Noob with 12 Q's about asterisk,VoIP providers, and setup


#1

Hello friendsters and * users.

I am running a small company with two branches. I used to be located in our HQ in London,
but due to my family situation I must stay home in Greece for the better part of the year.
This has proven to be extremely costly for my company. The phonebills have skyrocketed.

We have one branch in sweden in addition to HQ in London.
The business model forces heavy use of telecommunication, some email but mostly plain old telephone and faxes.
We are in a very competative field, and because of our low overhead we need to lower our cost.

I have done some reading about asterisk, and from what I gather we will need this:

  1. 3 servers to run asterisk,(1 in UK, 1 in sweden and 1 located in greece) with the needed add on cards.(TDM400p), the number of TDM 400 cards is for me not clearly understood but I am sure you will find it out after reading the rest of the list

  2. Providers of VOIP phonenumbers for UK, Sweden and Greece.
    I am unsure to what to search for here, so let me know what such providers are called, and I am sure I will find some.

  3. Find a way to call at local price to UK, Sweden and Greece, from any of the mentioned locations.

  4. Recive phone calls in Greece from Sweden and UK where our clients (the caller) pays local price.

5.For our London office we will need 4 numbers (where people can call in/out), and 10 internal numbers, called extensions I belive.

  1. The Malmo office will need two numbers, and 6 extensions.

  2. My home in Greece will need 3 numbers, 4 extensions and the possibility to recive forwarded calls from any of the two other offices at local price.

  3. When not in the office I will need to have calls forwarded to my Greek cellphone, how can we manage that at local rates? This goes for forwarded calls from
    any of the two offices, or calls that are placed to any of the three Greek numbers. The calls can not be forwarded to a UK cellphone, cause of the extra roaming charges.

  4. Likewise will any emplyee in any of the two other offices need to have calls forwarded to their swedish or english cellphone, if they are out of office.

10.I understand that all this will require multiple providers of telephone numbers, but I have no clue what to expect to pay for monthly fee for that or if it even excist providers that will deliver a service where one only pays for the actuall calls made, without any monthly costs.

  1. Does it excist “no-name” cards that one can use rather then the TDM 400? Maybe at a lower cost?

12.Also one should have a clear vision of scalability, because we hopefully will need to hire more people during this year, and that would require additional cards, and even more CPU from the servers, right? If we set up p4 4ghz pc’s with 1 gb ram, does this set up allow us to scale up, say double the number of users without noticing server stress and lag?

Edited:

  1. Have done some searching, and what I find is that I might be able to opt for a VOIP service from several providers. I have found VOIP that charges a reasonable per minute fee, and no monthly fee, and I am ok with that.

  2. What is the difference between VOIP and DID and similar things?

  3. If I have one adapter thing from each VOIP provider in my home in greece, will I then be able to make call plans based on lowest prices? I mean that if I pick up any phone in the house, and dial a UK number, will the asterisk be able to choose the correct VOIP provider directly, or will I need to have one specific phone to each VOIP provider?

I aware of the great wiki, but my poor english is prohibiting me for a clear and in depth understanding of all this. So when helping me out please explain in the smallest words possible. And belive me, technical engllish like this, with lots of special terminology is hard to get translated ;D)


#2

What is your native language? Maybe we can help you in your own language.


#3

Greek, that is.


#4

[quote=“mixos”]

  1. 3 servers to run asterisk,(1 in UK, 1 in sweden and 1 located in greece) with the needed add on cards.(TDM400p), the number of TDM 400 cards is for me not clearly understood but I am sure you will find it out after reading the rest of the list[/quote] You need the TDM400 or other analog line adapters only if you want or need to hang on to the telephone lines you have in place. If you have ISDN, there are equivalent cards.

[quote]2. Providers of VOIP phonenumbers for UK, Sweden and Greece.
I am unsure to what to search for here, so let me know what such providers are called, and I am sure I will find some.[/quote] Sorry, I live in the US and cannot make any recommendations. Generally speaking, you are looking for VoIP providers, which accepts to hook up Asterisk to their service. VoIP service providers often package their service offer with equipment they resell.

[quote]3. Find a way to call at local price to UK, Sweden and Greece, from any of the mentioned locations.[/quote]Asterisk will allow you to call at no cost between locations. This is through a protocol called IAX. Did I mention: You will need a broadband Internet connection for that, and VoIP also needs broadband Internet.

[quote]4. Recive phone calls in Greece from Sweden and UK where our clients (the caller) pays local price.[/quote]This will work only if the caller calls the local number in the respective country. You can route the calls with IAX.

[quote]5.For our London office we will need 4 numbers (where people can call in/out), and 10 internal numbers, called extensions I belive.[/quote]You can have four lines through VoIP on a broadband VoIP connection. If these lines are traditional phone lines, you need analog cards a la TDM400. Internal extensions are no problem

[quote]6. The Malmo office will need two numbers, and 6 extensions.[/quote]See above

[quote]7. My home in Greece will need 3 numbers, 4 extensions and the possibility to recive forwarded calls from any of the two other offices at local price.[/quote]See above, no problem. That’s what * is made for.

