FreePBX is brilliant, but some features need to catch up with VitalPBX (also Asterisk based) - WARNING: LONG POST!


I’ve been considering which PBX suits me best, and decided the per-extension model of hosted services just isn’t for me. I came across FreePBX and have been testing it in a virtual machine, alongside a Yealink and Polycom desk phone, for the past week or so. Yesterday I discovered VitalPBX, another Asterisk based system, and found a lot to like. FreePBX isn’t all that Asterisk is capable of. I have not yet compared commercial modules and which system is better value if you were to pay.

This isn’t a dig at FreePBX. If I didn’t like FreePBX I wouldn’t be making this post. It does a lot very well, such as being very reliable, having plenty of advanced features, and as a UK user, it was great that a UK system prompts voice worked straight out of the box. Further, as it is popular, there is more forum and YouTube content on it. Of course there’s more, but I don’t want to make this post any longer.

EDIT: I’ve also overlooked the fact that FreePBX is open source, but VitalPBX is not. Some comments are getting caught up in this, but as they’re both Asterisk based, I feel my points are still valid. VitalPBX may be closed source but they’ve still made excellent use of elements of Asterisk which is open source, so I don’t really understand why some comments are getting tangled up in this open source debate?

So, what does VitalPBX do better, and what can FreePBX do to improve? I’ll explain. But do keep in mind, although I’ve done my best to play with both systems as objectively as possible, and research these points before posting, this is not only my opinion, but I may have missed some things, or discover later that FreePBX does actually have some of the things discussed. I’m not an expert.

  • Although FreePBX’s admin interface feels more open with the smaller top menu and no side menu, VitalPBX’s side menu is less cluttered with what feel like Sangoma advertisements. Sangoma shows every commercial module, and many third party services, such as phone apps, SangomaConnect, SmartOffice, Zulu, iSymphonyV3, VoIPInnovations, and more. It also shows things like SipStation which isn’t available in the UK. VitalPBX offer paid modules, and they do have a small dismissable nag every time you login at the top of the page, but the menu isn’t overfilled.

  • Speaking of admin interface, VitalPBX has a tabbed interface. Each page you open will open a tab, which you can change to, reload, or close, or by right clicking, close all other tabs, or tabs to the right. Some people will like this, some will prefer how FreePBX works, but you can turn it off in the settings. I think it’s great and makes jumping between parts of the interface easier than multiple actual browser tabs.

  • FreePBX appears to lack proper barge, listen and whisper commands. It has ChanSpy, which can be enabled in the feature codes page, but you cannot choose the extension to listen to, you can only change the extension somewhat randomly by pressing hash, but it reads out a long extension title each time. I then found that VitalPBX supports these feature codes out of the box. When you call, you can type in the extension to barge/listen/whisper on. This means that Asterisk supports it, but why doesn’t FreePBX show them as options?

  • If you want to be able to pickup calls, in FreePBX it’s a bit annoying to go extension by extension and make sure pickup group numbers match. In VitalPBX, they’ve got their own Pickup Groups interface, where I name the group, select the extensions, and which extensions in that group are allowed to actually pickup. Seeing all of the extensions in a single place is much easier to work with.

  • Permissions/class of service is built in and doesn’t require a paid commercial module.

  • I don’t know if there are technical reasons, but VitalPBX applies configuration significantly quicker than FreePBX. For basic config, VitalPBX applies in about 2-5 seconds. FreePBX can be 20 or more. Shutting down VitalPBX takes about 10 seconds, but FreePBX, also from the admin interface, takes a minute or two. Seperately, FreePBX force you to register your deployment before you can access basic things like the buttons to shutdown and restart from inside the admin interface, which quite frankly is complete BS and shameful, whereas VitalPBX doesn’t lock these things behind a registration.

  • The conference system has an “allow to invite” function that can be turned on per conference

  • One thing that is stopping me going further with Sangoma is that there is a serious lack of free trials available, and they don’t have refunds. VitalPBX offers all commercial modules for free, for the most part without feature restrictions, but instead they limit the amount of “objects” until you pay. I wouldn’t really care if Sangoma allowed me to trial ALL commercial modules. Bit of a red flag for me personally. EDIT: However this isn’t a feature and some of the thread is going off-topic, so this may be better discussed in a seperated thread.

