Noobie Question about CLI & GUI


I am trying to understand an existing FreePBX system we have and if a contractor we’ve been using is being honest with me. As stated, we have a FreePBX system that was already set up when I started with the current employer.

From my understanding, the PBX pulls the user’s profile information from a Windows Server 2012 running Active Directory. FreePBX was loaded onto an old workstation that is now running CentOS. When we discuss making small changes, such as adding new users, fixing the time when daylights savings time changes, or pretty much anything, we are told it will take several hours to complete. That part seems odd but plausible.

The part I’m having difficulty accepting is when we asked if we could start making the simple changes via the GUI ourselves, we were told that “because we script the configuration, using the GUI would break the configuration and temporarily render the system unusable.” Is this right? It sounded insane, so I wanted to discuss this with the community before rushing to a conclusion.

Any input would be greatly appreciated as I am a systems noob.


i would say that you need to decide if you are going to be the pbx administrator or if your contractor is. it is of course possible to have multiple people making changes to a system, but if you did not build it and are not aware of how it is tied into the rest of your environment, you can sure make a mess. we generally do not allow our customers to make changes to the system other than what they can do via UCP. we found that often customers would make a change and not tell us, and then later ask us to do something. it is time consuming to figure out what someone else has done unless there is a common source of documentation.

This is the only thing you said that makes me wonder what’s really going on. The configuration is maintained by the system and 90+% of the configuration is actually done through the GUI. If they have hand-made changes to the FreePBX managed files, then I could see this, but using that as a reason for you to not be able to help manage the system seems odd.

I don’t understand what he means by “script” the configuration. Within the structure of a FreePBX system (which is the GUI by the way, the phone system is Asterisk, which is another, different piece of software), there are provisions for creating configuration items that can be maintained by hand and can coexist with the GUI managed config files.

It sounds like your contractor has set up the system using patches to the main config files, which FreePBX overwrites with data from the configuration database. If that’s the case, then any time you “apply config” on the system, it will break. It’s a tough way to build a FreePBX system, but we don’t have any more exposure to your system than you do.

One thing that he might be referring to is the AD integration - you can change stuff in the system and mess up the AD stuff (or vice versa), so knowing what you’re doing would be critical in that part of the system.

As to the “couple of hours” thing - I always tell my customers that their change is going to take (at least) a couple of hours. The way, I have time to juggle technician time around, shutdown the project I might be working on for someone else, or just handle the paperwork (billing and documentation). Of course, I never bill for all of that - I only bill for the actual work done.

If you want to learn how to manage the system, Sangoma has recently started a certification and training program (look on the Sangoma portal) and get familiar with the way the system works. Once you’ve been through a few of those courses and understand how everything is put together, you can get with your guy and see what he is willing to let you do.