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Which Asterisk Or Other VoIP System To Deploy? 91

Posted by Cliff
from the seeking-advice-and-suggestions dept.
ubercombatwombat is looking for a bit of advice: "On the 9th of November, I have a meeting to discuss an Asterisk based phone system for a new elementary school. I am the network admin for the district. Currently, we are migrating from a T-1 based Nortel (option 61, 2 x option 11 and 7 x Norstar 8x32's, for those who care) to 1GB data fiber and a 2nd pair per site — to allow simple copper-to-fiber for the split T-1/Norstar's. We also just got a 10MB (scalable to 100MB) connect to the Internet. I can keep the VoIP basically on a separate network if need be as well. What do I install? Are there Asterisk vendors that are available and have enough experience?"
"The hardware support we can handle just fine, it's the software that's the big issue. One thing to keep in mind is that E911 is priority one for any brand or type. No exceptions. Other than that one thing, the field is fairly open.

I see two possibilities:

- A Cisco system or Shortel system — education budgets vary wildly from year to year and recurring cost have to be kept down.

- Hybrid of Cisco, Snom, or Polycom handsets with a custom Asterisk box with good third-party support. I see a few options such as Fonality or Digium. If anyone is aware of online options with good service, please suggest them.

Trixbox may or may not be what I use. I have had systems going 24/7 for over a year and am very happy, but the product's future is unclear just now.

So, what and who? I won't go there without third-party support. What suggestions can Slashdot offer me?"
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Which Asterisk Or Other VoIP System To Deploy?

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  • My company works with Mac OS X. I wonder the same ask slashdot, but for Macs only.

    No I'm not a fanboy. I just need a solution also.
    • My company works with Mac OS X. I wonder the same ask slashdot, but for Macs only.

      I'm not trying to be a troll, but you're probably stuck with a PC for the server hardware. I'm sure you can find a good softphone app for Macs if that's what you want, but I just can't see a vendor offering a Mac with a pile of telephony cards in it. Besides, using a Mac for telephony wastes most of the benefits you get with a Mac, which are the nice-looking hardware, the user-friendly interface, and the extra software, lik

      • Well, we are a Mac based district. And we will include Eyebeam softphones for those who request it. I have no problem running a *nix box as we run several already. The hard thing to figure out, as this field is do young, is who are the good vendors of Asterisk systems. On our test Asterisk systems (Trixbox powered) we are using Digium cards plus Snom 320 and Cisco 7960 handsets. So, we will not be going cheap on the hardware. Robert
        • I have no problem running a *nix box as we run several already.

          Ah. I thought you meant you wanted the telephony server to run on Mac OS X. (Or is that what you meant?)

          So, we will not be going cheap on the hardware.

          Oh, I didn't mean cheap as in crappy. I just meant that an equivalent PC without Apple's "extras" (that are most useful on desktop systems, not servers) would cost less. It might be a moot point, though, since the telephony cards are likely to be the biggest cost, not the server itself.

          • You know I would prefer OS X based. But as we all know, that just isn't possible yet. One thing I didn't mention is that our (new) mail system is the Zimbra Network edition running on RHEL (which is available on OS X.) It may be possible to integrate Zimbra with Asterisk as Digium and the Zimbra folks are part of the Open Ajax Alliance. http://www.zimbra.com/partners/open_ajax_partners. html [zimbra.com] Robert
            • One thing I didn't mention is that our (new) mail system is the Zimbra Network edition running on RHEL (which is available on OS X.)

              I think you mean your RHEL is available for Apple hardware. Given that OS X is an operating system, it's unlikely you're running RHEL on top of OS X unless you're doing some funky emulation in which case I'd be curious to know more.
               
