Comparing FreePBX to PIAF

First, I have to admit I’m a PBX Newbie. I’d like to have a voicemail-like system, and make my business look a lot bigger than it is, but other than that, I don’t even know what I want.

Second, It seems PIAF and FreePBX are the best distros at the moment, with perhaps a friendly rivalry between the two. I don’t want to make a flame war about which one is best, just looking for differences that might help me decide what’s best for my needs…

I installed PIAF on one machine, waited a week, and attempted to install it on a second, identical, machine. After install, it failed with a blank screen. It’s possible a CentOS change may be the culprit, but I haven’t found any ideas on how to fix it. Does FreePBX have this issue?

Also, is FreePBX and PIAF even separate? Older posts seem to indicate they are separate and different, but PIAF’s website seems to indicate that PIAF IS FreePBX, with just some extra stuff added in.

Are both distros easily upgraded? I heard FreePBX is better in this regard.

Can I install IncrediblePBX over FreePBX, or is that available only with PIAF?

Any other comments or observations between these two?


You may get users to comment but you won’t get any of the core folks to talk bad about each other. The folks that run PBXIAF are good people and they run a tight project.

I think what you may be confused about is some of the lineage.

FreePBX is a software package that provides a GUI and phone system functionality for the Asterisk softswitch.

The FreePBX distro is a distribution of CentOS, Asterisk and FreePBX with all of the other pieces that make it work.

Up until a month ago the FreePBX distro was the work of Schmooze Communications a software company specializing in Open Source Telephony.

FreePBX was a project of an ISTP.

Last month Schmooze purchased the FreePBX name and the SIP Station ITSP from

While the same owners FreePBX is a stand alone software package that can run on almost anything Asterisk will run on.

The FreePBX distro is a preconfigured ISO distro and a project of Schmooze.

Does this make any sense at all?

Also note that PBXIAF also uses FreePBX (the software).

They both use non forked FreePBX and both use standard Asterisk compiles so basically both the same on the meat and potatoes end of things when you are running inside FreePBX including module admin updates.

PiAF created their own front webpage with links to parts of FreePBX with some Apache authentication added but that is mostly a cosmetic thing. I think the biggest difference is that PiAF relies heavily on all kinds of shell scripts for doing all kinds of different things for you. They also do updates from source (I think)…again using shell scripts.

Opinions vary on how manageable and reliable it is long term to manage a distribution almost entirely with shell scripts. I don’t know anyone else who does things that way for open source software. Most people use RPM’s including AsteriskNOW, FreePBX Distro, Elastix. I personally am not too crazy about the way PiAF does it and prefer to install from scratch compiling from source. That is arguably the most reliably consistent way albeit a bit more labour intensive. You will never run into RPM dependency issues compiling from source and can always update to the latest version of Asterisk as soon as it comes out if you want.

PiAF wins the award for coming up with the most ridiculous name when they were offering the “Orgasmatron PBX”. I think it was an appliance with PiAF installed or maybe a version of PiAF with more 3rd party stuff added. I think they have since moved away from that dumb name and are doing something called “Incredible PBX”.

I don’t know what they were thinking when they decided on “Orgasmatron” for a business phone system name.

dpilon - I think you are on to something

FreePBX - The Software !
FreePBX - The Distro

Catchy, of course it would still be “inside” information since clearly the expectation is you should be able to install the ISO and with no phone knowledge or network knowledge, a bunch of phones off eBay and an old computer should be able to setup a complete unified communications system in an afternoon with reading any documentation.

Just in injecting a little humor. These kind of discussions are like walking into Macy’s and asking what the think of Gimble’s.

What I needed to know. Thanks!