New to Asterisk

I am forming a company and am looking for a communications solution. I found Asterisk and it looks promising. However, I haven’t got the first clue about it’s limitations, capabilities, or how to even implement Asterisk.

I am looking for suggestions regarding the basics and how to get started. Hopefully a little assistance pointing me in the right direction will dramatically reduce my learning curve. Any help is greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance for your help!

a good place to start is the book asterisk: the future of telephony. you can download the ebook from or buy the dead-tree version from o’rilley (available in many bookstores). it will get you up to speed pretty fast.

Asterisk can, as a general rule, accept any call on any type of line, do anything to it, and if you want, spit it out again on any other type of line.

Now that you are planning to get started, you need to decide what your goal is: do you want to learn *, or just set up something fast.
If you want something fast, try AsteriskNOW or Trixbox. They are self-contained Linux distros which include Asterisk, a web gui, and various other things. However, their web GUI obscures much of the config file from you so it far more difficult to learn *.
If you want to learn Asterisk however, the right way to start is with a bare Linux box and the command line. download the source, compile it, and start learning the config files. The learning curve is steep but once you get a few basic concepts you can do almost anything.

Asterisk can interface with VoIP phone lines and IP phones out of the box using your Linux system’s Ethernet adapter. To use Asteirsk with VoIP phone service, the service must support BYOD (bring your own device) which means that instead of sending you an ATA (analog telephony adapter) that you plug a ‘normal phone’ into, they give you the SIP login info. You plug this info into * and * connects directly over the Internet to the VoIP provider. Good providers-,,
Asterisk can also interface with POTS (analog) and PRI (t1 type) lines. Full ranges of cards are available from both Digium and Sangoma. When dealing with analog lines you will have FXO and FXS ports. FXO ports connect to a phone line, and let asterisk answer calls and dial out. FXS ports Serve a phone, and give it voltage and dialtone. An FXS port is usually an extension. Both manufacturers have modular cards and go by the system FXS = green module, FXO = red module. A card will have X ports on it, and by installing a module you enable some of those ports as FXO or FXS.

For extensions Asterisk can deal with either analog channels or IP phones (or a few other things). analog channels (FXS ports) are often easier to set up where you don’t want to run Ethernet cable or you want to use an existing telephone. However, on an analog channel you will access advanced features like hold, transfer, conference, etc with hookflashes and star codes. This can be confusing to a user.
I recommend IP phones. IP phones are more expensive but far easier to use- you get physical buttons for things like TRANSFER, HOLD, CONFERENCE, etc. Many IP phones can also do tricks like intercom (voice paging). An IP phone is a telephone that has an Ethernet plug where the phone cord would be, and it will communicate directly with Asterisk over ethernet using the SIP protocol. Most are configured with a web-based system, or you can ‘bulk provision’ them by having them download specially formatted files from the Asterisk server using TFTP. How this happens is different for each manufacturer.
AAstra and SNOM both make good quality IP phones that are popular with * users. Both are responsive to the * community and officially support *. For a lower end / less expensive product, try Grandstream. I suggest staying away from the BT1xx series as they lack intercom and auto-hangup support (when a speakerphone call ends it will play busy tone until you shut it off, annoying+++). Bt1xx however are the cheapest you can get at around $40/unit. BT200 is around $65/unit and GXP2000 (office type phone) is around $100/unit.

Also consider getting phones that support 802.3af power over ethernet (PoE). This allows the phone to recieve its power from a special powered switch, so you don’t need to setup a wall wart for each phone. One good cost-effective choice for this is a Netgear FS726TP (if i remember that right), it’s a 24 port ‘smart switch’, 10/100 with 12 powered ports and two gigabit uplink ports. also has module slots for fiber links. Only around $300 last I checked. Good for setting up a small to medium office with powered ethernet.
Many phones also include a second passthru Ethernet port, so you don’t need two wiring runs to each desk. Plug the phone into the wall and the computer into the phone.

hope that helps!

Thanks for the great info…very informative…I really appreciate it!


Like jwchameleoncorp, I too am new to Asterisk and excited about its possibilities in our small office. Thanks for all your expert advise.

I am trying to come up with a “starter package” for myself. I was currently looking to find a semi-decent box for the OS, a TDM400P card to start, and then a pretty good phone. I noticed you and others have recommended SNOM or AAstra. Besides the 360, what others do you recommend for a $150-$250 range? I appreciate your advise here.

Also, after you reading your previous post, I became curious about PoE. Is this required for these IP phones? I had no idea. Let me tell you what I had assumed to do. I planned on simply plugging into existing Ethernet ports already in the office that connects to a basic 10/100 switch. Do I need to replace this switch with a PoE switch? I then assumed I’d just plug the NIC of the computer into this same switch on the same LAN and use the TDM400P for each POTS line. Is this right? I had hoped to install a GUI after this.

Thanks again!

Welcome! glad i can help…

SNOM and AAstra have pretty small product lines. Snom has the 360 which you know, the 320 which has a smaller display, and the 300 which is basically a wall phone. I know the 360 comes with a wall wart adapter. Not sure which ones other than the 360 have PoE. All the phones support encryption (asterisk doesn’t really) and have a neat way of dealing with custom ring tones- you specify the ring tone file as an HTTP address to a 8khz wav file. It grabs it and uses it. You can also specify this in a SIP header, so you can generate rings on the fly (ala talking caller id type stuff). SNOM also has the wonderful feature that config changes do not require a reboot- this is very useful when playing around.

AAstra I know a bit better-
9112i- around $120, one line basic SIP phone with no PoE, 7 programmable keys
9133i- around $160, three lines, supports PoE but includes wall wart, two line display, 7 programmable keys
480i- around $200, 4 line buttons, huge display that supports XML apps, 6 softkeys which can be in pages to support up to i think around 48 softkeys. If you put more than 6, the 6th one becomes a ‘More…’ key. REQUIRES PoE, does not come with or have a port for a wall wart. If you don’t have PoE they make a power brick style PoE injector that can be used to power the phone, but it’s around $30-40 extra.
480i CT- around $270 as i recall, same as a 480i but has a cordless extension. Comes with wall wart but also supports PoE. Cordless base requires wall wart.
AAstra’s have no encryption for SIP, and no custom ring tones at all (only the warble ringers that are built in). DOES support distinctive ring tho. AAstra also has a much better speakerphone.

As for a phone to get started, learn SIP and play around with, either a SNOM I think or a Grandstream BT200. I only don’t suggest aastra becasue their phones must be rebooted for every config change, which takes a bit longer than grandstream. SNOM of course no reboot is needed. A great number of VoIP guys here (myself included) learned about SIP on grandstream budgetone phones back when it was the only one that didn’t cost $350… it is nice and simple to configure as there are only 2 pages of stuff. BT200 is also cheap- $60 or so. However if you are setting up a deployment, get one of whatever phone you think you will deploy so you can learn its quirks too.

As for PoE- you don’t usually NEED PoE. Most phones have the possibility to be powered by a wall wart at the user’s desk. That said, you should consider PoE as it has some advantages- notably less desk-side clutter, plus which if you run the powered switch off your server UPS, then people can still dial 911 if the power fails. For a good relatively low cost powered switch look at the netgear fs726tp- 24 ports 10/100, 12 of them powered, and 2 gigabit uplink ports each with a SFP (iirc) slot. $300.

You’re right with the rest of it though, plug the phones into the same lan as the * box and that’s it.

good luck!

Im new to asterisk and want to learn how to use it. i have all the hardware and software to use since it was installed on the server. they wan me to get in used with the asterisk but i dont know where to start. what i want to know is how to use asterisk with PHP programming and the softphone like firefly. thanks


xweaver look at the top of this forum, there is a sticky with a link to a book called asterisk: the future of telephony. that will get you up to speed. also look @, its a wiki site with much asterisk info.

If you wnat to use PHP to handle calls that will be done via AGI. search the wiki for more info.

good luck!