Frequently Asked Questions about ip telephony

 

IP-PBX and Asterisk VoIP Information

 

What is IP telephony?
What is an IP-PBX?
What is Asterisk?
What is an Asterisk based PBX?
What would be the best Asterisk based IP-PBX for people who are know data, not telephony?
Which IP phones are best for an in-house Asterisk based IP-PBX?
What are the benefits of using an IP-PBX with underlying open source?
Will an Asterisk based IP-PBX deliver more features than a traditional PBX?
What are the advantages of an IP-PBX?
What features are typically included in an open source Asterisk IP-PBX?

 

VoIP

 

What is VoIP?
How does VoIP work?
What kind of Internet connection do I need for VoIP?
Can I use my computer when I am on the VoIP phone?
What are the advantages of VoIP?
Are there considerations with VoIP?
What is a Hosted PBX?
Is Hosted VoIP right for my business?
What phones would you recommend for using with a Hosted VoIP service?
 

Asterisk UC Appliances and the Telecom Industry 2017

 

Has the affordability of some Asterisk IP PBX appliances brought down other telecom PBX costs?
What effects on the telecom industry has IP as a whole had?
How are Asterisk appliances using FreePBX and other similar GUIs different than traditional IP PBXs GUIs?
Are non-telecom people able to manage small Asterisk appliances?

 

 

What is IP telephony?

IP telephony is the transmission of voice over the Internet (VoIP). This transmission can include either the LAN or the WAN.

What is an IP-PBX?

An IP-PBX is a complete telephony system that manages telephones throughout an organization. It acts as a gateway to both voice and data and allows calls to be made over a network instead of a normal telephone infrastructure. This results in increased features with convergence with other network applications and saves money over more traditional based phone systems. An IP-PBX phone system can connect to traditional PSTN connections, a PRI (Private Rate Interface), as well as to the Internet via SIP trunking.

What is Asterisk?

Asterisk is the leading open source PBX software available today and it allows connectivity to both the PSTN and VoIP networks. It has proven to both reliable and stable in the hundreds of thousands of installations worldwide. Having dominated the market since its inception, Asterisk has confirmed itself to be a robust, PBX software whose open source code can be engineered to accomplish numerous features sets. Additional applications and improvements to Asterisk are continually being written by the open source community and are readily available.

What is an Asterisk based PBX?

An Asterisk based PBX is one that uses Asterisk as its PBX software.  Usually sitting on Linux, as an operating system, both are open source software which greatly lowers the cost of these feature rich business phone systems.  In some cases, an "Asterisk PBX" may have been configured and engineered with software designs that overlay Asterisk and in a sense lock it down and re-engineer it.  These types of PBXs then market their PBX software as unique and charge licensing, but in many cases most of the core operating system is open source Asterisk.  The ones that might to be better long term choices are the ones that are truly the open source Asterisk variety, just like Linux.

What would be the best Asterisk based IP-PBX for people who are know data, not telephony?

Traditional business phone systems were proprietary, often having software that quite frankly one would have to take numerous classes in to understand and navigate.  Asterisk with FreePbx as the GUI is understandable and fairly easy to navigate for people who are computer savvy and have some network knowledge.  Some small business systems that would be recommended would be Grandstream's 6100 series IP-PBXs (UMC 6102 & UMC 6104) and Aastra's AastraLink Pro 160.  Both of these systems are affordable, easy to setup and feature rich.  For more information:  Asterisk appliances; small business IP-PBXs under $1000.00 .

Which IP phones are best for an in-house Asterisk based IP-PBX?

There are many good SIP based IP phones which work well with an Asterisk system.  Some manufacturers are Polycom, Aastra, Grandstream, Digium, and Yealink.  All of these companies make very good phones at very reasonable prices, so a lot of the decision making will be based on affordability and features.  However, we would recommend in most cases that if you are going to get a specific manufacturer of an Asterisk IP-PBX, then get the same manufacturer's phones.  For instance the UMC 6102/4 is setup to auto-provision Grandstream's GXP IP phones and the Aastra AstraLink Pro 160 appliance will auto-provision their 4 and 5i phones exceptionally easily making installations and later additions straight forward.     

What are the benefits of using an IP-PBX with underlying open source?

Benefits range from greater stability and lower cost for users to community based continuous development and widespread technical support information. Like more well known open source developments like Linux and Apache Web Server, Asterisk benefits from higher performance and deeper functionality. In addition, as new applications come forth they will be made available to the general public, which will significantly lower the long term cost of an IP-PBX built with an open source software.

Will an Asterisk based IP-PBX deliver more features than a traditional PBX?

Almost always yes, and at a cost that would be far less. Although some Asterisk IP-PBXs will have more features than another, they all use an open source PBX software and have available many applications from the open source community which can be incorporated into their IP-PBX. Getting the "most system" available for for a price will result in getting an Asterisk IP-PBX compared to traditional manufacturer's PBXs which charge higher prices and additional charges for add-on feature sets.

What are the advantages of an IP-PBX?

Using VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) allows for expansion of a business office phone system to include other branch offices or even remote workers with extension dialing. Calling using the Internet greatly reduces telephone costs and allows for easy expansion or adding new extensions. A remote worker can just plug into their Internet connection from any location and connect up the the IP-PBX using extension dialing and other features. IP-PBXs enable calls to be made using IP networks from one location to another even if the remote location were located in another country, resulting in significant savings.

