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Open-sourced IP PBX software for small business: Packaging options

Open-source based IP PBX software for small business continues to present opportunities for VARs, including two packaging options. One is to install IP PBX software from a vendor, and the other is to install preconfigured hardware and software. Either option requires configuration and support services for the client.

In the first part of the discussion about open-source based IP PBX for small business, David B. Jacobs discusses some packaging options available to value-added resellers (VARs). His discussion of packaging options continues below.

Option two: Download pre-built IP PBX software and install

If you don't have the skills or a need to compile and build open source PBX software, then you may choose to download pre-built and configured software from a vendor. You can then either provide ongoing support or require that the end user customer contract for support with the vendor.

IP PBX providers include Digium, Pingtel, and 3CX, whose PBX software can be simply downloaded and installed. Digium and 3CX each offer a free limited-capability version along with versions available for purchase that provide greater capabilities.

The Digium products are based on the Asterisk open source distribution and are Linux based. Pingtel products are also Linux based and are based on sipX open source software from the Sipfoundry organization. 3CX offers Windows-based IP PBXes.

Digium also offers at no cost AsteriskNow, a single download containing the Linux OS along with the PBX, eliminating the need to install and configure Linux before installing the PBX.

Option three: Integrated IP PBX software and hardware

If you don't want to deal with installing software, then consider a fully configured and installed PBX from the likes of Fonality, Escaux and Switchvox. Each provides a standard PC platform with operating system and PBX software preinstalled.

In addition to their downloadable products, both Digium and Pingtel also offer their software pre-installed on hardware platforms. The Digium offering, Asterisk Appliance, includes a five-port router in addition to the PBX.

Fonality products consist of a standard PC with preinstalled Linux and PBX software. The PBX is based on Asterisk but includes additional software components to provide a simplified operator interface. Fonality pre-configures the product for the specific customer. If required, it installs and configures PSTN interface cards for the specific switch type used by the customer's PSTN provider. The customer or VAR must add the mapping between extension numbers and individuals, but this can usually be completed by the customer.

In the fall of 2006 Fonality acquired Trixbox, an open source software package consisting of Asterisk plus additional software modules developed by the Trixbox community. Trixbox software can be downloaded and installed at no cost.

Fonality recently announced the Trixbox appliance, a rackmount appliance that can be loaded with either Trixbox or Fonality software. The components added to Asterisk differ between the Trixbox and Fonality code bases, and the two also differ in levels of support. Trixbox software is supported by the Trixbox community while Fonality is a fully-supported commercial product.

Continue reading: Training and support options for VARs rolling out IP PBX software for small businesses.

About the author
David B. Jacobs of The Jacobs Group has more than twenty years of networking industry experience. He has managed leading-edge software development projects and consulted to Fortune 500 companies as well as software start-ups.


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