              • What I meant was Zimbra is available on OS X. The Zimbra Network Additional on RHEL has a few more features than the OS X version. So, we run it on RHEL. Robert
      • by bprice20 (709357)
        I have an asterisk installer for os x on my site. I would be willing to help anyone with a custom solution on the cheap. brandon at! dacrib.net.
  • How about ZoIP [uc.org]?
    • Very funny Wedge! However, I like to try things. So, I have ZoIP running. Took about 15 minutes. I have a Trixbox 2.0 beta running on a spare box and just for fun I upgraded to FreePBX2.2Beta1 and there was Zork as a Module just waiting to be installed thus creating ZoIP. Voice command navigation of a virtual environment. I can think of some security and/or directory applications that might be real cool with this as a front end. How about handsfree callback? Or DISA style functions? Robert
  • by gregmac (629064) on Friday November 03, 2006 @07:37AM (#16701479) Homepage
    Why not just use freePBX [freepbx.org]? It's the web frontend/configuration that Trixbox uses. It can be installed on basically any distro (I run it on debian), so you can pick the one you're most comfortable with. Having it installed separately also means you can upgrade components separately.

  • As gregmac pointed out, FreePBX can be built and used on just about any distro. We are using it, with Asterisk, on CentOS servers at two of our facilities, with two more to come in the next few months. We do both hardware and software support in-house, so the situation isn't quite the same as yours.
  • Layers (Score:3, Informative)

    by lathama (639499) <lathama@@@lathama...com> on Friday November 03, 2006 @07:59AM (#16701599) Homepage Journal
    You will need many layers to this project. As an Asterisk Consultant I can advise you but am far to busy to help.

    Network Layer - Proper planning and routing on paper a month before install.

    Hardware Layer - People care about phones, they may not mention it but they do. For a school where emergancy services are key I would look for a ten year solution. Water cooling, oversized tyan system with raid->lvm->xen->ntp,bind,asterisk,www,tftp,etc.... .

    Software Layer - For optimal performance I would document the current system and call flow. Then redocument it with the receptionist. Submit this to a professional like Digium to work your dialplan and config the needed modules.

    Training Layer - Users will have to see some change or they will start complaining that it is not the old system. Be calm and polite, normal personel rules apply.

    Documentation Layer - Extension Directories, move-add-changes, redundancy systems. You and others need to know how it all works, and the users need to know who to call.
    • I agree with lathama on the above and would like to add to the networking and hardware layer parts. It doesn't matter if it's Asterisk, Cisco, Nortel or the garden variety VoIP and it doesn't matter how big your pipes are, you're ultimatly going to need to implement some sort of QoS to protect the jitter/latency sensitive VoIP traffic. This being said, your network infrastructure will have to support QoS both tagging and trusting. Calculating number of calls that are being router across various pipes is
      • Are you using the Nortel BCM? Which Phones?
        Someone else mentioned the BCM too.

        It is a lot to look at. I just want to get it right the first time.

        Robert.
    • by Etyenne (4915)

      Hardware Layer - People care about phones, they may not mention it but they do. For a school where emergancy services are key I would look for a ten year solution. Water cooling, oversized tyan system with raid->lvm->xen->ntp,bind,asterisk,www,tftp,etc.... .

      Excuse me ... are you seriously suggesting running a phone system on a water-cooled rig ? This is not your LAN party boxen, pal. Why not buy a good mid-range server from a top-tier manufacturer (IBM, HP, Dell, Sun, whatever), along with a 4

      • GP is an Asterisk consultant. It's hard to sell consulting services while recommending sound business decisions like "just buy a mid-range server with a top-range service contract".

        I mean, how much would you pay a consultant who recommends you "just go to dell.com and buy something."

      • by capsteve (4595) *
        no, he's not talking about a water-cooled rig. he's talking about chilled water cooling, a method used by big buildings (i.e. high rise offices, hospitals, schools) for environmental control. occasionally you need to plan to have chilled water brought to a new build out (i.e. server room) so that it has appropriate cooling.

        i agree with your top tier manufacturer suggestion, at least with sun and ibm.

        i also think bare metal is prolly a better solution than xen.
  • Two tips for you. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Friday November 03, 2006 @08:05AM (#16701623) Homepage
    #1 - do not cheap-out on hardware. your project will fail miserably if you buy all cheap phones and cheap linecards. Echo will live in your nightmares and make you fail. get real digium cards, nothing else. This stuff actually works. Get decent phones. If it says budgetone on it it is absolute crap and you need to stay away from it. Figure $150-$200 per phone for decent quality. Watch it buying used Cisco SIP phones. I have been burnt buying used onesthat are locked and nobody knows the codes, cisco dont care so they will not help.

