Review: The problem with a roll-your-own PBX solution is that there's nowhere to turn in a crisis.
The Asterisk ecosystem has improved significantly in 2006, with a wide range of tools, modules and utilities coming to light that improve the open-source PBXs usability and manageability.
Trixbox, previously known as Asterisk@Home, represents the ultimate Asterisk starters kit, bundling many of these applications and a full operating system with the underlying PBX software.
While the full distribution, which can be downloaded from www.trixbox.org, greatly simplifies and empowers the Asterisk experience for the uninitiated, its lack of support for mission-critical deployments makes Digiums Asterisk for Business and Four Loop Technologies Asterisk-based appliances that much more appealing.
One of the advantages of building a PBX from scratch is that you can size the server as needed for your deployment.
Our test systemwith its AMD Athlon 64 3500+ processor, 1GB of RAM and 120GB hard diskleft plenty of room for growth.
We downloaded the Trixbox 1.1 installation package in an ISO file that included CentOS Linux 4.3, Asterisk and several telephony applications that enhance Asterisks ease of use and management.
Users also can download a VMware image to take the Trixbox software for a spin in a virtual machine.
After installing the Trixbox software, we ran the included update script to get the most recent Trixbox version, 1.1.1.
Among other things, the update script automatically executed a yum command to update to the most recent package versions in the CentOS and Trixbox yum repositories.
Among the packages that were installed was the latest CentOS kernel, which has the unfortunate side effect of breaking Asterisks Zaptel (Zapata Telephony) module.
The Zaptel module handled our analog and digital trunks, and losing the module effectively cut the Trixbox server off from the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network).
And therein lies the problem with a roll-your-own PBX solutiontheres nowhere to turn in a crisis.
We were able to download the Zaptel source and recompile it, but such actions require a degree of comfort and familiarity with Linux and telephony terms that many small-business administrators may be lacking.
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Andrew cut his teeth as a systems administrator at the University of California, learning the ins and outs of server migration, Windows desktop management, Unix and Novell administration. After a tour of duty as a team leader for PC Magazine's Labs, Andrew turned to system integration - providing network, server, and desktop consulting services for small businesses throughout the Bay Area. With eWEEK Labs since 2003, Andrew concentrates on wireless networking technologies while moonlighting with Microsoft Windows, mobile devices and management, and unified communications. He produces product reviews, technology analysis and opinion pieces for eWEEK.com, eWEEK magazine, and the Labs' Release Notes blog. Follow Andrew on Twitter at andrewrgarcia, or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.