When it comes to VoIP and telephony, many customers are realizing the added benefits of using open-source operating systems and telephony software to administer and maintain a fully functional, feature rich, and productive phone system. The term open-source is used very loosely but in short, describes a VoIP Phone system that is based entirely on free, openly distributed source code and a combination of both an open-sourced version of Linux operation system, and open source telephony software, better known as Asterisk.

A Quick Background on Asterisk

Asterisk was created by the one and only Mark Spencer, now CEO of Digium. In Mark Spencer’s college years, he ran a small Linux tech support group from his college dorm room. Since Mark was fully knowledgeable in Linux, he and his team started taking on more and more Linux support incidents, and the need for a phone system quickly became apparent.

Mark did his homework and researched some of the bigger players in the market at that time, Nortel, Avaya, etc. After getting all the details, Mark couldn’t justify the costs these phones systems brought to the table and the lack of feature-set and customization that he needed to run his business.

So Mark went to work creating software that could run on a Linux operating system, meet all of his business needs, and best yet, was free. This software that Mark created was termed “asterisk”, since an * in the Linux world means “wildcard”, and for sure, his creation of asterisk became the first telephony software to run on an IP based server and later became freely distributed to the public under the GNU General Public License (GPL), and it is available for download free of charge. Mark’s Linux support services soon turned into a asterisk support group and from there on, Asterisk has never looked back.

Asterisk was designed to fully meet any needs that an organization desires. Since Asterisk is compiled with Linux and is running on an IP based server, integration with other IP based applications now became a possibility, third party telephony applications started being developed to integrate with asterisk, CRM and database management applications can now interface with a phone system, a function that was unheard-of to any analog PBX manufacturer.

To a traditional an IT person, there were two systems, your data applications and servers, and your phone system, which were completely segmented because there was no way an analog phone system could communicate and interact with your data systems, it just wasn’t possible. Now there is just your data applications and servers and a an asterisk-based phone system , that can be configured in way to communicate with any data applications making businesses more efficient, save costs, and allows full customization with no added costs.

So you may be asking, what exactly is open source and asterisk as a whole. Rather than re-create the wheel on the subject, full details on Asterisk, its feature support, key applications, and hardware requirements can all be found here.

Before You Get to Asterisk You Need an Operating System (OS)

So now that you have a good understanding of Asterisk and how it function’s, you might want to proceed to the next step which be downloading a version of Linux and Asterisk, compiling the two, and start administering a phone system.

Before you get started with that, you will want to make sure that you have hardware (PC or Server) that is compatible with Linux/Asterisk versions.

As taken from Asterisk.org “Asterisk® is primarily developed on GNU/Linux for x/86 and runs on GNU/Linux for PPC along with OpenBSD, FreeBSD, and Mac OS X. Other platforms and standards-based UNIX-like operating systems should be reasonably easy to port for anyone with the time and requisite skill to do so” If you are not sure about these requirements, you may want to take a look at fully supported platforms that VoIP Supply offers below that already come pre-loaded with asterisk or a Manufacturer developed asterisk-based ISO. For more information, please see below.

Since the creation of Asterisk which is command-line driven and administered through the Asterisk CLI, many other VoIP telephony companies have taken the asterisk source-code and developed it to be administered through a graphical user interface or GUI. These solutions allow users that are not familiar with asterisk CMD line or administering it via the CLI, to easily setup and maintain a working phone system at a much easier learning curve.

Since not everyone knows how to administer an Asterisk PBX from CMD line, these solutions permit less-savvy users or even non-technical users the ability to get an asterisk-based phone system up and running in no time. Another nice piece to these solutions is that they are already compiled for you, so they already have a version of Linux and Asterisk compiled and can be downloaded as an entire ISO and easily installed on a telephony platform from CD or DISK. A few of the most popular open-sourced based Asterisk distributions are below.

Popular Asterisk Based Open Source Distributions

If you don’t wish to use any of the above, please see our blog which offers 104 IP PBX solutions based open-sourced asterisk distributions.

Now for those of you that do not wish to download the ISO distributions yourself or want to purchase a complete solution with software pre-installed on tested hardware, please visit any of the below product pages on VoIPSupply.com. The equipment suggested below can be pre-loaded with any software ISO mentioned above.

For more information on open source PBX hardware, please see my post, Open Source PBX Requirements. Stayed tuned for my next post where I will compare some of the available open source appliance options!

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