FreePBX-Asterisk VoIP PBX phone system long term case study


The following is an update to a case study of a VoIP PBX phone system I installed back in October 2006 using this guide.  I feel it is time for an update to see how things have worked out long term.

The client is a company which also provides communication services.  They already had a significant investment in IT infrastructure.  For these two reasons they were considered an extremely good fit for an IP communication system.  They were moving into a new office and needed a solution that could accommodate their traditional telecommunication requirements in addition to new requirements.

The traditional system they had been using satisfied their basic needs and budget.  However, when it came to more advanced and traditionally big business features such as remote employee extensions, voicemail to email, call detail reporting, call queues, cordless extensions etc., the traditional system costs became prohibitively expensive.

For about the same cost as a basic traditional system, the IP communication solution proposed could provide all traditional and advanced functions right out of the box.  The system was able to utilize their existing information technology infrastructure which provided additional secondary cost savings.  The system is extremely flexible and scalable.  It can meet just about any planned and unplanned current and future requirement as the business evolves.

Simplified Network Diagram

General Features

Referring to the above diagram, some of the key features are as follows.  No separate telephone network wiring is required.  The IP communications system utilizes their existing information technology network.  The telecommunications server (PBX) uses standard computer hardware. Any future expenses for upgrades and replacement parts are minimized.  Traditional telecom replacement parts are proprietary, expensive, and sometimes hard to find.  Computer hardware is standardized, inexpensive, and widely available. 

SIP telephones are also standardized so any manufacturer and model can be used depending on preference and features required.  All the SIP telephones have 2 network ports.  This allows them to be connected to the same network cable as the computer workstations if there is no second network connection at each desk.  The network switch is capable of automatically detecting and supplying power to the telephones.  This makes a separate power connection for each phone unnecessary.

“We were able to easily drop the new system into our existing IT infrastructure leveraging our current equipment assets and administration policies.  We have a lot more flexibility now and in the future as our requirements evolve”

Chief Technology Officer

Advanced Features

All extensions are given a three digit phone number like a traditional telephone system.  With SIP phones, this is independent of their physical location.  The remote phones in Vancouver simply appear as two more extensions to the PBX in Toronto.  There are several advantages to such a system.  All business assets, management, incoming telephone lines, and call detail records are centralized.  There are no toll charges for transferring calls between Toronto and Vancouver or for local/remote extension calls.  There is no need for a second office, telephone system, and additional telephone lines in Vancouver.  The customer experience is seamless.  Customers are completely unaware of any difference between talking to a customer service representative in Toronto or Vancouver.

All dial plan configurations and general administration can be accessed using a simple web browser from any computer locally or remotely.  Changes to the dial plan can be altered on the fly by anyone with proper authorization and a minimal knowledge of dial plans.  Receptionist and voicemail functions can be optionally handled with a web browser as well.  Functions that are traditionally done on the phone extensions themselves can of course still be done that way if  preferred.

“The fact we can have remote employees on the same phone system makes everything so much easier.  Before we would have all incoming calls ring a few extensions or forward them to another office until someone picks up, now we can automatically route customers to the right person depending on the nature of the call and the time of day, or simply put them into a queue for the next available agent regardless of the physical location of that agent”

Director of Operations Updates

So here we are almost 2 years in.  I haven't heard anything from them in months so I had to call and find out why they weren't bothering me complaining about all the problems their open source software was causing them. Or how they should have listened to all the name brand pbx vendors they talked to who said that open source was too unreliable with little or no support when they do have problems unlike their (insert name brand here) phone system. Well the reason I haven't heard from them is because they haven't had any problems.  None, nada, zip, zilch!  The only problems they had turned out to have nothing to do with the phone system.   On two occasions they had power outages that lasted long enough to run out the UPS which then shut down the phone system.  After power returned the system came back on automatically like a champ.  The office manager commented that the system has been much more reliable than the Nortel Meridian system at a previous job.