Total Newb, has some Basic Questions

Hello Everybody, just a quick explanation:

My Linux / IT Experience:

Basic Linux Knowledge, Comfortable enough with a command line. Know enough to find most solutions either in man pages or online. Good Basis of Networking, etc.

My Situation:

My wife works at a medical office: (Small maybe 17 station PBX, 4 Analog phone lines) and they are fed up with their Phone System/Phone Tech. Just to clarify, I haven’t been by the office yet to see the exact configuration, but I will this weekend probably and just would like a little more basic knowledge to help me assess the need.

What I am fairly certain of:

The Phones are all IP-Based. (Meaning Ethernet instead of rj45)
They have 4 Analog Phone Lines they lease from the local Telco (all ringing in on the same Phone #)

My Questions:

First as to the type of setup for the incoming lines and Asterisk.

-What are system recommendations for a system this size that will also allow growth? (Dual Core? 4GB Ram? High End)

-With the incoming lines, If I understand the routing correctly I need FXO ports for the copper coming into the building. I am looking at PCI cards to do the trick as I would initially like to attempt a low cost solution to be sure it would address all of their needs. I see some 8x FXO cards and wonder if it’s better to overshoot the mark and plan for growth, or if it would be painless to start with a 4x and easily add another 4x as the need arose. So the questions concerning this part are as follows:

  1. Are PCI based Cards the best route, or are external ones like the Sipura a better route, and why? (Reliability? no CPU Drain?)

-Output Routing: With the incoming lines as FXO’s and the Phones being IP-Based. I am -guessing- that the output routing would be an ethernet port. For 17 Stations, and 4 incoming lines, is 1 regular 10basedT Nic Card going to be sufficient? 1)How many Lines/Extensions are usually recommended per NIC Card?
2)Are the Phones Usually on a seperate network? (Different Switch than the network data?) Or is it all on the same network, just a different Protocol? (Not sure at their particular setup, just wondering what is normal/suggested)

-Phone Lines
Right now where they have 4 lines tied together, (Which might I add are stressed to the max, meaning they need to add more lines) Is anyone out there familiar with Leasing say a T1? I’m sure it’s not cost effective for them yet, but what are people finding to be the best solution for small businesses? At what point does it become a better option to opt for the DS1 verses leasing say, 10 Phone Lines? (Just looking for anyone with some experience here to lend maybe some light on the subject.)

If I understand Correctly a T1 is -EITHER- Voice or Data, not both? But where they are paying separately for internet service, if there is a way to combine the 2 and have the extra phone lines when they need them? (That may be a stupid question, but that’s why I’m asking…)

Anyway, any help is greatly appreciated, so that I can asses the situation, once I walk in and can scope out the scene.

My only other questions would be, Would anybody -NOT- Recommend Asterisk as a solution? I wouldn’t be able to be there on a whim if something did go wrong, so are there a lot of issues that tend to present themselves, that say, a quick reboot, wouldn’t be able to fix? Any ideas from people familiar with the system and it’s practices are what I’m needing, so Please, any and all info is Beneficial.

Sorry for the Novel, but please Chime and Tell me if you think I’m looking at something that could easily be more than you think a mere novice could handle.

-Kent Jones

Have you considered a SIP provider for the incoming lines instead of keeping the analog lines? It would be far cheaper.

2005 I started with Asterisk. Then I read that 1 Pentium 4 at 3 GHz could handle around 30 simultaneous calls without “transcoding” - using same codecs.
I think any low end new computer should be enough - core 2 duo at 2 GHz with 4 GB RAM (RAM is cheep) should be absolutely enough.
About hardware.
May be best will be if you get 1 card with 4 FXO for current incoming lines, and look for DID provider for more lines. In future you could leave those 4 lines as “backup”. PSTN phone lines have uptime like 99.999 and no Internet can give you so high uptime. Meaning - if Internet get down, you will continue to have some incoming calls.
But if you plane to rely only on PSTN - better think lot what to choose - card with 8 ports or directly T1/E1, because Asterisk “don’t like” more then one card - problems with interrupts or something alike.

Hi this is going to sound harsh , But dont take it personal. But thier issue is that they are not happy with their supplier/support company, you are proposing to replace this with a system that you accept that you know little or nothing about and expect them to support it themselves. As [quote]The Phones are all IP-Based. (Meaning Ethernet instead of rj45) [/quote] allready show a lack of knowledge.

A medical center needs reliable systems , Yes asterisk is reliable but reliable support is also required. and you cant give them that. My advice would be for them to look for a different support company.
Deploying telephony solutions require an understanding of telephony first and then other skills second.