  • There doesn’t seem to be a proper way within FreePBX to delete old system recordings. I’ve looked at the call recording commercial module and that doesn’t seem to do it either. People seem to get around this by creating scripts, but that doesn’t remove the playback buttons from the interface and is an untidy way to do it. VitalPBX has a paid module called maintenance that allows me to delete call recordings, voicemails and the call records after a certain time. Why isn’t this in FreePBX?

  • FreePBX also lacks the ability to do bulk modificiations. In VitalPBX, I can select the bulk modifications menu option, and although what I can change is limited and could be expanded, the ability to editcertain things with whatever extensions I choose, in one go, seems much better to administer than going extension by extension in FreePBX. Maybe I’m missing something?

  • From my virtual machine, I’ve never been able to get emails to send. People have posted workarounds online but they involve editing files over SSH. VitalPBX’s email settings in the admin interface allow me to enter the details of an SMTP server, test an email, and see the logs, right there!

Now for some more mixed/neutral opinions:

  • Although it doesn’t work for me, FreePBX does have plenty of options to send backups offsite. Backups are very configurable. However they also take forever to restore. My test on an empty system was almost 30 minutes. VitalPBX lacks these advanced options, but more annoyingly cannot send backups offsite (haven’t looked if any modules can do it), but it was able to restore in 5 minutes.

  • FreePBX’s user control panel is still very powerful, with items being movable, being able to add other extensions in, and if you have Zulu, the softphone. All brilliant. VitalPBX lacks all of these, but instead they have much more powerful diversion and personal assistant (aka VmX Locator) settings.

  • I personally find the documentation of both projects to be weak in many areas, but FreePBX is more popular so has more forum, website and YouTube resources, however I personally find the help text of the options within VitalPBX to often be much better explained.

  • The system recording area in FreePBX is more powerful, with the ability to record from an extension directly to the interface, as well as add other sounds in that are part of the system to create better recordings. Brilliant. However the inability to easily change where the feature code numbering starts from, or to simply enter a number, is annoying. The default is 291, but once it reaches 299, it jumps to a 4 digit feature code number to re-record. In VitalPBX, while you cannot record in the interface, you can instead dial a feature code to make a recording, which you can then go in to the interface and rename, but more importantly, assign my own feature code right there. I cannot join sound effects but if you need a lot of recordings that you can re-record from your phone, VitalPBX feels more efficient.

  • Frankly, both solutions aren’t transparent enough about the renewal fees of commercial modules. FreePBX tells you about the need to renew a 25 year license every year to recieve updates, but it doesn’t tell you what that fee is until you ask. VitalPBX has no information on their site at all about the renewal of the lifetime modules, and the live chat couldn’t tell me what the renewal price is. Both companies need to be more transparent but FreePBX/Sangoma is slightly better here.

I think that’ll do for now! Again, this is posted with the best of intentions and I hope it doesn’t get removed or something. Some things like the cluttered admin menu, meh, managable, but things like the lack of free trials, automatic call recording deletion, and no SMTP settings in the interface… I’m shocked we’re so far in to the FreePBX project yet these relatively basic things are still lacking. Clearly they’re possible within Asterisk as VitalPBX can do it!

Honestly I have mixed thoughts about both of these projects. Both FreePBX and VitalPBX are great in their own ways. It would only take one to take the strenghs of the other to have a much stronger product overall.

I await all of your thoughts!

1 Like

Sure and step one of this would to make the free version of FreePBX, you know the one everyone uses, restricted to 12 extensions and limited features. Then if you want the real features, Sangoma can just start charging for it.

So should Sangoma follow the same “market breaking” pricing structure too? Offer a Monthly vs Annual vs One Time fees? I mean hell, if FreePBX is generating that kind of revenue then I’m sure it can get all the fancy stuff VitalPBX has.

Right now the average FreePBX user would end up in the Enterprise bucket for VitalPBX which is your choice of $100/month or $1000/year or $4000/one time.

This is completely apples v oranges when it comes down to it.


Your comparing a open source product “FreePBX” to a closed source product “VitalPBX”. The only common thing between the two is they both use asterisk. You might as well now compare FreePBX to Cisco, 3CX and every other commercial paid PBX.

1 Like

Thanks for the contribution @Lewis1420. One of the difficulties I recognize in myself as a daily user of FreePBX for more than a decade, is that it’s impossible to see the project as a beginner does. Comments like this can be enlightening.

One strength I will point out that I feel got missed in your summary, as a largely OSS project, we’re all free to add/extend/edit/share and formally contribute additions and improvements. As an example, I’ve written dialplan that provides the type of chanspy features you’re looking for, which you can use as-is or adapt to your specific needs: targeted ChanSpy · GitHub

1 Like

@BlazeStudios I think you’re twisting my words a bit. I didn’t say nor suggest that I want FreePBX’s model to limit people in the same way as VitalPBX, but equally Sangoma does an awful job at providing free trials of the commercial modules so I’m more likely to buy from VitalPBX instead of paying for a FreePBX/Sangoma commercial module, with no trial, and no refunds, and losing quite a lot of money.

As for VitalPBX’s pricing, I disagree. VitalPBX offer lifetime licenses on addons completely seperate from the packages that they offer, which it seems you’re missing. I understand that FreePBX may well be better value when comparing packages, but not necessarily individual add-ons. Those addons require a renewal too but still waiting to hear back what that renewal price is.

@tonyclewis Okay, fair point, I didn’t notice that VitalPBX was a closed source product, as it isn’t as important to me as it would be to many of you, but it’s still based on the open source Asterisk, and they have many compelling features, which means FreePBX could also develop those features, right? So I feel much of my comparing is still perfectly valid.

@lgaetz As mentioned above, I agree that I missed from my comparision was the open source nature of FreePBX, absolutely. That’s a major strengh, and I guess as Asterisk is open source, I just kind of assumed that VitalPBX would be too, but in my personal use case, that wouldn’t stop me purchasing from them.

That being said, I still feel that VitalPBX has done a lot of good things with their system, and in some areas it shows that Asterisk is even more capable than some of the features within FreePBX let on.

I’ll check out the github stuff, thanks, but still a bummer it’s not part of the FreePBX system’s core considering Asterisk is capable of it.

I feel that people are missing the point of this post and getting stuck up on the Open Source part without realising that FreePBX could make improvements. FreePBX could develop much of what VitalPBX does right, and the fact FreePBX misses out on quite a few “basic” elements like easily changing the SMTP settings in the UI is a bit sad.

This is a great write-up, and I am literally in the same place as you. I’ve used FreePBX/Asterisk for ~6+ years (learned Asterisk and telephony thanks to a lot of the people on this thread) and I have recently discovered VitalPBX. It looks very promising in filling in many of the holes I’ve come to appreciate in FreePBX. I really like their approach to multi-tenant, the softphone, WebRTC phone, high availability, and the look/feel of the commercial modules.

I have noticed when you extend beyond the borders to a more custom approach, sometimes the capacity to do so is not quite as complete/mature as FreePBX. Also given the length and maturity of the project, FreePBX has a lot more active support and documentation which has solved many problems for me.

I keep watching both solutions, and for now the line in the sand for me is if you need a multi-tenant PBX or a really good built-in softphone experience, I might lean towards VitalPBX. If I need general flexibility or a larger knowledgebase, I might stick to FreePBX.

Lastly while several of our peers will indicate that these are different projects, to the end-user, they are not, they are competing PBX platforms. Sometimes they are not, but realistically, in my world they are. In my opinion VitalPBX has the benefit of a more narrowed focus, vs Sangoma who is developing a broader ecosystem. This is going to cause tradeoffs in the approaches that the companies take to develop their product. You bring up alot of great suggestions, but posting them here will have a limited effect, vs. submitting new feature requests. I would recommend putting alot of this good energy into feature requests. How to open a Feature Request - Support Services - Documentation

Thanks for the engagement! It was fun to talk about this stuff and reaffirming to hear other users seeing some of the same things I am.

