Firstly, to use a product, you will have to know what it is. Asterisk is an Open Source PBX telecommunication platform. It is flexible because it is able to run on different operating systems – Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, Open BSD, etc. Only basic software is required. Asterisk comes with high end features like IVR, voice mail, automatic call distribution, etc. It is highly programmable and it able to handle VoIP calls over multiple VoIP protocols.
You are able to easily integrate PSTN with VoIP. Asterisk also allows mix match of analog, IP and digital phones. Even if you have no knowledge of how to change from traditional PBX to Asterisk, fear not! Asterisk allows you to migrate from traditional PBX easily. It gives the user a complete control of telephony. What’s more, it is free! It is licensed under the GPL open source. A commercial license version is also available.
I quote, Joshua Stephens, CEO of Switchvox, “With Asterisk, you can build any phone system you want. It’s irreplaceable when you need custom programming. It lets you build PBXs with the kinds of features that otherwise would cost many tens of thousands of dollars.”
Just like any other open source project, the need for Asterisk was also there. It started with Mark Spencer, creator of Asterisk. Mark felt traditional PBX was too expensive for his business, and started writing software, which was the first version of Asterisk. In actual fact, voice lines can hook up to PC via expansion cards and process itself by software.
Mark teamed up with Jim Dixon to build inexpensive expansion cards for inexpensive PCs to interface with PSTN. These inexpensive expansion cards are known as Digium PCI cards. Today, Asterisk is the de facto standard for voice switching and PBX functions in open source space.
Asterisk allows one to take control of their phone system, and the costs are very low. It allows you to integrate with business systems or existing PBX and it is in an easy development environment. Asterisk is not tied down by proprietary systems and it comes with a powerful and flexible dial plan. You can have advanced telephone features for a low cost access.
The customer has a lower deployment cost and has freedom for him in the network implementation. It frees the customer from single vendor dependency, and eliminates upgrade-path costs. The calls cost less, and provides the alternative avenues for support big fixes.
The supplier benefits from the broad base of potential users, with a technically savvy user base. Because the existing software is very expensive and the need for extreme customization, customers would take an easy way out and leave it all to the supplier. The supplier has a potential hardware market and there is a strong advantage for entering the fast expanding convergence market.