Run your own Home/SOHO PBX with AsteriskNOW
The second beta of AsteriskNOW was released yesterday and I just now got a chance to download and try it out. I have to say, this "beta" product looks and feels better than many commercial suites that I've tested and is definitely worth a look if you are looking for a PBX system for your home (perhaps to compliment a VoIP phone line) or office.
About 18 months ago the company I work for decided that it was time to move from having a few (4, to be exact, not counting the fax) analog phone lines to using a PBX system. At the time we did some research and eventually decided that a system that would allow us to use a mix of analog and VoIP lines was what we were looking for. Not wanting to be locked into a single hardware vendor, we decided to go with a system based on the open-source Asterisk software, specifically [email protected] (now Trixbox).
As can be gathered from the name, it was not terribly suited to business use and both systems we deployed were retired within a few months and replaced with a system from SwitchVox. While that system has a few bugs, all in all, it's a very stable platform. It's also not free (solutions start at $1000 and move up rapidly) which can be a real turn-off for a home or small office user. That's where AsteriskNOW comes in.
AsteriskNOW combines the simplicity of the rPath Linux distribution (the same used by OpenFiler), the power and flexibility of Asterisk 1.4 (a much newer version that provided by most commercial vendors, SwitchVox included) with an easy-to-use web GUI (not cluttered by any applications or options unrelated to Asterisk). In browsing around, there were very few mainstream features that cannot be accessed through the web GUI. In less than 10 minutes I was able to have a VMWare image up, running, and configured to use my VoIP account.
On the plus site, the web GUI allows for easy configuration of users, conferencing, voicemail, call queues, Digium analog/digital interface cards, VoIP service providers, and voice IVR menus. It's also possible to see active channels which can be very useful in a business environment or if you have a teenager who spends too much time on the phone.
One of the things that I don't particularly care for is that the GUI does not provide any way to change network settings or update the system. You can use the rPath Appliance GUI to change the IP address, name servers, etc. and also to update the system, but running the update through the GUI did not install all of the available updates that using the "Update the system" option from the console did. It would be nice if these features were migrated to the main GUI, particularly the "System Update" feature. The other oddity is that AsteriskNOW shipped with beta4 of Asterisk 1.4.0, not the final release, despite being shipped more than a week later. I can only assume that the final version will be pushed out as an update fairly soon (otherwise bugs that might exist in 1.4b4 bight be misconstrued as bugs in AsteriskNOW).
In any case, AsteriskNOW is definitely worth a look if you are in the market for a Home/SOHO PBX system. I'm planning on keeping mine running as a VMWare image, at least for the short term, to see how it goes. If the project keeps moving forward then perhaps I'll pickup a Mini-ITX board and create a little appliance system.
Digg this story