In the $25 SysAdmin module.

@comtech Thanks for the reply. VitalPBX does look promising in many areas, and they do a lot right, but I absolutely agree that some elements are also not as complete as FreePBX. I find it odd that FreePBX has some excellent advanced features, yet it lacks in the basics in other areas like setting SMTP up.

It certainly isn’t a clear cut case of “FreePBX if you want advanced features and VitalPBX if…” - it’s a lot more muddy than that. It’s one of those cases where if one side took on board the things the opposite platform does well, then they’d become even more competitive. FreePBX will win a lot of people over on the open source basis alone though.

After seeing in another thread where someone suggested I send a feature request, a later forum post from Sangoma staff told me that they had seen the email. Knowing it’s read and isn’t going in to a bottomless pit (that’s not a reflection of Sangoma, I just feel like many places have a suggestions email that doesn’t actually get considered - and is one reason I won’t buy any more Yealink products but that’s another story) does give me some hope, yet equally for such an overall mature and old product, missing something as basic as allowing me to enter SMTP settings, or reboot the system without registering the deployment, I find it odd that I had to make this thread at all.

It was also great to see your reply, I was starting to feel like the odd one out!

@sorvani It shouldn’t be though. Email options are plastered all across the interface, whether for voicemail, intrusion, or otherwise. Having SMTP settings is such a basic thing that shouldn’t be locked behind a paywall. Even having to register to restart the system is a load of crap.

I really didnt twist your words. I outlined how FreePBX could cover the development costs to compete with a commerical product.

My question is, did you do a side-by-side of VitalPBX vs PBXAct or Switchvox? Since those are Sangoma’s fully commercial offerings.

@BlazeStudios Sorry, but it felt like you did. I know Sangoma needs to cover costs, which they do with their commercial modules. I would buy some myself if it wasn’t for the fact they’re not transparent about renewal fees but most importantly they don’t offer trials of many modules, nor a refund policy. The initial fee for a 25 year license can be very high, so to not offer a trial or refund is bad business. VitalPBX have some different ways of making money, but they do commerical modules in a similar way if you don’t go for the package. But the fact I can test modules before purchasing does put them ahead of FreePBX/Sangoma

I have looked in to PBXact seperately but didn’t consider it in this post, because this post is about features, not costs. Switchvox is less comparable than FreePBX vs VitalPBX.

VitalPBX has a history that originates with some lawyers getting involved and a whole bunch of drama.

In any case most of the effort we will just say was in building a pretty UI.

As a former staff developer I will address cosmetics and layout. Every little change you make earns you a thousand rants. When we made the UI more human friendly, you would think we killed a kitten. We went and revamped the whole UI and to this day 6 years later people still complain it isn’t what they used in 05. You can’t win with cosmetics.

As an outsider I can tell you Sangoma has multiple competing commercial platforms that are asterisk based and probably on par with or better than VitalPBX. That said those are commercial solutions with per seat pricing that over all still isn’t that expensive. I am sure they will be happy to sell you one of those.

At the end of the day as has been beaten on like a dead horse you can’t compare something commercial that makes money to something that 90% of users don’t pay a dime for. Unfortunately FreePBX is a loss leader that gets people in the door to sell them stuff. Mark my words as someone who has been in this realm a long time. A company will not survive on one off sales. So if Vital is not charging for maintenance and upgrades they will. You will likely see their “free tier” lose features first. All software companies have to adopt an “as a service” model and create recurring income. Those that don’t will simply stop existing. As a closed source platform if they go away you have nothing. If sangoma goes away you still have 95% of your PBX or 100% if you don’t use commercial offerings.

Just my opinion though…


With the exception of the fairly priced (in my opinion) system admin module, a lot of the modules do have some sort of trial component. which ones are you talking about?

As far as renewals go, I’ve never had a module renewed. Do you mean that the purchase of the module comes with one year of free support, and after the year is up you must purchase support if you want support. The module will continue to function without support.

Since the beginning we have moved on with a lot of custom solutions, so we often only buy the system admin module, so that might be the only money we spend to get a fully functional PBX. Not everyone’s experience though.

Endpoint manager (still relatively cheap) doesn’t have a trial and IMHO for good reason. If you don’t do any M/A/C on the system you only need the module once to generate initial provisioning files. YOu can then unlicense and remove it. but get all the benefits.


@jfinstrom In fairness, I haven’t reviewed VitalPBX’s history, or looked at reviews. So far it has been an overview of prices, but moreso testing it and discovering many amazing features that FreePBX doesn’t have. But Sangoma has had a fair bit of drama too. I had to look back at the YouTube video discussing it to write this and it actually involves ClearlyIP, which is shown beside your name. How Sangoma removed the master signing key, which would have f’ed up loads of customers, with practically no notice, and over a weekend, was appauling business practise. I don’t want to get in to the politics of it but it seems both companies have had their fair share of drama.

You didn’t clarify who you’re a former developer of, but I guess FreePBX? I get it that you can never make everyone happy no matter what you do. But I don’t think the cosmetics of either platform is bad, and it’s personal taste. FreePBX feels more open, with less useless white space, whereas VitalPBX feels more cramped, but has a better organised menu. That’s super subjective.

I’m aware of Sangoma’s other offerings, mainly PBXact and Switchvox. Switchvox is more comparable to 3CX than FreePBX, PBXact, or VitalPBX. PBXact is basically FreePBX with modules included, but it seems from the information on these modules that I’ve read, that many of the feature differences I discussed are still not found there. For example, barge/listen/whisper are quite basic PBX commands, yet it appears no commercial module offers this functionality either, so PBXact wouldn’t help. It’s included in VitalPBX out of the box, and I know Switchvox has it too but I consider that more comparable to 3CX personally.

But when you mention I cannot compare to something commercial, VitalPBX is like FreePBX, where it is free but I can purchase things to add, so I’m not sure I understand why you mention this? Both platforms will try to sell you stuff - Sangoma with their other platforms and shoving commercial modules in to the admin interface menu, and VitalPBX by giving you a nagging popup every time you login to promote their paid services. VitalPBX does charge a maintenance fee, but I don’t know what that fee is. Neither company is transparent about how much their maintenance/renewal fee is to continue recieving updates. But this thread is about features, not pricing, so I think my points in the original thread are getting a bit lost in a wider comparison of FreePBX and VitalPBX? I understand what you mean with it being closed source, and I know many people here love FreePBX for being open source, but equally some aren’t here for that, they just want a good PBX for other reasons, such as to self host, to avoid per-extension fees, advanced features that hosted platforms like Ringcentral cannot offer, etc etc.

@comtech I was interested in the Call Recording Reports, Class of Service, Conference Pro, CRM Link, Endpoint Manager, Page Pro, Park Pro, Phoneapps, Queues Pro, Voicemail Reports, and Web Callme commercial addons if I went with FreePBX for business, however out of those, the Sangoma store only shows free trials for the CRM Link and Queues Pro.

And yes, for renewals, I refer to continuing to recieve updates. Which if you go for a 1 year license, it stops working after 1 year (which is what sales told me), but if you go for a 25 year license, don’t renew, but when an update to FreePBX 20 years in breaks something, you have to pay for the maintenance fee for all 20 prior years to get the update, so you may as well continue paying the renewal fee yearly. But that’s not really the point in this post, I’m not comparing pricing here, just features and what FreePBX can do better.

One more minor suggestion with any of the platforms you are evaluating is to get a sales rep. I know they tend to be obnoxious and are sometimes overbearing but they can often get you a trial or test platform to play with features. I personally loath active human interaction in research but it can be helpful and give you something better than a bullet list. If you are evaluating platforms my company offers one too :slight_smile: and I can connect you to a sales guy that I actually like lol. Any way I would approach each company/platform about trials for things to see if they will get you something like a 30 day license. Of the ones you mentioned I only see EPM being questionable as far as FreePBX is concerned because if you are creative you only need that for like 5 minutes to get all of its functionality if nothing ever changes.

On platform and provisioning notes, our phones and all of the sangoma phones offer free provisioning functionality. If you are getting phones as part of your overall platform the provisioning may not require any additional expense.

