Was looking for an autodialer, found Asterisk. Now what?


#1

We have a pair of AltiGen phone switches, a PRI, 5 POTS lines, and assorted FAX #'s. I was looking for a cheapo autodialer and found several mom&pop software kits, usually paired with a Dialogics board (purchased separately).

While searching for a better solution, I stumbled upon Asterisk, and now have a better question. Should I replace everything with Asterisk?

I’ve started down the usual path… FAQ, WIKI, Book (on order), … Forums.
Is this the right place? Can anyone provide me with the map to telephony salvation?

The AltiGen is not the phone system that will take us into the next level.
I need something scalable, feature rich, inexpensive, and supportable.

Thanks for your advice.


#2

First, if you are doing unsolicited telemarketing, you should not use asterisk, instead you should close up shop, sell your altigen gear on ebay, and kill yourself.

That said… :smile:

You’ll find most of what you need to know on the Wiki, but it would work something like this. If you have an automated system, for example a school district will sometimes use an autodialer to inform parents that school is cancelled on a snow day, you will script this either as AGI or in the dialplan. It should be setup so that you can, with a normal phone, call in and the system will behave as if it just called you. If you are using live agents, IE from a billing company calling customers, you will need to setup queues.conf and agents.conf with your call queue and agents. Make the extension you setup earlier dump calls into the queue.

Now you need to actually call people, the way to do this is with .call files. A .call file, which is well documented on the Wiki, is a short text file that basically tells * to initiate an outgoing call, and when they pick up put them in context x extension y priority z, as if they had just called in. You will need to modulate the creation of these files so Asterisk doesn’t overload your outgoing channel capacity or call when no agents are available. Perhaps a small script that connects to * on the manager interface, and once every X seconds looks to see how many free lines/agents there are, and if there are any, create that many .call files or use the manager Originate command.

Hope that helps


#3

Unsolicited telemarketing? Never. Worse than SPAM…
We want to call our existing customers with deadline reminder notices, (using a predictive dialer), and give them the option to leave a message, or to transfer to a live agent. We just want to be more efficient at handling busy signals, ring-no-answer, and answering machines.

But beyond an autodialer solution, it appears that * can do everything our current phone system does, and more. I’m looking for a long-term solution for a growing company. A phone system that can scale upwards of 200-300 extensions, and dozens of lines (PRI, POTS mix).

I’m not so worried yet about VOIP, but having that as an available option only simplfies the decision.

My question now is about hardware. Can we gut the AltiGen switch and use its Triton PRI cards, and the AL12’s (analog w/12 RJ11 ports)? Should we just install Linux in place of the Windows 2003 Server that’s on it now and scrub the licenses? Would we get better mileage by selling the system as is, and buy a new box (my preferred solution), and purchase Digium boards for all interfaces?

I know, I know, newbie alert. Sheesh. I hate being one of them.
I just need someone to tell me I’m not crazy, and that I should take this path and run with it…

Thanks again.


#4

We are using VICIDIAL(one component of the astGUIclient suite) for exactly the same application at our company. It is Asterisk-based and GPL/free. It is very efficient at auto-dialing and is extremely flexible in almost any Asterisk setup. We currently have it on over 200 seats spread across our 4 locations. It has saved us over $1 million in the last 2 years just in licensing/contract costs.

astguiclient.sf.net

As for your Hardware issues, you would be better off buying new Digium or Sangoma cards than using the Triton PRI cards, although a Quad T1 card from Digium or Sangoma is only $1500 so it’s not that tough to swallow.


#5

It really depends on if you want to migrate or switch. It’s possible to integrate the two and do a phased migration. What I’d recommend though is setup * on a test system (few extensions), work the kinks out, make sure you know what you’re doing and then just dump the other sytsem altogether. You’ll probably get better money if you sell the whole AltiGen setup all at once. You’ll also have MUCH better luck buying the (very reasonably priced) Digium cards than trying to integrate stuff.

Asterisk is very scalable if you have the hardware. And if you don’t all you have to do is build another box, install stuff and copy your conf files.

You aren’t crazy, you have the right idea. Just (obviously) make sure you have * working before you start tearing stuff up :smile:


#6

Can I start with just the autodialer feature with Asterisk, then migrate later?

What would be the minimum hardware configuration that I would need?

I am assuming that I will need a server running Linux, *, and a board or two with some extensions hanging off of it to connect to our existing switch.
These would be used for dial-outs.

Then, later, I would get the Digium T-1 card and configure the server for the full feature set, replacing the switch.

This would also buy me the time I need to read the book. :wink:


#7

The cheapest way to get started would be a small account on some iax provider (outgoing for a few cents/min) and a cheap ATA for your fxs ports. The ATA will be about $50 (its cheaper than a TDM400 card) and maybe $10 for some minutes. That will let you setup 90% of what you will need and get started with things. You of course need a linux server wtih * on it, but it doesnt have to be anywhere near as powerful as what you will eventually use, you can dig up an old p2-300 out of the basement for this. Then when you upgrade, just copy the .conf files over.


#8

I’m confused. Can’t I just use my existing switch for outbound calls?
Why would I need a “provider”?


#9

sure you can. i was talking about if you wanted to dabble cheaply and write scripts without investing in hardware. A good FXO interface (digium tdm400 card) is $100+, whereas you can get a bucket of minutes from an ITSP for like $10.