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While turn-key Asterisk solutions are making open source VoIP deployments easier, one of the attractions of open source is the ability to manage your own voice systems.
Digium's Australian and New Zealand distributor, Australian Technology Partners, offers a range of certification and training for organisations looking to get hands-on with Asterisk, says ATP director Paul Liew.
"Asterisk empowers organisations and puts control back into their hands. For organisations who only want to do some element of work for themselves, we have developed a wrap-around called Shift Eight - which of course is the asterisk key on a keyboard. It installs Linux and Asterisk and it provides a fairly comprehensive PBX functionality that is controlled through a web interface. If you wanted a very customised solution, then you'd call upon us, or through our channel, to provide some expert configuration."
For organisations looking to get their hands dirty, the first step is to identify their internal departments or key people who will be responsible for deploying the Asterisk solution and skill them up. This means talking to the voice, data and networking groups, and this marriage of various departments is one of the biggest hurdles for some organisations, Liew says.
"You normally have a voice group who look after PBX type infrastructure, you have an IT group who looks after all things IT and then you have a network group who looks after networking, routing, firewalls and that sort of thing. Asterisk goes across all three disciplines," he says.
"An IT group trying to move into the Asterisk world needs to skill up a little bit on what is required in voice systems, and vice versa. That can be a harder challenge for larger organisations because the three departments are separate, where a smaller organisation is likely to have a few guys looking after it all. The next step is to make sure they come along to a training session and perhaps train them to the level of being able to implement Asterisk fully. A one day session can cut down development and learning time by two or three months. Of course we're still behind them to provide them with the support in deploying their solution."
When looking to deploy Asterisk, it is important to know both your IT strengths and weaknesses, warns Brett Sutton, managing director of Asterisk systems integrator Asterisk IT.
"Probably a third of our business comes from organisations who have gone through their normal IT provider or through some organisation who does Asterisk on the side. They've installed it, completely screwed it up and then we then get the business to come and clean it up," Sutton says.
"That's one of the biggest problems with Asterisk; everyone thinks they can do it. Telephone systems aren't quite the same as running an Apache server."