    #2 - E911 is very easy. you need a real analog line in that area for the e911 outgoing line. set up a dialing rule that routes any 911 calls out that analog line and voila! 911 works perfectly.
    • Re:Two tips for you. (Score:5, Informative)

      by walt-sjc (145127) on Friday November 03, 2006 @08:52AM (#16701961)
      I agree with "don't use cheap hardware," but I would go with Sangoma cards. Digium cards are too finiky with the PCI bus. Sangoma has been doing network cards for MUCH longer, and "just work." Furthermore, they use Octastic echo cancellers which are top in the industry. Sangoma supports Asterisk Very Very well. I've used both, and won't buy digium T1 cards again - been burned too many times.

      Second, he will use T1 lines (PRI) and not a "vonage" like VoIP service. No need for the analog line. One analog line and E911 won't work well for schools anyway. You need to be able to map the exact location in the building for 911. You do this by making sure you have a DID for each phone, and setting the callerID info correctly on outgoing calls. The telco provider will work with you to ensure that the 911 database has the location in the school of each DID number. That way, when the 911 dispacher gets your number, it shows not only the school address, but the exact location in the school of the caller. This system doesn't depend on the phone system at all. What you CAN do is set callerID to the generic main number for all calls EXCEPT 911 (where you send the full DID number) if you normally don't want extensions shown to callee's.

      • by lowlands (463021)
        Furthermore, they use Octastic echo cancellers which are top in the industry. "

        The latest generation of Digium cards use this chipset too.
        • by Miniluv (165290)
          Yep, and they also still use a timing chip that is only recommended for development use and slips like crazy. There's just no reason to use Digium when Sangoma offers price competitive and technically superior products. Their sales and support structure is also much easier to work with. Digium genuinely seems to think that RT is an acceptable customer interface.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Lumpy (12016)
        Second, he will use T1 lines (PRI) and not a "vonage" like VoIP service. No need for the analog line. One analog line and E911 won't work well for schools anyway.

        this is great for normal day to day. but when the whole schjool is in the dark, only the plain old POTS line will work. this gives you a line that will work no matter what, lead the principal to the phone closet and pick up that line, better yet.... Put one red phone in the office labeled "EMERGENCY" and now no worries are needed. Honestly send
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by drinkypoo (153816)

          this is great for normal day to day. but when the whole schjool is in the dark, only the plain old POTS line will work.

          Actually, you're wrong. 100% wrong. Completely, utterly, and totally wrong.

          Your phone system box and your phone system switch go on UPS and then hopefully generator power beyond that - getting more common in higher education anyway. You use Power over Ethernet (PoE) to run the phones. The phones have a switch in them, and you plug your PC into it; if your PC is on UPS, it'll still wo

          • by b0s0z0ku (752509)
            Your phone system box and your phone system switch go on UPS and then hopefully generator power beyond that - getting more common in higher education anyway.

            This assumes that the cause of power loss is due to the power company, not due to (say) a fire in the building that could take out the generator as well. The phone company's battery backup systems are more reliable than anything you could ever concoct. Besides, in the case of a severe blackout, who's to say that some Internet switching equipment won

            • by drinkypoo (153816)

              The phone company's battery backup systems are more reliable than anything you could ever concoct.

              The phone company's battery backup system consists of a room full of batteries that, if they catch on fire or some shit, will shut down the entire CO. It does happen.

              But anyway, I haven't found POTS to be very reliable at all. I had a phone go out after the SBC strike (not during it) and they told us our line would be out of service for three days. We switched to cellular and never looked back at those ass

        • by walt-sjc (145127)
          As another poster said, UPS. Yes, you will STILL probably have at least one analog phone anyway, more for faxing than anything else however (faxing and PBX's, especially soft PBX's, don't mix. In asterisk specifically, success rates vary widely.)

          As for 911: In an emergency situation, you may not have someone in the office that knows what is going on, or even available. You want as much detail as possible going to emergency responders. If I have MY child in the school, I would sure as hell want this. Further
          • by gregmac (629064)
            What you can easily do with an open-source PBX such as asterisk, is have a special handler for 911. Dial it normally, but when you see 911 being dialed, run a script that does something - eg, sends an IM or page/SMS to key staff, telling them which room called 911. If you have an electronic display board, you could have it display the message there. You could even stick a little 2x20 char LCD beside your fire panel that shows where the emergency was ("911 call @ Room 203 / Take stairs on right, turn left").
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by ReverendRyan (582497)

          Honestly sending E911 exact room numer is way overkill. EMS or police will always come to the office first before responding, and the office will lead them there instead of having them wander looking for room 302. much faster and in an emergency speed is more important.

