Asterisk announces version 16.3 and FreePBX announces version 15 has been launched this week.
What is Asterisk?
In the dim and distant past, someone calling a company would be passed to a receptionist who would plug her headset into the person that person would be trying to call and ask whether the recipient wanted to speak to them, and if so, that line plug would be plugged into the recipient’s socket and the call would be made.
The PBX replaced the receptionist and extra features could be added (at a cost) from the PBX supplier.
Asterisk frees the user to install whatever IP phone they wish to use. You can simply plug it in, do some basic settings on the phone and the phone is ready to take calls.
What can I do with it?
Asterisk is open source, which means you can buy it pre-installed in a hardware PBX solution and make the changes you want to it.
Alternatively, if you have some basic Linux skills, you can install Asterisk on an old PC and have that handle your calls (I had a customer do exactly that)
Asterisk comes with tons of features, such as call waiting, music on hold, even Interactive Voice Response (press 1 for Sales, 2 for Support, etc) and a programmer can write code to interface to it.
In the past, I wrote a system for a church where the church member would update a list of events, and the caller could choose the church and listen to the events be spoken to them using Text To Speech.
Asterisk is often administered through files as well as through its command line interface. However, there are other programs that work with Asterisk to make it easier, like FreePBX.
Asterisk 16 now includes improved support for Web based Real Time Communication(basically video conferencing via a web page) and messaging as well as increasing performance for IP phones, making them work more efficiently.
What is FreePBX?
FreePBX is an open source product that packages Asterisk with other free programs that makes managing and monitoring your phone switch much easier as everything is handled through a web interface.