New! questions: trixbox? - iax2 or sip? - best ip phones?

Do you feel like Asterisk is a rip off in the long run? or is there a better solution?

  • Yes
  • No

0 voters

Hello! My company uses Nortel products and they SUCK! So now that I’m doing third-party consulting I want to push Asterisk! Yeah baby, yeah!

Here are my questions:
-I’m planning on using Trixbox. Good? Any issues I’ll most assuredly run into?
-IAX2 service providers can be expensive…who’s the cheapest? If not, is there a cheap way to do an SIP with channels or another method, so my primary business no. allows more than 1 call at a time?
-I’m looking for ip phones with the best management (managed buttons and programming, etc) and the most features for the cheapest price…what are the best products?

It’s nice to see that you did some research… Did you even google any of your questions?

Are you the PBX admin of your Nortel system, and do you use a GUI like OTM, or do you do all your admin from the CLI?

IAX2 providers expensive? What is expensive? $800/mo for a T1 or $11/mo for 4 inbound IAX2 lines?

As for phones, what do you want to spend? Are you spending $130 for 3909’s and want to stay in that price range? How many phones do you have, and are you expecting to replace them all with SIP phones?

What kind of response do you expect from calling Asterisk a “rip off” from the beginning? I wouldn’t be supprised if I was the only person that responds to you, as your first post is offensive right from the beginning.

the only opinion i’ll add to this thread is that, if you push Asterisk as the telecoms solution for every client you’ll fall over.

everything else you’ll find either by looking through this forum or browseing/searching the wiki.

  1. trixbox isnt bad. It separates you from the config files though, which can often be far more flexible. It also can be harder to debug as an incoming call will generate a page of debug output before it even starts to ring, otoh ‘normal asterisk’ gives you a line or two of output.

  2. iax2 providers are not expensive, if you think they are then you are either smoking something funny or are good friends with Mr. Scrooge. Remember that iax or sip both allow more than one concurrant call- the limitation is with the provider. allows 4 incoming / 4 outgoing channels per account, and you can buy more or get several accounts. Almost all VoIP provider, residential or business, allows at least two concurrant channels, this is so 3way calling works.

  3. aastra and snom are both good. Almost all IP phones have remote provisioning of some kind, usually by config files on a TFTP server somewhere. The format of these files varies by manufacturer.

by the wiki we mean its a great resource.

I will add one thing- don’t try to start selling Asterisk until you understand it yourself in and out. Asterisk is not so much a ‘product’ like a nortel system as it is a big bucket of Legos- if you know what you’re doing you can make something damn cool, if not it’s really easy to make a mess.

about the poll, i wasn’t making a statement, i’m simply asking an opinion. answer how you want. i really like hearing how a product fairs by opinion before i start using it…

thanks for your answers, this was a huge help.


about the poll, i wasn’t making a statement, i’m simply asking an opinion. answer how you want. i really like hearing how a product fairs by opinion before i start using it…

thanks for your answers, this was a huge help.


Why is that? I can’t think of a situation that an Asterisk system can’t outperform any of the commercially available PBXs in the “same price” range. Even a “cheap” $1,000 PBX doesn’t get you much more then a few lines in, and a few extensions and hopefully voice mail/auto attendant. Not even close to what could be done with a $300 computer (+$300 Digium card if you want to use POTS lines, but if you have a high speed internet, you’ll probably save money just getting rid of your POTS lines and going VoIP), Asterisk, and a few $100 phones.

Also, Trixbox IS Asterisk. So, anything you can do with Asterisk can be done with Trixbox. You just have to jump through a few extra hoops to make it work if you plan to use the web interface or allow someone else to use the web interface, but I edit config files all the time… and if it’s something that the web interface removes, I edit the web interface to either display it on the interface (like the ability to set the call-limit) or hard code it into the interface so I don’t have to worry about others with access to the web interface changing the setting.

