The Trixbox project, formerly known as Asterisk@home, is designed to make it possible for almost anyone to set up a fully functional Asterisk server in less than an hour using GUI configuration tools and a web browser. It is based on Centos and has just about every goody imaginable for a phone system and even comes bundled with the open source Sugar CRM, although we will not be testing this setup as it is outside the scope of this article and outside of the needs of most people. Personally, if I am building a phone system then I would prefer that it just concentrated resources on making and receiving calls, but it is a nice option none the less.
To test Trixbox I am using a custom built rig running a 3ghz Pentium 4 processor on an Intel motherboard with 512MB of Ram, I opted for the Intel board because I had read on the Asterisk message boards that Intel chipsets provided the best performance for Asterisk. The system it is replacing is a Siemens Hipath 3350, a fully featured mid-range PBX that is about four years old. I consulted the message boards again and opted for the Linksys SPA94, as my IP phone of choice, which a lot of people had reccomended. I would have preferred a phone running IAX, Asterisk's native protocol for communicating, but as the world seems to be converging on SIP as the de-facto standard, all the high quality phones appear to only support SIP.
The install is as painless as the Trixbox website claims and took my machine about thirty minutes in total, including the time and date configuration. I cant imagine anyone with reasonable PC skills having any trouble with it. Once you boot up the system it drops in to a console with the message "For access to the Trixbox web GUI use this url: http://192.168.0.82" although the IP address will be different depending on your situation. I jumped on to a neighbouring PC, on the same network, and fired up firefox with the IP address I was given and was greeted by the trixbox welcome screen. The welcome screen has links to the configuration pages for each application along with summarized descriptions, which make it very friendly for the intrepid novice. The Menus are as follows:
Voicemail and RecordingsThis is the Asterisk Recording Interface. It provides a user friendly web interface to voicemail and call monitor recordings. As well, it provides access to user settings in Asterisk.
Web MeetMeThis application helps you manage the web based conferencing ability of trixbox.
FOPSimilar to HUDlite, FOP is an operator and call-control software. FOP runs inside your web browser using Flash, vs. HUDlite which runs on your Windows XP, Mac or Linux desktop.
SugarCRMThis is an open source contact center software, great for managing your contacts online, scheduling and most importantly sales force automation.
These menus are designed so that anyone can access them which is handy for employees wanting to check their voicemail or change their message, switching from the user mode mode however opens up the password protected "Restricted Area" which is where all the fun happens. In the restricted area I set up a couple of phones without to much trouble and an SIP trunk that I purchased from 0064. There are many more options but I am initially just looking to replace the functionality of my current system which is basically to be able to make and receive calls and voicemail. One really nice touch wasthe ability to specify your own shortcut keys to mimic your old system, which means no staff training for me which is a huge bonus.
My SIP account came with some free credit which allowed me to make a couple of test calls so I plugged in my phones, called each other, which worked flawlessly, took a deep breath and dialled my cell phone. Much to my surprise it worked first time and the call quality wasn't half bad either. I called my partners cell phone and she couldn't even tell that I was calling from a different system until my free credit ran out.
All in all it took me less than a day to have a completely functional phone system that was now making calls over the internet at a fraction of the cost of our normal charges. The test was so successful in fact that it is now our only system and has been working solid for two weeks. The only issues I have come across have been related to our internet provider dropping rather than Trixbox itself. To combat this I have since installed an analogue line card from Digium to work as a backup, I would reccommend this to anyone shifting to VOIP for their business as the internet doesn't tend to be as reliable as the old copper phone lines. Aside from that Trixbox has saved our business hundreds of dollars already and was indeed as easy to install as claimed. This can only spell trouble for the Telcos as more people realise that they are paying far more than they need to for calls and shift to Linux based Asterisk solutions.