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Recommended Host for Asterisk
What is Asterisk?
Asterisk is an open-source framework used to build a variety of communication applications. It is a modular system where a wide range of flexible modules can be combined and arranged depending on the needs of the user. Asterisk has been used to power IP PBX systems (Private Branch Exchange with Internet Protocol connectivity), VoIP (Voice over internet protocol) gateways, conference call servers, and a variety of other custom applications. Asterisk is used be a wide array of businesses, call centers, and government agencies worldwide.
Asterisk is free and open source. However, most communication applications built using the Asterisk framework are built by PBX system hosting companies. Generally speaking, use of the Asterisk source code is limited to application developers. Most Asterisk installations are developed by an Asterisk Integrator or by purchasing off-the-shelf PBX service from a PBX hosting company that uses Asterisk as the backbone of their PBX service offering.
Asterisk is sponsored by Digium. It started in 1999 as a project by Mark Spencer. Originally Asterisk was released under an open source license, but since that time many developers have created proprietary communications solutions built on the Asterisk framework.
Millions or organizations use Asterisk-based communication systems. The list of users includes a majority of the organizations that comprise the Fortune 1000. Due to its modular nature, easy access to the application source-code, and resulting flexibility Asterisk can be used as the basis for an entire business communication system, as an enhancement to existing communication systems, or as a bridge to cover the gap between existing communication systems.
What is Asterisk used for?
Asterisk is incredibly flexible. The key to this flexibility is Asterisk’s modular design. There are hundreds of components, or modules, that can be combined and modified to create amazing communication solutions.
It is possible to combine just a few components or modules to create a custom bridge to cover an existing gap in a communication system. For example, modules could be combined to create a conference server to supplement your existing communication system. On the other hand Asterisk is powerful enough to power your organization’s entire communication system.
Asterisk is a framework on which communications networks can operate. It's helpful to think of Asterisk as a server for communication applications and systems. Voice over Internet protocol (VoIP), automatic call distributor (ACD), and interactive voice response (IVR) are examples of the type of communications systems you may power using Asterisk.
Asterisk can be compared to Apache in that both are the connection between application and method of communication. With Apache, that would be a connection between an application and the Internet. With Asterisk, the connection is between an application and a communication service, like VoIP.
Dialplan scripts tell a system how to interpret responses from a caller. For example, when you call your bank and press 0 for customer service, the Dialplan script tells the system to connect to customer service. Applications built for Asterisk are created from Dialplan scripts, as well as configuration files, databases, audio recordings, and other necessary files.
Asterisk hosting plans are tailored to businesses that require a packaged featureset. Typically, providers that offer Asterisk hosting install it for you. The plans often include features such as a firewall to protect your security and server monitoring to help maximize service uptime.
What is unique about Asterisk?
Asterisk is open source. This means that if you are so inclined you can get into the source code, learn to manipulate the different modules, and build the communication system you always wanted. This flexibility is balanced by the large user base and extensive developer network that have crafted Asterisk into a stable and reliable framework that thousand of organizations worldwide depend on.
What does Asterisk cost?
Asterisk is open source and therefore free. However, most hosting options for Asterisk offer custom-built proprietary Asterisk deployments. This means that if you have the technical expertise and staff to support the effort you can build a communication system using the free open source program files. However, in most instances it will make more sense to team up with an established company that specializes in Asterisk-based communication systems.
Why choose Asterisk?
Look no further than the thousands of organizations that already use Asterisk-based communication systems. Asterisk has a huge user base and there are many qualified firms able to offer and support a custom Asterisk deployment for your firm. On the other hand, if you plan to build your own Asterisk deployment the large developer network and free open-source license are a good reason to give Asterisk serious consideration.
What are some alternatives to Asterisk?
There are other communication system options to consider. Some of the most popular competitors to Asterisk include KONNECT Office Phone System and CoreDial’s VoiceAxis.
In addition, some popular Asterisk distributions that offer ready-built communication systems include elastix, FreePBX, PBX In a Flash, Digium AsteriskNOW, trixbox, and GOautodial. Making use of one of these distributions will save a lot of time in getting a communication system up and running.
How do I install Asterisk?
The answer depends on what you want to do. Asterisk itself is a framework for developing communication systems. So if you want to build a custom communication system you will need a working knowledge of Linux, script programming, networking, and telephone systems.
On the other hand if you aren’t interested in developing a custom communication system you can either look for a pre-packaged solution built on Asterisk, or you can work with an Asterisk developer who can build and deploy a communication system for you. In either case you will need to consult with the solution provider to determine the best way forward.
Asterisk was originally designed to run on Linux. However, Asterisk now runs on a wide variety of operating systems including NetBSD, OpenBSD, FreeBSD, Mac OS X, and Solaris.
Asterisk hosting is generally undertaken by a provider focused on deploying business communication systems. Careful collaboration with candidate hosts is necessary to ensure the Asterisk deployment you receive meets your requirements and interfaces correctly with your existing communication system.
Points to Remember
Asterisk is a framework for building communication systems. Asterisk is not an off-the-shelf communication system solution. Significant technical knowledge of the Linux operating system, scripting languages, networking, and telephone systems is needed to use Asterisk as a developer.
On the other hand if you want to use Asterisk without the hassle of development there are many consultants who can offer custom systems, or hosting companies who can deploy Asterisk-based pre-packaged communication systems.
Asterisk Hosting Frequently Asked Questions
Why should our organization consider an IP PBX based on Asterisk rather than a traditional phone system?
The truth is that the two aren’t completely exclusive. If you already have a communication system in place an Asterisk consultant may be able to craft a system to bridge gaps in your existing system. On the other hand, you may want to consider a VoIP solution such as Asterisk due to the flexibility and customization options as well as the savings on long-distance communications.
What does it mean that Asterisk is a framework to build communication systems?
What this means is that Asterisk does not offer off-the-shelf functionality. You can’t install Asterisk and immediately make a phone call. Asterisk could be compared to a warehouse with all the material necessary to build a house. All the pieces are there, but you still have to design and build the house. Asterisk provides all of the pieces necessary to build a complete communication system, but someone still has to assemble those pieces in a way that gets the job done.