Asterisk Small Business Phone Systems and Hosted Business VoIP Questions Answered.
Recommendations include a cloud based phone service or an in-house IP-PBX. Tutorials will help guide your decision. The best system for you may depend on your specific needs, but in most cases the systems we recommend will offer more features than you will need. We feel the best systems are ones that will handle your current number of lines and phones (extensions) and still have room for growth. Additionally, recommendations would include:
Most small business connect to their phone service provider
either thorough traditional business lines (CO Lines) or over the
Internet* (VoIP), (*if they are using later technology). To
remain with your current provider that currently delivers your dial
tone, you would need to get a phone system capable of accepting those
lines. This typically would be built in FXO ports, one for each line,
except for faxes, alarms, elevators and other dedicated lines which might go directly to the device.
Some larger companies use a PRI circuit from their carrier. If so, a PBX capable of handling a T1/PRI card would be required to keep service.
In many cases after you have started to use SIP trunks configured from a VoIP ready IP-PBX and experienced the cost savings associated with this type of connection it is unlikely that you will want to add additional traditional (CO) lines again. SIP trunks are connections to a Internet Voice Provider like hosted VoIP, just that your in-premise business phone system handles all the PBX features.
For those that use a hosted VoIP service then the main consideration is choosing a provider and having a router and phones that are recommended by the provider.
The primary difference between true business VoIP and residential VoIP is with the hardware. With business hosted VoIP service typically the provider would use IP phones (like Polycom, Yealink, Grandstream, etc.) that connect through a router back to the provider which then handles the PBX features using a version of Asterisk software. With residential service an ATA (Analog Telephone Adapter) is supplied by the provider which the user then connects one or more traditional telephones through telephone ports in the adapter. The most popular of these residential ATAs are capable of two phone lines.
There are many companies that only require or want a good affordable PBX that can connect three or four phone lines and comes with voicemail, an attendant and can connect 8 or more phone handsets. These systems have become lower in price and can operate for many years once installed and setup. One such system would be the NEC DSX phone system. Not everyone needs an IP phone system or even wants one, for these small companies there are good low priced business phone systems available, however as with any major expendature care needs to taken to consider later technolgy and future needs. In these cases, education on the costs, benefits and advantages of different system choices should be made so the best decison can be made.
Not only are they reliable, Asterisk based phone systems that are manufactured in China are extremely affordable and can save a company thousands of dollars. For some time now Yealink phones have garnered a following in the USA as excellent SIP based phones and have proven affordable, reliable, robust solutions as endpoints for many VoIP based systems including cloud based phone service providers. Now several other Chinese companies have started manufacturing Asterisk based PBX systems and are gaining market share in North America and other parts of the globe.
Recommendations with an Asterisk based IP-PBX phone system would be one that allows you to have a choice of readily available IP phones, which most do, or choosing phones that match the manufacturer. Some of the popular manufacturers of phones are Polycom, Grandstream, Sangoma and YeaLink. All of these phone manufacturers are easy to purchase from sources on the Internet. Some systems do highlight that any SIP IP phone will work, but the deciding factor for some buyers will be the look and feel of the phone, as well as the price. However, some excellent small Asterisk PBXs will install easier with the same manufacturer's phones and this is an important consideration. Then there are even newer model phones that may incorporate a gigabit switch port, as well as some models with color graphical displays. For our choices in manufacturers, as well as some of the best prices available, see our top choices in IP Phones.
For a cloud based phone service or hosted VoIP it is advised to choose phones from an improved list that the provider offers.
Yes, typically an Asterisk based phone system will cost less than a similar proprietary system, because all the time and money needed to write the PBX software code would not be required and those savings can be passed on to the consumer. In fact, the Asterisk software which makes the phone system work is so good that some manufacturers actually started with it and then revised the code somewhat, locked it down. Asterisk, an open source software, does not require license fees which will further reduces costs. Furthermore, Asterisk can use most SIP phones, like Polycom, Grandstream, Digium, Yealink, etc. which can be purchased on the open market allowing for competitive pricing, an advantage for the consumer. FreePBX, a free open source GUI that controls Asterisk, is owned by Sangoma. They manufacturer phones and PBX appliance hardware that specifically is made for use with FreePBX. This gives Sangoma equipment an advantage with a FreePBX system.
Could Based Phone Service is where the "phone system" sits in the cloud or out on the Internet. Your IP phone connects to that system which handles the PBX features and the calling using Asterisk software. This is the same thing as hosted VoIP, just another name.