Five Things to Know

Posted 2008-06-23 Print this article Print

Five Things to Know Before Considering OST for Your Company:

You need to understand the nature of open source. Open-source projects are never complete when compared with projects involving proprietary software. For example, features that are brand-new or little-used have often not been tested that well. Avoid bleeding-edge features for your production systems.

The biggest single factor in the success or failure of your OST project is the skill and professionalism of the VAR supplying the system. Budget part of the capital savings on your system purchase to invest in consultation, planning and highly professional execution. Make sure that your VAR has showed you some reference installations. Talk to the owners. Make notes of what features have been implemented and how well they work. And make sure that your VAR will be available for support when you need it. A good VAR or consultant will keep your system built on solid, well-tested foundations.

Don't skimp on hardware. A 50-user system will have around $10,000 or more invested in phones, and less than $2,000 in the PBX server. It is not wise to use anything but the best hardware available for the PBX host, including the server itself and the telephony card. You can continue to work normally for weeks with a phone out of commission, but telephony card problems are sure to keep you working through the night.

Rely on experts for system integration and support. You might be tempted to integrate your own system without the assistance of a VAR. After all, you have Linux-savvy programmers at your disposal, and you have successfully got a model system running in your lab.

Think very carefully about being your own expert. The system may indeed run trouble-free for long periods, but one day (or more likely, night!) you will be faced with some baffling behavior. The person who set up the system has left or moved on to other duties and cannot remember what he did six months ago. In any case, changes have been made that he knows nothing about. Crucially, he has lost contact with the OST community and does not know where to find the answers, or who to turn to for help. And in the meantime you are without a functioning telephone system.

By contrast, someone in the business who is looking after many systems is always up-to-date, immediately skilled in troubleshooting and has a good network of contacts who can help. Chances are they can fix the system almost immediately because of similarities to other installed systems. It is likely they have seen these issues before.

Plug-in OST packages are available if you cannot find the right expertise locally. You or your staff can install and administer these packages from a Web interface. The best of these are so intuitive and self-documenting that you can get your phone system working the way you like it within an hour or so of opening the box. They come complete with preconfigured VOIP phones that can be slotted right into your existing LAN. Of course, these systems are more expensive than roll-your-own versions, but you have the security of knowing that the system as a whole has been thoroughly tested and that only trouble-free features have been included. These systems also come with technical support to back them up.

David Mandelstam is the founder, president and CEO of Sangoma Technologies, a provider of PC-based telephony hardware and software products for proprietary and open-source-based networking and telephony solutions. Before starting Sangoma in 1984, David ran an engineering company and was also the vice president of engineering for an energy conservation company. He is a pioneer developer of connectivity hardware and software products for IP telephony, WAN and the Internet. 

David holds a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa, a Master of Science in aerodynamics from the Cranfield Institute of Technology in the United Kingdom and a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of South Africa. He can be reached at


Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel