New Installation as a novice Looking for some advice

Looking for an on premise PBX solution for a multi location company.

We are running an old NEC IPKII system. I would like to upgrade the phone system, I’m considering FREEPBX or Asterisk, and I’m wondering if I’m looking in the proper direction.

1stly I have ZERO knowledge in setting up a phone system and was hoping to hire someone to accomplish this.

We have 2 locations one in Canada one in the USA

In Canada we have 6 lines from Bell (analogue) and also 3 DID’s from VOIP MS (SIP) one is our fax, we 22 Extensions with voicemail, we have a loudspeaker in the factory we page using an amplifier (Bogen amplifier.

our current up speed is 10Mbps and 50 Mbps Down (in Canada)

In the USA we have fiber so speed is not an issue

I would require the ability to forward extensions and the ability to use soft phones, ie forward extensions to people when they work from home along with the ability to email their voicemails messages

In the USA we are on a PRI we have 11 extensions and about 10 lines some with direct dial extensions. The USA has the ability to page the Canadian loudspeakers, desk phones and extensions. In Canada they have the ability to do the same, page their phones and loudspeaker in the factory.

The ability to have direct dial extensions in Canada this would be a good option to add.

Each office has RJ45 ports but only ONE for the computer
I assume we would need to buy POE switches for each office but I also have a 48 Port POW injector in the server room.

I’m open to many options.

I have no experience with voice communications and would like to hire someone for this project, but would need a physical person on site to bring in the lines into the device.

I am interested in open source options because I like the scalability,

Some have directed me to grandstream,

any thoughts?

Thank you

FreePBX is Asterisk with a GUI, so if those are your choices, you can choose the hard way or the drag-and-drool way.

As far as phones go, Digium and Sangoma both make good SIP phones that are fully integrated into FreePBX.

Your Bogen amp config is covered here in the forums several dozen times, mostly in school settings, but in your factory would be similar.

You don’t “NEED” to buy POE, but Jeez it makes your life easier, especially if you already have Cat-5 cable installed.

Consider changing your analog lines to VOIP - the price difference should pay for the entire installation in a year. Your 10 UP speed should be sufficient, but monitor it.

When you are installing, be sure to enable VPN on the server. This is most easily accomplished by purchasing the commercial Administration Module. The system comes with some basic paging capabilities, but you may want to look at the commercial Paging Plus module for the added features.

Since you are using PRI, you will need a PRI Interface. There are several on the market, and Digium’s is considered the Gold Standard. You will need to configure DAHDI on the server.

When you buy your phones, make sure they have LAN and PC ports so that you can use the one RJ-45 port effectively. Short of that, Tendra makes a 4-port POE switch that you can include in the network (where needed) that will provide you with the capability to extend your current footprint from one phone per office to four, and not effect your physical plant.

I’m an “on premise” guy, so I’d recommend two servers with a PJ-SIP Intracompany Trunk between then. After that, set your extensions so they live in ‘families’ (5000-5999 in one place and 6000-6999 in the other), or some other simple (for you) scheme. I like to avoid extensions that are single digit or ones that start with ‘1’ because they can be problematic when you start using Feature Codes.

Finally - find an old PC and throw the Distro on it. It’s free. Pick up a couple/three phones of different types and manufacturers and see what features you like and don’t like. It will also give you a feel for whether you are in the right headspace to do this or hire it out.

Everyone has their own preferences (I prefer Chan-SCCP-B driven Skinny Cisco phones like the 7940, just to give you an idea how wrong opinions can be) so it’s good to make your own choices. IIRC, Sangoma has a “loaner” or “lease” program that you might be able to get some different phones to try out to see what you like.

When you get into instruments, there are literally thousands of combinations of features, so knowing what kinds of things the phones can do can steer you in the right direction.


This is easy to do, tricky to get full user acceptance.

Assuming you mean a Grandstream PBX as well as phones. Those are Asterisk based last I knew.

You might consider a cloud based FreePbx. Have both sites register to one cloud based system. Convert your voice lines to sip, porting to since you already have them. With this solution, system maintenance is easier. Extension to extension dialing is pain free. If you have the need to have extensions at both locations in queues or ring groups, this is much easier. You can more easily route incoming calls to one or both locations. Should one location go down for some reason, the other location can easily cover until service is restored.

There are many good sip phones on the market. The selection is very much a user preference. For call center applications, particularly outbound call centers, I have found softphones work great. Click to call application makes these call center agents more productive.

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Thank You for the detailed explanation all are very good points.

The reason why I still prefer a few POT lines are solely for reliability. our POTS lines have always been more reliable then the SIP lines, mostly because of external factors out of my control

My concern with a pass through on the phones is obsolescence, If I upgrade my switched with new higher speeds will this be passed through the phone to the computer? will the phone be a bottle neck for the computer. I’m not familiar with how the pass-through works.

Have you ever used a WIF desk phone? are they reliable?

I’ll purchase a few voip phone to try out.

Thanks for some direction.

Can you explain more about this?

I was expecting users who work from home would install an app on their PC that would connect them to the phone system allowing them to have all the functionality that they would get through their desk phone.

am i correct?

I’m concerned about reliability with cloud based. I have no control over internet outages and since this is a commercial install I would not want to be vulnerable to this.

Cool. You will need some kind of device that converts these lines into SIP so that the PBX can handle it. There are several ways to do this, including external ATA devices and FXO ports that come on a card you can plug into the server.

It depends on the phone. The ‘pass through’ is actually a two-port switch, so you get a reasonable amount of performance even if you are using the computer behind the phone. If the phone is 10M, though, you are going to get 10M at the computer, so shop wisely.

I assume you mean WiFi desk phones? My opinion is no, but only because of all of the problem reports we see flying through here. They are probably more reliable than my opinion would lead, but it’s something you might want to try. Note that Sangoma does make a cordless phone that might be worth a look.

For WiFi Desk phones, l would look into Android based SIP hardware.

Yealink T54W on my desk right now. Zero issues.

On a laptop or desktop, yes, this will be solid.

The issue with softphone connectivity comes in when you want to stick it on a modern mobile device. A classic SIP based softphone will not work well as it will lose connectivity whenever the device sleeps.

I don’t know of any 10mbps phone on the market today. Everything is fast ethernet or gigabit.

If the phone will only work with white mice, then the computer will have to work with white mice. The point is that the switch in the phone is as fast as the switch in the phone, so shop carefully.

Thanks for the help!

I think I have most of the info to get this going but i need clarification on a few items.

Getting Phone lines into the FREEPBX system, you mentioned ata’s or FXO cards.

I have several ATA’s including a cisco spa8000, Isn’t this the opposite what I’m looking for? SIP to analogue. I would require analogue to sip

When I look at the FXO card it looks like RJ45 connectors, I would require RJ11 into the PC.? (correct?)

also on my remote location I would require a PRI card to PC? these are card I’m not familiar with or know the correct terms.

As for hardware requirements… I see sangoma sells pre-made PBX systems. Is this something I can make myself our of parts? if I used high quality parts with redundancy would the sangoma pre made equipment still be superior?

Can all this run on a VM? it would be nice to have this all configured on a VM in case I ever upgrade the HW.

What type of CPU and RAM would be sufficient for a 8 line 20 extension system?


Sticking with the Sangom brand, you need a Vega Gateway.

There are other bands available also. says “FXO (Foreign Exchange Office) is the port that receives the analog line. It is the plug on the phone or fax machine or the plug(s) on your analog phone system. It delivers an on-hook/off-hook indication (loop closure). Since the FXO port is attached to a device, such as a fax or a phone, the device is often called the “FXO device.” This port establishes the connection to the analog line (FXS).”

You’re going to need a card/ATA that plugs into the wall and receives the analog line.

Depends. POTS can be delivered through an RJ-45 connection and deliver 4 analog phone lines at the same time. It is also how T1 and PRI circuits are delivered, so you need to know what you are looking for. Most 4-line FXO cards use 4 RJ-11 ports. You can’t just say “analog” though, because that includes PRI and a bunch of other interconnection types. The RJ-45 connector is just the plastic bit on the end.

Your PRI card is probably going to have an RJ-45 port on it. They are just called “T1” or “PRI” Interfaces.

They both work with DAHDI (which is the software you’ll be using to interface to them) to interface the Analog lines (however they are delivered) to the PBX.


Sangoma sells a commercial product called “PBXact”. It is a commercial (includes support, etc.) version of FreePBX sold as a box. Unlike FreePBX, it is not free. It is, on the other hand, commercially supported. If you bought all the same hardware and built one yourself, it wouldn’t be a PBXact system, it would just be a FreePBX system. All Fiats are cars, but not all cars are Fiats.

As someone already pointed out, you can run it in a VM in the cloud and have both of your installations connect to the same instance. You will lose your PRI and (unless you hook up a local Vega) you will lose your POTS lines.

Now, you can run all of this in local VMs, but I’m just not particularly sold on VMs for this, especially with your stated desire for keeping your analog lines. There are some advantages (backup and restore of images across VM instances is nice), but if you are doing it on your own hardware, you add a LOT of overhead. Doing it on someone else’s hardware (in the cloud) just seems like a strategically bad idea. Not only that, but one of your original requirements was that you wanted to keep your expensive but reliable analog connections. Doing that in a VM adds another layer of complexity that should be reserved for experts.

CPU and RAM requirements? If you use the standard 10-to-1 rule, you can do the entire thing on a 1990’s era Dell Desktop. People to this on Raspberry Pis. You should probably stick with at least a Pentium and a couple of Gigs of RAM. Basically anything sold in the last 10 years with a couple Gig of RAM will work. You can go as high as you want on RAM, but anything over about 4G seems like overkill.

Thank You for the detailed explanation. I will continue my research and decide what will suit my preferences best.

More correctly, Sangoma sells appliances suitable for PBX systems, which can have either PBXact or FreePBX pre-installed.

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If I pieced together a PC with very common parts which I know function well in Linux, can I not install the exact same software? register and pay for it having the exact same functionality as what I would if I purchased HW from Sangoma.

Does Sangoma have any proprietary hardware that offers a superior functionality?