          I work at a school, and am the phone admin. Washington state law requires that room identification is provided with E911 coming from schools, and I would imagine that this is true for other states as well.

          EMS or police will always come

      • by smbarbour (893880)
        Our system is configured to send the generic "office" number as well as the extension. Standard CallerID systems only display the generic number, but more sophisticated systems (such as a 911 dispatcher's equipment) display the entire string. We do it this way because the majority of extensions on the phone system do not have DID numbers.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by lowlands (463021)
      "get real digium cards, nothing else."

      I can strongly recommend reviewing Sangoma cards too. Do some googling around and search for the reviews/comparisons of both Digium and Sangoma cards and you will see why you should give the Sangoma cards a good look/test too. Ask around and you will likely hear that Sangoma's support gets a major thumbs up. My personal experience with Digium's support is not good. The proverbial "Mike" in India was totally useless. If I call the Support dept. of a company that makes ca
      • by splante (187185)
        I've used Digium support several times and always been pleased. They have always been able to ssh into the box and fix any problems I've had.
    • by Marillion (33728)
      I agree with the E911 - with an additional step. Put a classic analog phone on that same line in the main office. If you feel pretentious, make it a red phone. My aunt used to be the Dean at a university branch campus and they did the same thing - PBX everywhere on campus and legacy analog line on the wall of the Dean's office.
      • Interesting you mention that. About six years ago, I tapped into the secondary alarm lines and placed one RED phone in every admin office. This is a practice I will maintain at the new school. Robert
    • by Etyenne (4915)
      Echo will live in your nightmares and make you fail. get real digium cards, nothing else.

      Digium hardware is far from echo-proof. Actually, I had a pretty bad echo problem in my last PABX job, using brand name Digium analog line-card (TDM400P). Asterisk software echo cancellation is a waste of time. Digium now have hardware echo cancellation on some card. But so does Sangoma and it is reportedly much better than Digium.

  • I've installed 6 or so Asterisk systems in the last 8 months and they all work very nicely. I've done a bunch of Cisco VoIP stuff and actually used Asterisk as the voicemail end of the Cisco Call Manager Express system we were running here in the office up until March of this year. Take the time to learn Asterisk and hand write the config files. It's a bit of a learning curve but there are a ton of people out there that have proven quite helpful. Of course, when 1.4 comes out there's supposed to be a GU
    • I've built and configured asterisk numerous times. My production server attempt was a dual AMD 64 Opteron but I am having VoicemailMain quality problems. Have you, or anyone else here, who have installed asterisk numerous times, run into anything like this? I can't be the only one. See my email at asterisk forums for more detail [digium.com]. Any insight is appreciated.
    • by MavEtJu (241979)
      The Cisco Call Manager express, is that using the proprieatary[sp] SCCP or SIP?

