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FreePBX basics

Now that have covered some basics of VoIP in our "Sangoma PBXact deployment tips" series, lets clarify the OS of FreePBX. First is CentOS. This is the Linux distro everything is based on, with some tweaks. Then there is the backend of the server, Asterisk. It handles all of the functions needed to operate calls and databases. Then the GUI, FreePBX, that interacts with the previous but in a way that makes configuration simple. As a note, Asterisk is open sourced, and managed by Digium. FreePBX is also open source, but managed by Sangoma. Sangoma recently purchased Digium, bringing both products under one roof. This should help the teams work more closely together to streamline the product. Quick note to OS versions, at of the time of this post, FreePBX 14 is the latest stable release. v15 is right around the corner, with some important improvements. I will touch on this a later post.

So, moving on. FreePBX has modules, which can be purchased separately, or in the PBXact series that Sangoma offers. This platform includes the base OS that includes Asterisk and the GUI FreePBX, plus a large amount of commercial modules that expand the capabilities. I prefer PBXact to a basic FreePBX box. The reason is mainly due to client needs. Even if the client doesn't initially need all of the features, being able to have those already included resources later to offer as solutions is a great experience for the them (and me as the admin). If you you want just basic call capabilities, or want to load the OS on your own hardware/VM, then FreePBX can be a great way to go. There's even a way to convert from FreePBX to PBXact afterwards, or just purchase the small handful of modules that are specific to your needs.

Now might be a good time to mention the main modules I use, with some brief descriptions of their purpose. Here is a comprehensive picture of all the modules in a PBXact system. I am not going to cover every one, but in will give you an idea of what's capable in these servers.

Here are the big ones:
  • Inbound routes - Incoming calls to your DIDs need to get routed somewhere in the PBX.
  • Time Groups - How you build business hours, holidays ect.
  • Time Conditions - You route calls to these. They have an separate destinations depending on the whether they match the time group they're linked to.
  • IVR (Interactive Voice Response) - This is the menu that you can route callers to after qualifying via Time Conditions. "press 1 for ___, press 2 for ___..." A very useful module.
  • Extensions & User Management - Very obvious, but a lot of options inside both of these.
  • EPM - Builds templates to mass provision phones. Very important module.
  • Ring Groups - Add extensions to a group so they all ring.
  • VM Blast - Similar to the above, but just for Voicemail
  • Parking - Similar to the POTS idea of "lines". Basically a place to park a call till another extension can pick it up.
  • SipStation - Sangoma's SIP trunking service module. This enables you to pop in a large key that is unique to your account, and it will build all the trunks and import your DIDs. This is what we use and have been happy with the price and reliability. 
I will probably add to this list as I think of use cases, but for now this will get us started. I will be pushing out posts describing more in detail the use cases of the modules, and will link them.

Thanks for reading!

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