Open Source IP-PBXs have endless potential and options, taking a short amount of time to set up and minimal investment. The main attraction besides pricing is the ability to fully integrate existing components into the newer system, whether that be attaching analog phones to a VoIP adaptor or simply clicking numbers on-screen via a softphone to make calls. Open Source software creates a vast playground for programmers and the IT-savvy collective to adorn systems with custom features that cater to their needs.
Fonality’s IP-PBX software solution is trixbox, not to be confused with the colorful cereal, though it as diverse in function as the breakfast is in appearance. I’ll continue by providing a a little bit of history and detail about the program, which comes in trixbox Pro (the commercial version) and trixbox CE (the community edition). Before getting into the specifics of these versions, educate yourself on the origins of the trixbox:
History of trixbox:
trixbox was initially released under the name,
Asterisk@Home, and unsurprisingly where the name would dictate, the PBX software was based on Asterisk. In October of 2006, Digium (creator of Asterisk) requested that developers cease using the word “Asterisk”. The name was subsequently changed to trixbox, and a box of tricks it truly was since the product at that time did consist of more features than Asterisk.
“trixbox” is written with a lower case “t” for arbitrary reasons, with Fonality stating, “If E.E. Cummings can do it, we can too!” Here I was thinking the worlds of Open Source IP-PBX software and 20th century poetry were mutually exclusive. This is essentially how the trixbox Community Edition was born. Since then, Fonality has taken the reigns for the commercial version, while taking a backseat with regard to the CE version, which is powered, managed, and run almost completely by the network of those who utilize it.
The more structured, regulated version of trixbox derived from Fonality’s commerical IP-PBX solution. With a design geared towards resellers and IT professionals, trixbox Pro is a hybrid-hosted telephony solution, with the term covering the fact it features professional service and support, proactive monitoring, automatic software updates, configuration backup, and other managed aspects by a select, closed group of professionals. In the event there is a any issue, trixbox Pro’s proactive monitoring and report generations make it so that even before you call, odds are Fonality already knows about the problem and have either addressed or corrected it. This is a phenomenal feature, meaning outages may be brief or even amended before causing detriment, going completely unnoticed.
Unlike the community edition, trixbox Pro is a highly stabilized version of Asterisk with modifications made to decrease internal structure lock contention, improve database handling, and decrease crash scenarios, with modifications of over 50 unique configuration files from the original Asterisk code. The software contains components by which the source code is not available and is more suited for the need of large companies and call centers. trixbox Pro comes in Standard Edition, Enterprise Edition, and Call Center Edition. The chart below maps out how trxibox CE & Fonality’s Hybrid Hosted Model works:
trixbox Community Edition is exactly as the name might present as it is built and modified by the people. The upside to this version is it’s a completely flexible and completely free (in price) PBX. Averaging over 65,000 downloads per month, trixbox CE lets users build their own custom features and modules, plus the ability to collaborate with a dedicated community for developments and/or assistance with troubleshooting. Community members may get together on issues, bugs, enhancements, and exchange ideas on future developments and projects. trixbox CE’s core technologies include CentOS (Linux), Asterisk (core PBX functionality), Free PBX (web interface for managing Asterisk), and Flash Operator Panel (the graphical overview, powered by Flash).
Although not quite as good as the paid Cloud PBX providers, trixbox stands well as a free option. The training wheels aren’t completely off, as Fonality does still provide tech support for the open source community and backs their product 100 percent. The only downside to be aware of is that users of trixbox (both Pro & CE) will have to purchase support credits, with varying prices for certain durations of help. It’s highly recommended that those using this version have a great deal of familiarity with their program as the support credits range from $100 for one hour of help to $850 for ten hours of tech support. Fonality uses this as a universal insurance for the company, as unthreading big technological knots can be time-consuming and varied given the inherent complexities of the software. Fortunately, trixbox.org (the community driven forum of trixbox CE) exists, where questions may be asked and answered in a centralized forum, strengthening the community as a whole. Users will not have the option to enjoy 24/7 Proactive Monitoring, Emergency Support, and Configuration File Backup/Restore.
One more point worth making about trixbox, is that upon installation ALL hard drives connected to the system will be formatted and all data will be lost. This even applies to external USB hard drives, so backing up everything in preparation for the transition is probably a smart practice unless you’re willing to part with that info. Fonality is currently editing their pricing charts, but activation fees are typically $95/server for the Pro version, with rates for both monthly and annual subscription. They vary from about $9.99 for the basic package to $19.99 for lifetime monthly licenses.