      We're looking for a way to overcome the silly licensing issue with the CCM Unity voicemail, but have not a solution yet on how to access the voicemail from the messages-button on the 79x0 phones.
  • Get Digium's version of it that they provide support for. Buy their cards. I suppose you can use SIP phones, although that's far more expensive than just keeping the copper wiring, getting a channel bank, and using analog phones. SIP phones do offer a number of benefits, although people may be more comfortable with simple analog phones. I suggest asking the actual users of the system for their input.
    • Digium's Asterisk business edition is part of our evaluation. It is right at the top of the pack. I have been looking at Asterisk 1.4 Beta. I have installed with FreePBX as the built in GUI hasn't surfaced as of yet. Whatever I use, my non-CLI coworkers need to be able to do adds, moves and changes. Robert
    • by walt-sjc (145127)
      I agree with going with ABE (Asterisk Business Edition) but I would get Sangoma cards. They work in more (all) systems. You can go analog for "common" extensions, and something like Polycom 601's for "office" extensions where you generally need more functionality. Add a sidecar for the "operator" stations. Most likely, he is not going to be buying equipement for this off of ebay, so good channel banks can get expensive. The cost of a good analog phone plus the cost of the channel bank is about the same as a
      • by chris234 (59958)
        I'll second the recomendation of Polycom phones. BTW, I believe the 650 has backlighting, we haven't got ours in yet though. We've also had good results with Hitatchi's WiFi handset, and Dlink's terminal adapter for serving fax machines.
      • Thanks, are far as wiring...This is a new school. Nice MDF and Cat5e to all locations. I am standardizing on Cisco switching. Robert
      • by alienw (585907)
        I would recommend against Sangoma. Asterisk exists mainly because people are willing to buy Digium's products. Sangoma is pretty much a parasite -- they don't contribute to Asterisk, they make money by competing with Digium. You also have to consider that Sangoma has little experience with the Asterisk codebase, and Digium might not be able to help you troubleshoot certain problems with Asterisk if they involve third-party hardware and drivers.
        • by walt-sjc (145127)
          If Digium hardware products were as solid as Sangoma, you may have had a valid point. That is not the case however. Their existance also pushes Digium to improve, much like Firefox forces MS to improve IE. I hear what you are saying, which is why I encourage ABE, but I'll still buy Sangoma hardware. Sangoma's support is very good (better than digiums) on interface issues anyway. Paying Digium for ABE should be enough. If they won't support you for non-interface issues just because you don't have digium boa
    • by lowlands (463021)
      "Get Digium's version of it that they provide support for."

      I tested a setup with a couple of Asterisk Business Editions and decided against deploying it in our environment. The reason was that the ABE version we got was based on an ancient version of Asterisk (1.0.x) and lacked required functionality that was only present in Asterisk 1.2. Call Digium sales and ask them if the most current ABE version is based on Asterisk 1.2 or 1.0. At the time they weren't too forthcoming with that information and I had to
      • Thanks for the tip, I'll hold Digium's feet to the fire if necessary. I'm hoping to be able to use their product in the near future, but support is the key issue (otherwise I'd just roll my own).
    • I would suggest talking to people who have used Asterisk Business Edition before going that route. ABE is a nice product but so far their support has been goofy. ABE B.1-1 has a problem with .lock files in the voicemail directories. I was told they knew about the problem. No fix for my clients, nothing. B.1-2 just came out so I'm hoping it was fixed in there. Group voicemail is a joke too, but I've only got one client that actually uses it. So far we're waiting patiently for that part of the system t
    • by splante (187185)
      I suppose it's a little cheaper to keep your phones and get a channel bank, but only just cheaper. You're going to pay more than 2000 for a full FXS channel bank plus ~$500 for the T1 card. You can get Polycom 301 phones for ~$115 each (probably less at that quantity) which comes to $2760 for a much better solution. We use all Polycom phones with Asterisk and they work great.
      • by splante (187185)
        I saw elsewhere that it's a new school. It's definitely cheaper to go with IP phones if you'd have to buy analog phones anyway, plus you only have to wire network connections, not analog phone lines too. Get some Polycom 301s, 430s where you need speaker phones, and 601s for operators and receptionists. The 650s are nice because they are backlit and do HDVoice, but they're not out yet--just announced. I'd say they're more for the "executive" market. It looks like you'll be able to get them for $300-350 or m
  • Why not give the personal version of CommuniGate Pro a try for testing? Its a enterprise level mail server that for the last two years has been promoting SIP capabilities.

    CommuniGate Pro operates on dozens of platforms [Linux, UNix, Windows, VMS, OS/2...check out their website [stalker.com]]. The same binary that runs a free 5 user license is the same one that operates clusters of millions of users.

    Technically, it could replace all computer communications with email/SIP/video/VoIP. Here is an article [pdf] outli
  • One other compelling reason to go Asterisk based is Zimbra and click to dial functionality. While there exists a way to get Outlook to integrate with an Asterisk box, we are kind'of belong to the anti-exchange group and don't want users of Outlook. The split is 85/13/2 Mac/PC/*nix. So, we went to Zimbra for email and such for our 700 or so users. It may be possible to integrate Zimbra with Asterisk as Digium and the Zimbra folks are part of the Open Ajax Alliance. http://www.zimbra.com/partners/open_ajax_ [zimbra.com]
  • If you don't know the answers, why are you selling yourself as an expert to this poor school?

