Thursday, May 29, 2008

Asterisk Still Rocks

A few days ago I heard a knock at the door and went to see who it was. I usually just don't open the door for people I don't know but the kid looked so excited for someone to open it that I did. He was offering Comcast IP phone service for $20 a month and offered to discount my Comcast High Speed Internet $10 a month if I signed up. Telephone service for $10/mo! I had to break the news to him that I had that price beat.

"How could that be?", he asked.

"Well, Asterisk".

I have been running Asterisk for about 6-months and wanted to give an update as to where I am today. I am now running 3-lines (home, business and other business) through Broadvoice and paying about $15/mo for all of it. The trick is custom ringing. Asterisk can interpret the custom ring and send the call to a different phone, create a different ring or even send it to a different voicemail box. Right now the home phone number goes directly to a voice menu that offers telemarketers option 1 (no, it doesn't curse at them, it's a pretty polite take-me-off-your-list-you-have-been-logged message).

Here's how that works:
exten => 3030001234,1,Noop(Alert-Info -> '${SIP_HEADER(Alert-Info)}')
exten => 3030001234,n,Gotoif($["${SIP_HEADER(Alert-Info)}" = "<>"]?jim_office,7200000000,1)
exten => 3030001234,n,Gotoif($["${SIP_HEADER(Alert-Info)}" = "<>"]?otherbusiness,3030000000,1)
exten => 3030001234,n,Goto(incoming,s,1)

If they press 2, all the phones in the house (except my home office) ring with a double-pulse ring that my wife recognizes. No-answer goes to her very own voicemail box that lights the light on her good old Qwest Home Receptionist phone. Arguments over lost sticky notes with messages are a thing of the past.

Option 3 belongs to me and rings with a 3-pulse ring on every phone including my office (yes, I am that important), no-answer goes to my voicemail box which I am then emailed the attachment directly to my mobile smartphone where I can listen to it immediately.

Option 7 plays the traditional carried away by monkeys and weasels have eaten the phone with a bunch of monkeys screaming. It records the incoming audio to a wav file which I review from time to time so I can hear the callers reactions (no one except friends know of option 7).

My home office line rings in my office only. Pickup groups are great here because I can pickup any other phone in the house and dial *8# and it intercepts the call on that phone. The call detail recording is nice for my consulting business because I have an accurate record of all calls made and received. I paste that data into and there is no question about billed time.

I have call parking enabled so I can just hit flash 700 or #700 and I am read back which number they are parked on (always 701). They get a nice music on hold while I go do what I want or move to another phone. I can also transfer to my mobile for heading out the door.

Broadvoice is nice because of their BYOD (bring your own device) plan which is basically $9/mo. They port your number so you don't lose your existing numbers. I have confirmed that they are the cause of my echo problems that happen from time to time. I use as an alternate provider for outgoing calls and anytime I get echo, I can call the person back using voipjet (I dial 9 before the number to switch providers) and there is no echo. I would use voipjet exclusively if they could do number porting.

Once I explained all of this to the fellow from Comcast he was drolling to go home and try it himself. He thanked me for my time and wandered off to the next house. I have a feeling he wasn't as enthusiastic when he knocked on the next door.

Could anyone else provide me this kind of service for this price? Nope. Asterisk Rocks.

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