Absolute Noob - Seeking Knowledge and Don't Know Where to Start

Firstly, I apologize for the trivialness of my post. I greatly lack the knowledge / lingo to even know the keywords that will help me find what I’m looking for. I did search on the forums and found this somewhat related thread: freepbx/t/noobie-question/22425 But couldn’t extract enough information from it.

Problem:

We’re a small company and we want to introduce a support phone number for our customers. However, a couple of our agents are in a different country, so an internet solution is needed. We have a phone line with a dedicated number for the support (landline).

I’m just generally looking for a telephony solution for my company, and I like to tinker, so I thought I might be able to build / put something together myself.

Questions:

  • How can I convert / redirect the calls from the landline to a VPS we own (on AWS / Digital Ocean)? What is the name of the device needed for this job. We do have a good internet connection.

  • How can I make our agents place calls from the web (freePBX ?) and they show up to our customers as if they were placed from our landline number

  • What are the minimum hardware requirements that will help me solve our problem with the least cost?

Our Needs:

  • We don’t have a high volume of calls expected. Around 50 incoming per day, and maybe 10 outgoing. So we’re looking for a solution to cover that.

  • We don’t want to make monthly payments for the telephony service (other than the call costs).

  • We need a simple IVR solution (freePBX covers that I think?)

I’d appreciate if someone could guide me / point me towards understanding the different aspects of interfacing between landline <> cloud VPS and the software involved such as freePBX

Thanks!

An FXO gateway can register to a remote PBX, send incoming calls there and provide outbound service as well. If you have only one line (can handle only one call at a time), suitable devices include Grandstream HT813 and Obihai OBi212. Older devices, often available used e.g. on eBay at low cost include Grandstream HT503, Obihai OBi110 and Cisco/Linksys SPA3102 and SPA3000.

If you are specifically interested in FreePBX, be aware that the free distro is provided in the form of an ISO file (an image of a DVD or flash drive that you can boot from). Neither AWS nor DO directly support ISO format; installing FreePBX on them either requires considerable skill and effort, or you can use a paid machine image. For example, see

https://aws.amazon.com/marketplace/search/results?x=0&y=0&searchTerms=freepbx

Or, you use a cloud provider that supports installing from ISO. My recommendation is Vultr, though almost all KVM providers permit ISO installs. You can find very inexpensive VPS at
http://www.lowendstock.com/
look for KVM in the Virtualization column. The cheapest servers are often unreliable and/or have poor voice quality, but you can experiment for almost nothing.

Or, you can easily install FreePBX in a VM on an on-site server, or on an old desktop or laptop.

However, your request seems strange. Support calls are often long; if yours average only 5 minutes, 50 calls is more than four hours daily and trying to do this with a single line will result in many customers getting busy signals and becoming dissatisfied. The usual solution would be a SIP trunk with as many call paths as needed, going directly to the cloud PBX. Is there some reason that won’t work for you? What country are you in? Who is the landline provider? What are you paying for the service?

I came across a video for easily installing FreePBX on AWS:


The author offers his ‘Community AMI’, similar to marketplace AMIs but there is no surcharge. Also, the video takes you through all the steps for setting it up. I have no personal experience with this product.

@Stewart1

Thank you for the thorough answer!

Would an FXO gateway support multiple lines / calls? To reply to your question - and remember I’m out of my depth here - I actually was in contact with the phone company, and was told that our phone number supports “multiple lines”. We do not have any devices installed or anything other than the phone itself coming directly from the exchange, as this phone is currently used for direct calls and is not yet announced as our support line. We do have call waiting, if that helps clarify anything (since we can have multiple calls at the same time).

We’re in the UAE. I’m not sure about the phone service cost, but I can check that.

You mentioned an SIP trunk. Would that be in-place of an FXO gateway? or along side it? Is there a certain DIY setup that you would recommend for our situation?

As for the VPS, I’m more comfortable in that area. I was thinking of something like this on DO: marketplace digitalocean com/apps/freepbx-1

Thanks for sharing the video! Very insightful and will come in handy should we go the AWS route!

And thanks again for sharing the knowledge!

Not sure how this applies to you

Can you comment ?

A single-line FXO gateway will support one inbound FXO line. In general, a single FXO line can support one call at a time. A ‘quad’ FXO Gateway will support 4 lines, and as such up to 4 calls at a time. That’s the nature of FXO lines - you get one call at a time and everyone that calls after gets a busy signal.

The technician telling you that your line can support multiple numbers can be accurate and still not violate this premise. If, for example, you have a single line, you can have as many numbers as you want pointing at that line. All of them will terminate in your line and you will get ‘one call at a time’ performance.

To get multiple calls at a time, you need different tech. If you have ISDN, an E1 or a T1 line delivering calls to your PBX, you’ll need a different interface but these can deliver more calls per line (between 2 and 30, depending on your technology).

If you ‘port’ your numbers to a SIP provider (I don’t know how to do that in the UAE, but you probably have the info you need for that), you can have all of your numbers delivered via your Internet connection and as many of them as your Internet Connection can support will be active at a time.

So, there’s no simple answer unfortunately. Part of the ‘trick’ to this is learning the language of telephony. In English, ‘lines’ are delivered to a ‘demark’ where your technology is expected to interface with the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). The tech they deliver will show up as a wire block (4 wires on a big square), an analog RJ-45 plug (like a LAN cable, but definitely not a LAN cable), or a punch-down block (usually ‘66’ series, but ‘110’ series is not unusual).

Your phone company will likely refer to whatever comes from their local switch to you as a ‘line’, it could be a single phone line, a T1 line, or a bundle of individual phone lines. Because of this, you have to know what kind of line you have come to you from the phone company.

You may find this thread useful:

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