By Alok Saboo on October 28th, 2010
The debate between hosted PBX and on-premise PBX is far from settled. There are some clear benefits of using the on-premise PBX approach, including complete control, low running cost, ownership of equipment, and high security, among others. Without getting into the details, it is safe to say that the on-premise PBX may be an ideal choice in variety of situations. If you are facing such a situation, here’s an open source IP PBX that you must definitely consider – FreeSentral. We have already looked at another open source PBX OpenVBX from Twilio. However, FreeSentral takes a very different approach (as you will see).
Define, group extensions
Set dial plan
Direct Inward Calling
Set Auto Attendant
Music on hold
Set call forwarding
Despite the range of options available, FreeSentral is surprisingly easy to setup and use.
The FreeSentral system consist of three components installed on one machine:
- The Yate telephony server program.
- The Web server that provides the interface.
- The database server that stores all information.
Although FreeSentral is fairly sophisticated, the installation is surprisingly (and pleasantly) simple. If you have used a “live CD”, you already have the skills to install FreeSentral (if you haven’t, you will see how easy it is to use one).
FreeSentral comes in the form of a live CD, just pop it into a new machine and it will automatically install the Linux distribution and the FreeSentral IP PBX software on it. If you do not have a free machine (like me) and want to test it on your Windows machine, you can use VirtualBox. Instead of describing the installation process, I have produced a video that provides a detailed overview of the installation process. As you will notice, the process is mostly automated. The process will be very similar if you install it on a fresh machine. You will need the following to get started:
FreeSentral IP PBX Highlights
Configuring FreeSentral is also very simple, thanks to the Wizard that guides you through the basic steps: defining extensions, adding gateways and dial plans, setting the voicemail and the Auto Attendant.
FreeSentral also provides advanced options to define and manage group extensions. Extensions can be grouped according to the company’s departments. You can decide on a range of extensions and add them to groups. You can also generate passwords for every extension.
Impersonating extensions is another useful feature when the user of an extension is away from the office. FreeSentral can impersonate the extension and forward the calls to an alternative number.
You can setup the System Caller ID that is to be used as the caller ID for outgoing calls, whenever an extension calls to a number outside the system. It can also be set per gateway. The caller number and the caller name of the system can be set differently for every gateway added if this is necessary.
FreeSentral also provides web user interface for extensions. A user, whose extension belongs to the system, can see the call logs, listen to his voicemail, check how to use the PBX features offered by FreeSentral, and change settings for his account.
These are only few of the features that FreeSentral provides. You can check out the demo installation of FreeSentral for an overview.
Given that FreeSentral is open source, you can modify or augment the code as per your requirements. Further, Yate maintains an irc channel #yate for support. If however, you need dedicated support, Yate also provides paid support. Overall, FreeSentral seems to be a very powerful IP PBX while still being user-friendly. I will strongly suggest that you try FreeSentral before you finalize an option for your organization.