Asterisk AHOY!!

I just spent two days developing a new Asterisk System for the office. Asterisk is the open-source free PBX Phone system that has all the functionally of major and expensive systems from ESI, Nortel, Nokia, and AT&T.

A year ago we installed a “virtual pbx” solution with RingCentral. We’ve been pretty happy with the system, although adoption of the 800 number has been rather slow. To be honest, the 800 number is unnecessary, 90% of our clients are just in 3 local calling areas, and one one really “pays” for long distance anymore. However because of the rural nature of Crossville, it’s almost impossible to “port” our local number numbers to any major VOIP service, ergo we had no option but to get an 800 number.

RingCentral has been a good solution for us, but in the end we decided to build our own. The motivating factor was cost. Our Account at RingCentral ran $60 per-month for service. By building our own Asterisk PBX and getting a 4 line SIP Trunk we are now paying less than 1.5 Cents per minute with no additional monthly fees. At that rate we would have to be on the phone 4000 minutes a month, or 3.5 hours a day, to reach what we were paying for RingCentral.

Our own Asterisk System always allows us to “change” providers as we need to, so if our new SIP provider (VoicePulse) turns on us, we could always move to another SIP provider, or even to a local POTS line from Volfirst.

Even with all the work and “cool” features of Asterisk. Having a desktop phone with a dial pad seems like a step backwards. Way back in 2007 I wrote about Desktop Phones, and how they should improve. Sadly, 2 years on we’re still dialing numbers to make calls.

However there is a Company, Cloud Telecomputers which is claiming to release an Android powered desktop SIP phone before years end. I’ve been over their website and could not find any real technical details such as the Android version, or Google Account sync capabilities. Also, their last “blog post” was in August of 2009, not very reassuring, but they seem to be active on Twitter (at least it’s information, but again not a good sign. Twitter Only = Poor Marking) Let’s hope this isn’t vaporware. Even at a $600 price point, I would gladly outfit my entire office with these phones just to move past the dial pad.

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