What features are typically included in an open source Asterisk IP-PBX?

An Asterisk PBX is generally a feature rich and robust business phone system and will offer both traditional PBX functionality, as well as more advanced features found with VoIP systems. Asterisk contains nearly all of the features that a buyer would expect to find in an enterprise class PBX including directory-based voicemail, voicemail to email, conference calling, interactive voice response (IVR), three-way calling, caller ID, and call queues. There are actually many more features, with many additional applications being written by the open source community which are freely available.

What is VoIP?

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a technology that allows voice to be sent over the Internet. In most cases calls are set up using SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) and these trunks then establish a call with an Internet Phone Service Provider traveling over a broadband Internet connection (DSL, Cable, T1, ISDN). Subscribing to a VoIP provider allows a person to make phone calls over the Internet, saving on toll charges both domestically and Internationally.


How does VoIP work?

First, voice is converted by a device from an analog signal to a digital signal. It is then sent over the Internet where it will be converted back to an analog signal for the remaining distance over a traditional circuit switch (PSTN). The device can be an ATA (Analog Telephone Adapter), computer (softphone) or a IP-PBX.


What kind of Internet connection do I need for VoIP?

VoIP connections typically require a broadband Internet connection such as DSL or Cable, T1, or others, (PRI, wireless, etc.). Generally, depending on variables such as the Codec in use, a connection should have at least 100kbps on both the upload and download for one connection. In an office environment where multiple lines are being used it is important to have enough bandwidth to handle both the simultaneous calls and data needs. Compressed voice Codecs can be used which require less bandwidth (G729).

Can I use my computer when I am on the VoIP phone?

Yes, you can work on the computer while on the VoIP phone.  They should not conflict with each other as long as there is enough bandwidth.

What are the advantages of VoIP?

There are several advantages to VoIP over a traditional phone service, such as, price, portability, and extra features. Many VoIP providers allow unlimited calls throughout the US and Canada at one low monthly fee. The taxation and regulation of VoIP is less than traditional phone service making the cost cheaper. A person can pick a number rather than be locked into certain area codes and prefixes. With many providers numerous features are offered as part of the basic monthly fee, such as call waiting, call forwarding, voicemail, call forwarding on busy, etc.

Are there considerations with VoIP?

There are several considerations when using VoIP as the only connection. These considerations will also depend on if you are a small business or a residential user. Some of these would include integration of other services such as faxing, alarms, and credit card machines. These services may not work correctly over a VoIP connection and in many cases a copper line should be kept to connect up to. If the connection is DSL then many providers require that a phone number and account also be kept fro the DSL line. Available bandwidth, as well as the network stability are also important considerations that could affect quality.

What is a Hosted PBX?

A Hosted PBX is a VoIP business phone system where the "PBX Hardware" resides at the provider. Usually rich in features, a hosted PBX can save significant upfront hardware charges because the PBX software/hardware sits remotely at the provider's facility and connection is made through the Internet.

Is Hosted VoIP right for my business?

Hosted VoIP is an excellent service especially for companies with between 2 and 10 employees.  Not only is it cost effective compared to a traditional PBX phone system, most VoIP providers have reasonable calling rates, with some having plans that include unlimited* minutes per month inside the US and Canada.  So, yes, Hosted VoIP might just be the right choice for your company.

What phones would you recommend for using with a Hosted VoIP service?

Most VoIP providers have specific IP based SIP phones that they use with their services, so we would always recommend choosing a provider first and then depending on what's compatible, get the ones that they recommend.  Some services offer packages that might come with IP phones, another reason to shop with the provider first.  Typical phones that many providers do work with are Polycom and Yealink.

Has the affordability of some Asterisk IP PBX appliances brought down other telecom PBX costs?

Yes, many traditional telecom companies have found themselves facing stiff competition from open source Asterisk and the companies who have used Asterisk for their own ip pbxs. This has lead to lower prices in general and lower licensing fees for traditionally priced proprietary PBX companies. Some of these traditional companies have faced thinner margins causing financial issues, including chapter 13 protections and industry consolidation.

What effects on the telecom industry has IP as a whole had?

IP has afforded benefits in gains twoward the goal of unified communications. The traditional PBX systems of the past are no longer being designed as they once were, but as new models come out they are striving to create more standardized GUIs and norms from the computer world. IP has caused a change in wiring infrastructure where all cabling is now data cables rather than older telecom only wiring.

How are Asterisk appliances using FreePBX and other similar GUIs different than traditional IP PBXs GUIs?

Traditional PBX companies started many years ago before personal computers, Windows and other systems we now take for granted were mainstream. This caused many telecom companies to keep tracking down the same paths building on previous models, but never fully revamping their proprietary systems. FreePBX, an open source GUI which is made for Asterisk and some GUIs built off of it, have created systems that are intuitive for data people and easier to understand and manage. This has created an additional cost savings demand for these Asterisk based systems rather than getting a proprietary PBX and having to hire telecom vendors at additional expenses to handle their phone systems.

Are non-telecom people able to manage small Asterisk appliances?

Yes. Many Asterisk based systems are built with the data person in mind and some companies understand that many buyers want to install and manage their systems themselves.