Why is that? I can’t think of a situation that an Asterisk system can’t outperform any of the commercially available PBXs in the “same price” range. Even a “cheap” $1,000 PBX doesn’t get you much more then a few lines in, and a few extensions and hopefully voice mail/auto attendant. Not even close to what could be done with a $300 computer (+$300 Digium card if you want to use POTS lines, but if you have a high speed internet, you’ll probably save money just getting rid of your POTS lines and going VoIP), Asterisk, and a few $100 phones.

i don’t think that, for an unadventurous small business, Asterisk would be the answer. you can get pretty fully functional PBXs, with handsets, for under 1k (let’s work in US$ to keep it simple), and often for half that.

factor in a PC with UPS, a 4 line card, maybe with echo can, say a half-dozen decent handsets (Aastra 9133i ?), a couple of hours install, a couple more setup. add in maintenance and it adds up to a hefty difference.

sure, you get way more than the cheapo PBX, but i look at the “feature list” and don’t know anyone who uses, or could use, or even want to use, anywhere near all of them.

what i’m saying is that Asterisk is not the only tool in the box. it might make you the most money, but as Helix says, you can make a real mess too.

i would agree but very carefully.
For a small business or home user, if they are DAMN SURE they won’t need any features outside of what a cheap key/hybrid type thing offers, then they can often save a few hundred bucks with that. They also get something far less complicated, that generally Just Works™ (until it ‘breaks’ and then needs to be replaced). Asterisk OTOH is a much more complicated system. Asterisk can beat anything I know of on a $/feature basis, and can beat high end stuff quite resoundingly once you get past 50 users or so, but for the low end people that won’t use 99% of what Asterisk can do, a analog PBX that costs less can SOMETIMES be a better deal. The key is knowing when this is, and discussing the options with the client…

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 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?

don’t get me wrong, i think Asterisk is the best thing to be developed for *nix, in fact, for any platform full stop.

most of my systems have been sold on the “free” expandability options, not having to install extension cards just because you’ve hit the capacity of your current system/card, not being tied into a contract with a supplier, not being fleeced for handsets and voicemail etc etc.

i’m excited about Asterisk, but most people i meet aren’t … they don’t care less how it works, what the engine inside it is, or that their handset is running Linux … they want to pick up the handset, dial, and talk. there’s a glimmer of interest when they see the nice add-ons i install but usually it’s down to how much it costs, does it go wrong, and how do they fix it if it does.

SLA anyone? I moved a customer over to phones from Office Depot for this very reason. It supports 4 lines and 16 extensions. Asterisk couldn’t come close. They wanted to put a call on hold and pick it up at another extension, WITHOUT jumping through hoops, dialing a bunch of numbers, etc.

Another customer, I had to recommend the same thing. I’m not pushing any system, I’ll let the clients’ needs dictate what I recommend, and I don’t have a problem telling them to go to Office Depot. I’d rather send a happy client someplace else than have a disgruntled client go someplace else.

But, would I give up Asterisk? Heck no! It can do things that no amount of money thrown at CallManager can do. I have it running in a particular environment that I wouldn’t have a clue of how to start configuring CallManager. I’ve read a lot about some of the other highend systems (Avaya, for example), and still, I couldn’t imagine the money it would cost. PBX vendors seem to want to charge out the roof for IVR functionality. Asterisk handles pretty much any IVR (actually, just attendant) functions perfectly.

I’ve even looked at integrating Asterisk into other systems so that Asterisk interfaces with the rest of the wolrd and then passes calls on to the other system. This is just trying to get around some of the features that Asterisk doesn’t yet support that other systems do.

mmm, as i said you have to be very careful in which customers you suggest non-* stuff to because it will lock them in and greatly limit their options. jzawacki’s story is a perfect example. I think it really depends on who you are dealing with- some people just don’t ‘get it’ when you explain the advantage of VoIP systems, mostly very small businesses that don’t have any growth on the agenda. For a very small few of them, the upfront savings of going with a standard pbx is more valuable than the flexibility of *. For that reason if the customer is below a certain size and seems pretty ‘old-school’ about things, it’s often a good idea to at least draw up specs for a cheap analog PBX and present it as an option. I’m not saying it should be even suggested, just allowed as an alternative.
I also agree that SLA is the one achilles heel in Asterisk… if/as/when SLA ever comes around it will open up a lot of doors.

i don’t see that SLA as an issue … but over here, the lack of a useful Service Level Agreement between the incumbent carrier (BT) and the majority of ISPs means there’s very little accountability for when 'net connections go down. the use of VoIP trunks won’t be taken seriously by smaller customers until they have confidence that they won’t have call-drops.

