Hello, I administer a ~50-user 3COM NBX system at my place of employment. Since NBX phones communicate with the “PBX” via ethernet (at layer 2) it’s almost VOIP, at least on the in-house side of things. For external communications we have 2 POTS lines and a T-1 connected straight to the NBX via a digital line card. I’m in the process of meeting with telco/internet vendors (starting Monday) in hopes of negotiating new contracts for both internet and voice connectivity. We’ve got a lot of phones showing wear and tear combined with the feeling that we’ve reached the crest of what this system can do for us. So, I’m very interested in beginning research to potentially replace our current system.
Our company already develops and markets software solutions to clients based around Linux servers for which my department in particular provides installation and support services. We’re a very much do-it-yourself and open-source heavy company, whatever this project might require I’m confident we can make it happen…
Having said that, and having read about (fairly heavily) Asterisk and similar products and related technologies, I’ve got a few questions and concerns some of you might be willing to help set me straight on.
In it’s simplest form I could probably replace the NBX and all desktop phones with a Linux server running Asterisk and SIP phones. If this happened and the voice T-1 stayed in place there wouldn’t be much to differentiate it from our curent NBX system. Potentially though I could extend that beyond our networks perimeter such that intsead of a “voice” T-1 delivering calls in and out, data packets delivered over an IP network could be implemented. An advantage is unused “voice” channels being available for data applications. One network (IP) in and out of the building dynamically sharing bandwidth.
Now to do this though my thoughts are that whomever supplies “dialtone” in this fashion needs to be close, few hops, low latency, higher chance of stability. So the actual companies I’m meeting with to negotiate internet T-1 or higher connectivity are the ones I’d rather have delivering “dialtone”. Does that make sense and is it the norm? I’m leary of my voice calls traveling halfway across the country as internet data before hitting a company to put them on the PSTN. As a general rule the internet is “reliable” but it’s still not quite like the PSTN I think… So, Sprint/AT&T/Qwest and some smaller regional companies are all planning on making their pitches to us in the coming weeks. What questions do I ask? What track records do any of them have at delivering VOIP services? Will they interact with Asterisk at all or do any/all their VOIP products require proprietary solutions?
If it helps as far as any suggestions you might make here’s a breakdown of our expenses and some call metrics:
2 voice T-1s, one to the NBX the other to a channel bank which I’d love to do away with. Mainly modems and faxes on it, what’s the likelihood of me being happy with modem/data calls over VOIP via an ATA? I digress though, local loop on these are $450 each, ouch.
Inbound and outbound intra/interstate any time of day though is <.04/min.
I’ve been quoted roughly $650 for an “internet” T-1 from most of the tier1 companies mentioned above so far, hence my desire to combine things and not pay $450 for a voice-only circuit!
Last month we had about 40,000 minutes of LD, split about 50/50 inbound/outbound.
Things I’d love to be able to do:
Have bluetooth on the desktop phone detect my cell phone when I arrive to work and set me up accordingly…
Have cordless “desktop” phones I can carry around the building and use via our WIFI network with calls either going to both or automatically directed to the cordless simply by the act of removing it from the cradle.
More easily support telecommuters working from home or other sites.
Things the NBX is doing for us now we really can’t do without:
Receptionist console with lights to indicate who is available, who’s on the phone, etc…
Hunt and Calling Groups with user login/out ability. Round-robin, linear, etc…
Auto-attendant menu trees, etc…
Smaller things we take for granted that I’m at least slightly concerned about. Not the ability to do these things but the ease and integration of how they work and interact. With 3COM and the NBX at least all devices are made by one company and are therefore pretty much guaranteed to interact properly.
Configurable hold and call-park timeouts. Employee directory via LCD along with missed/answered calls history. Seeing an incoming calls CLID on the LCD and a second line presence light blinking while already on a call. Putting the first on hold, grabbing the second, pressing conference/first on-hold caller/conference and being on a 3-way with both. 4 rings at my desk, no answer, automatic forward to my cell phone. Paging zones. Web-based administration of the whole system with auto-phone discovery, etc…
That list could go on forever and I apologize for not knowing the answers via my reading already. A lot of them I’ve read tidbits about but just not enough definitive information yet.
Thanks in advance for any and all advice you can provide!