[quote]8. When not in the office I will need to have calls forwarded to my Greek cellphone, how can we manage that at local rates? This goes for forwarded calls from
any of the two offices, or calls that are placed to any of the three Greek numbers. The calls can not be forwarded to a UK cellphone, cause of the extra roaming charges.[/quote]Can be done as well. I would defer this until the rest of the installation is up and running.

[quote]9. Likewise will any emplyee in any of the two other offices need to have calls forwarded to their swedish or english cellphone, if they are out of office.[/quote] as above

[quote]10.I understand that all this will require multiple providers of telephone numbers, but I have no clue what to expect to pay for monthly fee for that or if it even excist providers that will deliver a service where one only pays for the actuall calls made, without any monthly costs.[/quote] The worst that can happen is what you pay now minus the expenses for international calls, because these would be routed through IAX. The best you can accomplish is that the people you are calling are using VoIP themselves (same provider, or partner) which would drive cost towards Zero. This you probably do not have control over.

[quote]11. Does it excist “no-name” cards that one can use rather then the TDM 400? Maybe at a lower cost?[/quote] Yes, X100P clones, for example. I would not recommend these for a professional environment with multiple analog lines etc.

[quote]12.Also one should have a clear vision of scalability, because we hopefully will need to hire more people during this year, and that would require additional cards, and even more CPU from the servers, right? If we set up p4 4ghz pc’s with 1 gb ram, does this set up allow us to scale up, say double the number of users without noticing server stress and lag?[/quote]Scalability is a function of the architecture, not hardware. A scalable Asterisk architecture would have a server to control switching of calls, while a set of servers with phone cards execute the calls.

[quote]13. Have done some searching, and what I find is that I might be able to opt for a VOIP service from several providers. I have found VOIP that charges a reasonable per minute fee, and no monthly fee, and I am ok with that.[/quote]You are on the right track. I was wondering why you would not want to find VoIP providers in each country, minimizing the need for telephone lines, and analog equipment.

[quote]14. What is the difference between VOIP and DID and similar things?[/quote]VoIP is Voice over Internet Protocol. Telephone over a (broadband) Internet connection.

[quote]15. If I have one adapter thing from each VOIP provider in my home in greece, will I then be able to make call plans based on lowest prices? I mean that if I pick up any phone in the house, and dial a UK number, will the asterisk be able to choose the correct VOIP provider directly, or will I need to have one specific phone to each VOIP provider?[/quote]If you go with Asterisk servers in each location, you do not have to worry about this, see 3.

In conclusion… I believe you need to hire a consultant/company who can set this all up for you. The project you envision will need full time attention for a week or more by an expert (not including staff training), several weeks/months by a newby, depending how much experience you have with Linux, compiling * and your general computer savvy and troubleshooting skills. Another option, eliminating all your worries about installing Asterisk: Look for a single “EU”-VoIP provider which offers local phone numbers in all three countries. If such a provider exists, this provider would host the elaborate infrastructure for you (and other customers) on his end, and you and your staff would use VoIP phones to directly connect to the provider via Internet broadband connections at each site.


#5

mixos,

Redstapler did a good job of summing much of this up and unless you are ready to heavily invest your time or one of your staff, a consultant would be advisable. One thing to think about though is how you want to make your connections to the phone company. As you pointed out, you can use VoIP providers which typically have cost benefits. The quality of the calls and issues you have will vary depending on the quality of these vendors. The other option (or a hybrid) is to have pstn connections at each server. You can then provide local numbers to your clients as well as route calls from any location to use the local pstn connections at each server to make calls. (e.g. if you dial a UK number from your house in Greece, the call would actually route through the IAX VoIP trunk to your London server where the call would then go out the pstn line). Or you can do a hybrid. Using the phone connections and your controlled IAX2 trunks usually results in better overall quality calls - but costs more.

Also, in your architecture, you don’t necessarily have to have an Asterisk server at each location. For example, you could have your phones at your house in Greece be extensions off your London server, or even have a multi-line IP phone which could have an extension off each of your other servers if you wanted to. It all depends on what will ultimately make the most sense for your use situation, which a good consultant could help you determine.

Also - you may want to go download the free O’Reilly book - The Future of Telephony, as it may help in understanding a lot of this and as a book, might read a bit more fluently then digging through Wiki pages.

Good luck - in the end you will end up with a state of the art system that should hep your competitive business.

p


#6

Thank you guys so much, both readstapler and p_lindheimer.
Now I have a much more clear vison of what to expect.

  1. How would I determinate “quality of these VOIP vendors”.

  2. The hybrid solution sounds great, the PSTN would also be sort of a back up route should things crash one day.

  3. So, you are saying that we could have one asterisk server, ie in our mainoffice in London, and the sweed branch and my home office in greece could really be extension of the 1 -one-! asterisk server. Could you please elaborate this part? All the actual VOIP lines goes into the server in London, and at the two other locations we merly make sure to route to the correct port, in this case the right telephone?

mixos