Asterisk PBX: A Comprehensive View

Asterisk is an open source private branch exchange originally designed and developed by Mark Spencer from Digium way back in 1999. During the late nineties Mark saw enormous business opportunity providing professional support to Linux operation system. He observes an urgent need for a call distribution system which is capable to distribute calls equally among his group comprising Linux experts. Unfortunately, building of such infrastructure requires expense of millions of dollar to his organization.

Moreover, it had required high end programmers and system engineers. Hence, Mark decided to build his own software to cater the need and the result was ‘Asterisk.’ He took advantage of steadily growing Linux operating system and capabilities of open source developments. In just a few months the mere concept transformed in to reality. Linux provided the firm base for Asterisk and global community of open source developer incorporates the feature in to ‘Asterisk’ which were never incorporated in any communication product ever. When the Asterisk was launched it was not much popular, but during in last decade ‘Asterisk’ has developed as powerful engine which is capable to manage 18% of new telephone systems.

However, here I need to make the thing lucid clear that ‘Asterisk’ is itself software. ‘Asterisk’ got its name from wild card character Asterisk’ (*). It is just not a PBX but a robust engine on which plenty of systems and application are based. The source code of Asterisk is freely available that can be downloaded and complied for use. I will demonstrate in my upcoming posts how to compile and install, configure the asterisk. And, in order to make it run you requires dial plan scripts, recording voice prompts, configuring phones and interface cards and termination services. Basically, the configuration depends on the requirement because in terms of features Asterisk software has grown quite big. And, most of the organizations configure only a section of Asterisk and use it. Asterisk works just a medium upon which you build custom solutions of the product.

The Asterisk Software has plenty of features that are available in PBX system. Some of these features include voice mail, interactive voice response, conference calling, and automatic call distribution. Asterisk has its own extension languages by which users can create dial plan scripts. FreePBX and A2billing are two fine examples of Asterisk built on Asterisk. However, they both have built on common platform that is Asterisk, but these two have completely different usages. The most common usage of FreePBX is to impart GUI ability to configure the Asterisk. Most commonly it is used by the call centers, software industries and other industries as well communication and collaboration is solicited either between employees or clients.

However, the usage of a2billing is slight different. Largely, it is a billing engine based upon the asterisk. It is used by the ITSP (internet telephony service provider) in order to take charges from their customers on per minute basis. It is widely used VoIP engine available in the market.

Stay tuned for my upcoming post to learn about how to create basic dial plans using extension language.

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