We are currently investigating an upgrade to our telephony system, with particular focus (at least initially) on some kind of managed service. We keep coming back again and again to SIP telephony. I wondered if any average sized schools on here had taken the plunge and if so how they got on.
After a bit of investigation I am particularly keen on FreePBX/Asterisk and have a few specific quesitons:
For those who have gone down this route did you configure/setup the system on your own or commision a company to configure it for you. I am trying to weigh-up how realistic configuring a system in house would be. With everything taken into account (transferring DDI's to a SIP Provider, failover onto PTSN, few other bits which make me nervous) I think comissioning an install is likely to be the way forward, possibly with some ongoing support initially with a view to taking over longterm.
How easy are upgrades? Part of the issue we have at present is that we run a Cisco system which is now classed as obsolete. The process of upgrading (PBX, handset firmware etc.) is extremely expensive and, quite frankly, the system has never been able to do a number of simple tasks which we require.
How easy is the transition of your main school number and DDI's over to a SIP provider. Should we expect any complications/hidden costs along the way?
Have your call costs significantly decreased? Do you have any quotable figures to back this up. Would be great if I could take something to our LT.
My final, and most important, question. Is anyone running one of these systems (and preferably put in one of these systems) in the Leicestershire area who would be happy for us to pop over, have a chat and ideally a look at the management interface. Would be great to actually come and see a SIP system in use and have a chat with someone who actually uses it.
What I have done so far:
1. Install Configure FreePBX to requirements - about 6 hours mainly redoing what i had done multiple times as i made it up as i went along.
2. Make Customisations to FreePBX server to auto-generate phonebook (phpscript cron job reading DB), Setup Auto-Provisioning using Yealink T28P's along with T20p's (which I got for £89 and £53). This was a case of installing TFTP and creating some config files (per handset) << still doing this see here
3. Extensively test this in-house using Admin Staff (without using external connections yet). << Currently stage
Things to do -
1. Finish off investigations for SIP Providers to make sure they are secure (as can be hacked and people call many 0800 numbers on your phone bill )
2. Transfer DDI's - from talking to suppliers this is in the same way you would transfer DDI's from say BT to talk talk
My costs so far are about £6000 for 80 handsets using own server which we had but going to be using DL380 G4 which we also have.
With regards to PSTN failover due to having a Leased line with ADSL backup (with SIP traffic only getting this) we have decided not to setup the PSTN failover on the physical host but instead have a Single PSTN line installed into the Admin office which can also be used for Fax as i have read this can be a pita on VOIP. We will then get the SIP trunks diverted to PSTN line on Power Failure.
The main reasoning behind the above is that during an extended power outage we would require to have on Batteries - POE Edge Switch, Main Core Switch, VOIP Server, Firewall, Router.
Using a single PSTN line in the Admin Office means that we can still make emergency calls.
@Geoff also uses FreePBX in a call center I believe
Due to currently having 10 ISDN (Dass) Channels at 14.xx each a month (£140ish a month) and getting totally ripped off for call charges (2.7ppm for local! and 12ppm for mobile) we hope to have a huge amount saved with SIP being anything between £3-10 per trunk.
thanks very much for the response... the info above has been invaluable and has really made us realise this can be done in house.
I have got stuck in today and am at a point where I have Trixbox installed (stuggled to get the standard FreePBX installed via our proxy) and have a few extensions setup and working - tested using a combination of android handsets (gotta love'em) and X-Lite soft handsets. Am I right in thinking that all extensions have to initially be added manually, after which you can auto-provision the handsets using the .cfg files?
Tomorrow I am going to be looking into setting up a main-office IVR as well as multi-user mailboxes. Will let you know how I get on.
Yes you need to setup all extensions on the telephone system.
I played with Trixbox but in comparison to FreePBX the feature set is limited. FreePBX comes as a net installer which is why the install doesn't like proxies so much. I took the device home installed it and brought it back into school!
May take it home and have a play... out of curiosity what did you find lacking on trixbox? From my understanding it is a forked version of freepbx so should be similar in functionality. Is it missing plugins that you were hoping to use which are only compatible with later versions of freepbx?
Finally, have you settled for SIP or have you considered IAX? Had a chap out to talk about this option and seems much more ISP friendly. Your failover setup seems very sensible by the way and possibly will be the route we take.
We're in Notts and using PBXiaF (PBX in a Flash) - if you want to come see, let me know. I'd previously done a Centos install, compiled asterisk and stuck freepbx on it, but PBXiaF is simpler - did take a little hacking to get it to install behind a proxy, but got there without too much difficulty. Doing it yourself is not bad.
We use IAX2 for our trunks, and are paying ~£20 a month for 20 incoming concurrent calls (costs may have gone up for new users, but not beyond £4 per number which gives you 2 concurrent calls). We've cut our monthly bills in half (had 4 ISDN channels previously), and increased capacity massively (we can have as many concurrent outbound numbers as we like, so increased capacity whilst cutting cost). The only issue we've had recently has been some packet loss, but can't track where that's occuring. More of the ISPs are starting to give options of SIP trunks (Virgina and BT are from what I can see) so there may be ways of ensuring packet loss reduced by using your ISPs trunking - I'm also trying to persuade our RBC/LA to do some SIP/IAX2 to PSTN stuff. We may look to stick a second internet feed in specifically for the phone system (still cheaper than ISDN) and failover to our main net connection then failover to our single analogue PSTN line we have in reception for "emergencies". As we've had significant upstream network issues today, this is looking like a good idea (ADSL backup wouldn't have helped as issue is at ISP's routers many miles away).
We have started using the yealink phones, and they're quite impressive for the price.
Moving DDIs can be where it starts to get tricky. Who are your current lines with? Some companies are difficult to port from (we had to port out number from the provider we were with, to Virgin who were the people who originally held the number, who forwarded calls to a temporary number at our IAX2 provider), but most of the time, it's fairly straight forward.
Call costs themselves are quite cheap, and we've got a couple of packages which mean we have relatively low costs.