I did get in touch with someone, who passed me on to a UK rep. I sent in 12 questions and got a mixed bag of replies, but one of my repies to the follow up, which I sent on Tuesday but have yet to hear back on, is precisely about the lack of trials, but I shouldn’t have to contact someone really. Albiet cloud hosted, most competitors of Sangoma’s commercial hosted products will offer this.

I wonder how many people have looked at the free trials section of the portal and then decided to abandon Sangoma? I cannot be the only one! A money back guarantee would also work elsewhere, but not with the 25 year license prices, which, I’m not disputing the value, but can be quite large initial expenses.

I did look at ClearlyIP products before, but wasn’t too fond of some of the pricing, and also seems to be focused on the American market. Also tried live chat a few times but it never got answered.

Finally, as for EPM, one way to offer trials, is to offer a fully featured trial, including ALL addons, of a PBXact cloud instance. Then it’s no benefit when the trial ends. Even 7 days would be useful. There is also the opportunity there that some people would stay on and keep paying for a cloud instance.

It shouldn’t be up to the consumer to fish out trials though, it should be put right in front of me so I can be soaked in to it.

Heck, the website even lacks good screenshots or YouTube videos of the functionality of commercial modules, so I cannot even turn to that.

Still, this is a pricing matter, which is dragging this post off topic, as this post is about features rather than pricing. I might have to seperate it to a different post.

I think you are missing the point here. Features are directly related to pricing. There has to be a decision made what features are standard and what are extra. There are costs associated with this.

FreePBX with no commercial licenses gets you more than VitalPBX free tier. After that it is ala cart for FreePBX. When you get PBXAct, you get all the commercial modules. You dont get ala carted for additional features.

A PBXAct system for a call center will have just as many features as VitalPBX and not cost you $8K one time. A PBXAct system for a regular office will be the same thing but not cost $4K.

I mean right now I could dump less than $2K on FreePBX and be in a better spot than VitalPBX Enterprise.

@BlazeStudios There are costs yes, but this is why they offer commercial modules. Commercial modules that don’t even have a trial. As for FreePBX giving you more, well it may be more to you, but everyone has different requirements. Someone on a smaller system may get better value out of VitalPBX, because they offer all of their commercial modules for free, but with limitations on “objects” until you pay, so if you are a smaller user with few extensions, you’ll actually get better value out of VitalPBX.

And no, you don’t get all of the commercial modules with PBXact, please go back and check. You get a lot, but there are plenty that are not included and you must pay extra for. You’re talking about pricing but don’t even have the facts right.

Still doesn’t change that BASIC features like putting in settings for an SMTP server, or being able to restart from the interface without being forced to register the deployment, are missing from FreePBX, even though the underlying asterisk is capable of it. If FreePBX had these basic features, then this thread wouldn’t be here, I wouldn’t be considering VitalPBX, and Sangona may get my money. If I go for VitalPBX then Sangona doesn’t get squat out of me.

Well it would seem we are on the same boat together.

While we’re on this subject. I have to ask, you do understand that FreePBX OSS != FreePBX Distro. They are two different things. If I select a random OS, install Asterisk then install FreePBX there are no commercial modules. This would include SystemAdmin and its Pro counterpart, the module in which controls things like SMTP settings (something you’ve highlighted).

The FreePBX Distro, however, is considered and treated as a fully commercial product. It provides a custom OS, installs everything in a specific way including all the free/commercial modules. It provides you free licensing to certain modules if you use Sangoma endpoints/devices (something the OSS version will not do).

When it comes to the OSS version, you are the one that has to set things up. You could be using Exim instead of Postfix (which is what FreePBX Distro uses) or another MTA because that’s how you roll.

It seems like you’re asking for a reason to give Sangoma money versus VitalPBX but you are focusing on a loss leader product that has a commercial and non-commercial version with the former offering more features for the user than the latter. More so, and perhaps I missed it in the pages of texts you wrote each time, I don’t see the actual features you are looking for overall when deciding VitalPBX v FreePBX. Are there requirements you’re trying to meet?