I think that’s becoming an issue over here as well. I’m on a Covad ADSL connection, and for the past month or so, every 10th or so ping times out. I only started checking this because VoIP between my house and my office just pretty much died. They are dropping just enough packets so that most of the time you don’t notice it for regular internet browsing, but it just won’t work for VoIP.

I think this is a ploy to get me to use their VoIP service. Instead, it’s getting me to switch to someone else. I found out I can get my very own private T1 between the two locations for $250 a month. That’s less than a comparable SDSL connection, much less than a T1 connected to the internet, and with the private T1, I control everything.

It seems like every DSL provider is offering some kind of VoIP service. I imagine the call quality on company A’s DSL service to company B’s VoIP service is going to start getting really bad.

SLA being an issue or not depends on the client. Bigger guys usually don’t have SLA anyway and thus won’t care. But the little clients, the ones with like 10 extensions and 2-4 analog lines, will understandably not see why it is impossible to yell across the hall “BILL PICK UP LINE 3” and have bill either grab or jump in the call with one button. When there are a small number of analog lines and nothing else, not having SLA can be a drag. when * gets SLA added and working, it will open up a lot of the very small system market…

The SLA everyone else is talking about is the quality of service you receive from a service provider. I believe he is talking about the shared line appearance. Personally, I feel people “like” this as they are not used to using a “real” PBX.

Now, maybe I’m missing the big picture. If a company isn’t growing, it’s dying. I have no intentions of offering a PBX to those types of companies. If they are set in their ways, then the system they already have (if any) is fine, and why even purchase an “Office Depot” system (actually, didn’t know they made PBXs).

So far, I haven’t really heard of a solid “good” reason not to install an Asterisk system for any business or why you should choose another system over Asterisk. Or, maybe what I expect from a PBX is different from what others do, as I have only worked with tens of thousands of dollars enterprise phone systems. Why should a small business settle for what a Panasonic phone system will (or will not) provide over what they could have with an Asterisk System. I also can’t think of a small business that couldn’t benefit from many of the features “cheapo” systems don’t provide.


I’m sorry, I believe this just shows your lack of knowledge about Asterisk. There is nothing a cheapo system can do that Asterisk can’t. What is a bunch of numbers? 3? An extension? Or is hitting the foward button and dialing an extension a bunch of buttons?

EDIT2: Corrected misinformation

for the record the SLA i have been talking about is shared line appearance, not service level agreement.

As for SLA and small business, people are used to using SLAs and telling people that they now have to park/transfer/conference/whatever complicates things, they will ask “Well why can’t I just pick up line 3?”. SLA solves this. I agree many people can retrain on * without SLA, but it does close some doors.

hence me saying this at the start of my last post !!

i think the arguments for SLA in Asterisk have been well stated here … it’s now be patient or induce the devs to do it.

One, Asterisk can already “kinda” do SLA, or at least get a simular outcome. I can’t remember the exact name, but it was an Extension Appearance vs a line. That is part of the “Magic” of PBXs, you should not have direct line access. But, using BLF, you can set it up to allow others to pick up a call just as you would with SLA using a conference.

Personally, I don’t care if Asterisk ever has this function. Cheapo PBXs have these “features” because they don’t have “real” PBX features. When you have direct line access you can’t have outbound routing, the PBX can’t do it’s job and make sure the call is going out on the cheapest mothod available or stop you from calling that 900 number, etc. If a company “wants” a cheapo PBX, then give it to them, I just would be their provider.