    • Chris, where did I say that I was? But, since you asked.... The phrase "I don't know" is the pathway to knowledge. That being said, I am no slouch when it comes to technology. This is part of my process. Also, having several production Asterisk based systems running almost two years now does give me just a little insight. Robert
    • by Andy Dodd (701)
      Um, because he isn't selling himself as an expert? He's the existing network admin, and IS the expert on the existing network technologies installed, including the legacy phone system.

      The school wants to move into a "new" area of networking, and hence the article submitter needs to move into that area too.
    • by b0s0z0ku (752509)
      If you don't know the answers, why are you selling yourself as an expert to this poor school?

      He may be an expert in networking, but there's nothing wrong with seeking advice from others. You may even learns something or see a new product that you didn't realize existed.

      -b.

  • In a school You should keep real phones with real 911.
    • by lathama (639499)
      Emergancy services are not what you think they are. I have in the past created my own 911 directory in a dialplan to keep calling dispatchs until one answers, the truth would scare you. The OP ask about a VoIP PBX not VoIP Services as he wants to replace a PBX, not the telephone company.
    • by mathx (988938)
      or just drop to a fixedline if the voip call fails. its not rocket surgery. There are ATAs that have this built in now and are cheap. Easy to do a better job with better equipment. -mathx
    • I posted this elsewhere in this thread, but I'll post it here too so more people catch it:

      I work at a school, and am the phone admin. Washington State law requires that room identification be provided with E911 data coming from schools, and I would imagine that this is true for other states as well. One or two POTS lines used for outgoing 911 will not be sufficient to comply with state and local laws.

      The way it works is when dispatched EMS knows exactly which room they're going to via E911. We have

      • Double R, Thanks. I am aware of this. Hence the statement in my original post "One thing to keep in mind is that E911 is priority one for any brand or type. No exceptions." That being said, I still will have an analog line available, cell phones, bus radios and anything else I can think of. I take emergency communication very seriously. In a previous incarnation I was a very proficient law enforcement officer. In my current incarnation I work at this place and have three children attending. The Fire and P
  • by deque_alpha (257777) <`qhartman' `at' `gmail.com'> on Friday November 03, 2006 @10:03AM (#16702875) Journal
    I am a former tech coordinator for a public school district. One of my last projects before I left was to develop a district-wide communication upgrade plan. Unless you have a lot of time on your hands and/or have a local vendor who can support it an Asterix-based solution is probably not a good idea. There are a lot of vendors out there that are experimenting with it, but I have yet to see one that has a solution I would call "fully baked". Whatever you go with, a proven track record and a local vendor who is certified to support your gear (and also has a good track record) is paramount. Nothing will make you look worse than a phone system that is a pain to use or is flaky. People have very high expectations when it comes to the behavior of phones, and absolutely will not tolerate the kind of BS they up with from their computers.

    - A Cisco system or Shortel system -- Education budgets vary wildly from year to year and reoccurring cost have to be kept down.

    I find it laughable that you mention keeping costs down and Cisco or Shoretel in the same sentence. I have a Shoretel system in my office at my current employer, and it's very nice. However, it is also very expensive, and it's less costly than than Cisco... You are factoring in handset costs and extension licensing when you look at the cost of the system, right? Right? You are, right?

    The best solution I found (and the one I recommended before I left) is the Rauland Telecenter VI. It gives great bang for the buck and is a highly integrated complete comm system designed for schools, so if you have bell, intercom, and clock systems that need to be upgraded as well, you get to do that nearly for free. It also lets you use Voip phones where you need big feature sets and $10 analog phones where you need "just a phone". Handsets are where a huge portion of the expense of a big phone system deployment go, after all. There also is no per-handset licensing, if I remember correctly. http://www.rauland.com/education/tc6/tc6_home.htm [rauland.com]
    • Yes, handsets are part of the equation. I agree that the phones are held to a higher level of expectation. The reason Cisco and Shoretel are mentioned with budgets is for exactly that reason. So, I know I have to be careful here. Robert.
    • Also look into the Nortel BCM 50. It is Linux based and can do both VOIP as well as regular hard wired phones. I just installed one of these systems and it was a breeze.
  • http://www.swyx.com/ [swyx.com] is a fantastic product, the graphical scripting editor is amazing, get a good reseller and you'll have top notch support and you might well find the TCO is lower than for alternative systems like Asterix. If you give Swyx a call, they can probably recommend you a good reseller. (Full disclosure: I work for a UK-based Swyx reseller)
  • The E-Rate folks just approved VoIP solutions. Before it was only centrex type services, but now they are allowing VoIP. That just went through last week or so. You may be able to afford more than you think, or even outsource the whole project as a service if needed.

