I understand what you guys are saying, so I will give an example of a small busines soltion that couldn’t be done with a cheapo PBX.
They came to me saying they wanted a PBX with 2 lines in, and 4 extensions… so far, not a huge task. They were looking at business class PBXs like Nortels/Avaya in the $2,000 price range, and if I remember correct, the Voicemail module was an additional $500. Anyway, they started of saying they just wanted basic PBX functions like hold music. I told them I would put together a system for them, and if they don’t want it, they can get a different one, and it wouldn’t cost them a thing. So, I built them an Asterisk system, and in the process of installing it I mentioned the additional features that Asterisk had… and they were like “Eh… we won’t use any of that stuff.”… By the end of the 3 weeks (when it was decision time) they said they couldn’t live without all the features they were using and kept the system and are totally satisfied with it. Now, at this time they have a Digium TDM400P with 3 modules (are only using 2 of them because they wanted to keep the fax line out), for $11/mo additionl, are using connect.voicepulse.com for 4 additional inbound lines that are not configured to allow outbound calls (so a capacity for 6 inbound calls), they have 3 more extensions than they had planned (for a total of 7 now), have 4 queues (2 english, 2 spanish), the autoattendant has 4 optons X2 (english and spanish), as well as an additional option that isn’t actually spoken that calls the presidents cell phone so that he doesn’t have to give it out, he can tell people to call the main number and press 8 (for example).
Now, they are talking about opening another location, and when I told him he could trunk the systems together and use the main 800 number for both locations, they were even more excited.
So, bottom line. Did this company need all the features they are using? Probably not. Do most companies need all the features that are available? Again, probably not. But, they are there, why not use them. I think you will find the regular small business is used to “settling” for what a small business can afford. By using Asterisk, they have the ability to use features that are only available on $50,000+ phone systems.
Would they have been happy with a Nortel/Avaya without all the features? That is the question! I personally doubt they would have been, but being a small business, they would have delt with it like many other small business do, as they can’t afford a good PBX.
So, personally, even if it is just one person, with one phone line, I would suggest an Asterisk system over a standard PBX just because you want to build for the future, not for the present. Sure, they could buy a $300 Panasonic with a $250 voicemail addon, but what happens in a few years when they need more than what the current system can do? They waste the $550 and then spend the money on another cheopo PBX that just does what they need, or do they invest a little more and get a PBX (Asterisk) with no limits?
Also, compare the price of the Asterisk system you are thinking of with the amount of money they are spending on advertising. I found this customer was spending $450/month for the ad they have in the local phone book. And they are locked in to it for a year. That PBX doesn’t seem so expensive now, does it?