBX systems in general. A lot of my time today has been spent with learning the terminology. I’d love to use Open Source solutions here if possible. At the moment, I’m only concerned with the location I’m in, we’ll deal with the other location later, if it goes well here.

We have a t1 here currently, and each desk has it’s own phone number you can call from anywhere (DID I believe is the term). We have voice mail, transfer, all the “standard” PBX stuff, but the system looks to be about 15 years old. We have a small call center here as well (about 15-20 employees are dedicated to it) with a hunt group (queue?). I’m assuming that our current equipment won’t be usable with Asterisk, so my question is… what do I need to get all this up and running with Asterisk? Hardware, etc. We’re not interested in going with VoIP for dialing in or out, we’d like to stick with the voice dedicated t1, but internally it would be nice. We’d want to use hard phones as well. Also, we have a need for analog modems for some of the work we do, so that’s a must. Any ideas you could throw my way would be great. Many thanks!

it is all very doable including a phased approach with integration using your current pbx if you want to. You would most likely want to engage the services of someone who has some experience with this give the size of your company.

You say you want to use ‘hard phones’ - do you mean your existing phones are ‘hard’ IP phones?

also - what part of the country are you in? you will most likely want to work with someone who has local presence to help assure your internal lan environement is VoIP read as well.


Many thanks for your response. Our current phones are not IP capable. We strongly feel that our users will reject using software to make and recieve phone calls, as will my boss. They will want a handset that they can use and so on, hence the ‘hard phone’ requirement.

My boss is a very “DIY” kind of guy, and so am I, so I was hoping to be able to complete this transition without needing to bring in expertise. We will be the ones responsible for it’s maintenance in the end, and the last thing we need is another service contract, or reliance on an outside vendor, that’s what we’re trying to get away from now. Again, many thanks!

Hi Niyamas,

You definately can accomplish what you are looking for. In fact, I was in the same boat about 6 months ago.

You actually can continue to use your existing handsets if you buy something called a channel bank. It connects digital or analog lines and then can be connected to the asterisk based PBX. As long as you have the ability to have modems now, there is no reason you shouldn’t be able to continue having them. The modem jacks shouldn’t be rewired to run through the PBX though, just leave them. (Assuming the T1 comes in and is split into lines already).

I should let you know that we did not chose this route for our company. I did not want to be responsible for managing something so important as the phones (Just about the only thing more important than email at this point). Also, I know that the things in my above paragraph are possible, but I am not technical enough to give you a more detailed answer.

My company chose to implement Asterisk through Fonality, which we found on the Digium Partners page. They had the hardware and software configuration cheap enough that I wouldn’t have spent any more time trying to figure out how to do it myself. We did change our phone service from being on an integrated T1 sharing voice and data into two T1s. One for Voice, and one for Data. We were also took the advice of our carrier to run two copper POTS lines for emergency redundancy. Because of that suggestion, we migrated our Fax line and a data (modem) line to copper. All in all, I couldn’t be happier with the decision to look to someone else to configure and support the PBX.

Hope this helps.


as mentioned, you can connect into your existing phones through multiple means. However - I sense you are misunderstanding ‘IP Phones’ as this is different than a ‘Softphone.’ There are very high quality ‘Hard IP’ phones (e.g. Cisco, Polycom, …) that have definate advantages over using your existing equipment. Both are possible as is a migration.

as far as doing it on your own, clearly many have. It’s your time or other people’s time that are involved. It’s definately a cultural thing and it sounds like culturally your boss is ok with figuring it out as you go.


Hard phones exist in different models. A SIP phone is the way to go, you have brands like Polycom, Snom, Thomson, Grandstream, just to name a few.

Depending on your needs for analog lines/modems, you could use Xorcom’s Astribank (it’s created just for asterisk, and the drivers are built into the zaptel) or any other analog bank.

A DIY solution is great, but… Be prepared to put some time into it, you’ll need it. (on the other hand, you’ll GET statisfaction if all is over and working well :p) Just remember it’s more then ‘just a server’, because the phone system should be UP. Always! :smile: