Asterisks Business VOIP Stars as Your Virtual Assistant

Small businesses can't afford the same equipment as big ones, or as many employees, for that matter. We'll show you how an old PC can run your phone system-and manage your office. (

Youve probably heard of Vonage and Skype, which offer decent Internet-based calling for individuals.

But you should get familiar with Asterisk. This business-oriented VOIP (voice-over-IP) server uses a Web interface to put you in control of your phone systems features and capabilities.

And as a bonus, this system gives everyone in your office an easy way to access powerful PBX features.

How do you set one up? You no longer have to pay big bucks to telecommunications consultants or the phone company. Just follow our instructions here to build a powerful and feature-rich telephony system, and then let it loose.

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read an eWEEK Labs review of Asterisk 1.2.1, an open-source PBX.

Although an Asterisk system is somewhat complex and can be intimidating, the benefits outweigh the setup hassle.

Asterisk switches and transcodes calls both within your corporation and to traditional land-line and cellular networks around the world. It integrates with traditional "Bell" lines, free VOIP networks, and commercial VOIP providers.

The same Internet connection that feeds your office e-mail system can be used to create "local phone numbers" in cities that you choose to purchase numbers for.

This means that your office in Dallas can have a Boston or even a Paris phone number, which can save your customers money by turning long-distance calls into local ones.

Outbound calls can be placed for pennies per minute, or even at unlimited flat rates. Such savings quickly justify the costs of setting up a VOIP system, dont they?

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