    That said, I have very little experience with VoIP. We have not deployed it yet as we were waiting for ERate to help a bit. I have installed and currently have a trixbox running for my personal testing and I had a cisco demo kit (call manag
  • If you can afford a 100 MBit private network, why not just buy an off the shelf solution? Geek cred?
  • Yeah, I probably could have spent a month of my time crafting an Asterisk solution, but I wanted something that worked day one. The desktop software works brilliantly in conjunction with the desk phones (the softphone is a license option that is available through the desktop software, we went all deskphone).

    Everything is pretty well thought out:
    the trunk testing tool on your pc server shows all activity in real time, and is very very impressive.
    All admin is done through a localhost IIS install ASP driven in
  • Sometime's it's nice to let other people do the work.

  • Hi, Despite the good things with Asterisk many of the issues mentioned here are right on. Support can be a hassel, and there are some things Asterisk doens't do well. Callers on-hold often hear significant static or white noise, RTP streams usually pass through the servers so high loads/peak calling can impact performance, and you are, as you mention, left with dealing with a 911 issue. One option you haven't looked at is a hosted key-system or PBX platform. They offer a lot, remote access via the web
  • I work for a var that does fonality PBXtra systems that is based on asterisk but the interface is a nice, clean web based interface and it scales nicely. Voicemail can be emailed to you and you can have extensive and complicated menu systems...We have menus that are for specific numbers calling in from people that we dont want to deal with and they go straight to voicemail or whatever. CMP recently did a story on fonality vs shoretel and others and fonality toasted them. We have a redundant system that us
  • Have you determined if your schools are E-Rate eligible? If you're in the US, a PBX is eligible for E-Rate reimbursement, though the handsets are not. If you are a poorer school, you'll be able to fund most (up to 90%) of the cost of the PBX through E-Rate.
  • by macdaddy (38372)
    I'm a bit biased because my employer sells Cisco systems (many of which are to large school systems) but I would recommend going that route. This isn't just your phone system that you're investing in. This is the heart of your technological backbone. You're investing in the network. We're not talking about daisy-chaining more $100 LinkSys switches or your eBay special of the week switches. We're talking full QoS, PoE, and a fully redundant network design. We're talking SRST. We're talking a properly
    • That is the rub isn't it. Other than cost, you can't go wrong with a Cisco solution. Macdaddy, just so you know - We have a GREAT Cisco VAR, At the very least, our network is Cisco based on a professionally installed structured cabling system. I have a few issues with Cisco when is comes to VoIP: 1) It is a very closed system. PC/VoIP Integration appears only on Windows and we are an Apple based district and 2) They are latecomers to SIP. Also, while I am not positive about this. I may be stuck with Ve
      • by macdaddy (38372)
        Yeah, that's pretty much it. They are most costly but IMHO you'll walk away with a solid system. I'm glad you guys located a good VAR. I've seen both good and bad work from VARs over the years but once you find a good one stick with them as long as they can provide what you need. The Cisco VoIP solution is relatively closed. It is getting better though. For example Cisco Call Manager 5.0 will only run on Linux. I was told to expect Unity to make the switch soon as well. A big downside is the Mac sup
  • We install asterisk (and others) in Australia. From the information you have provided Asterisk sounds like a good alternative. There are a number of reasons.

    1. To set up a mini-test system can be done very cheaply. If you can't make it work little or nothing has been lost.
    2. It can be configured with either IAX2 or SIP trunks. IAX2 trunks use much less bandwidth than SIP once concurrent calls are being routed over the net. This may not be an issue if you have plenty of bandwidth.
    3. Remote extensions ar

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