In my continuing efforts to keep up to date with the latest of technology and lower my own monthly expenses, I have built a home phone server for my home office. As cell phones continue to gain in popularity, and coverage areas expand, this may seem like an old solution to a modern problem. I know several households that no longer have a home land line, and they just use their cell phones. This is a great idea, but sadly for some of us, it not a solution for a variety of reasons.
- Cost: I want to have a phone line, voice-mail, etc… and NOT pay way too much money for a large corporation. I am planning on running the phone server and utilizing Google’s free Google Voice service which provides incoming and outgoing phone service. In time they may change for this service, but other companies offer phone numbers and service for a starting cost of about $4 / month. This is much less expensive that my current monthly phone bill.
- Lack of Coverage: Cell phone reception at my house is poor depending upon your service provider.
- Old technology: I have several devices in my home, such as alarms, DVR’s etc… that do not use the Internet to connect to the service provider. This is a sad state of technology, which is the reality of the times.
- Call Routing: A phone server will allow me to send calls from multiple sources, and route them to different locations depending upon their source. Also, as an example should someone call, and wish to speak with my wife Heather, I can easily transfer the call to her cell.
- Call screening: During political seasons, and living in a swing state for the presidential elections, I tend to get a lot of political calls. During the last election cycle, I would receive up to 20 phone calls per day. This is the sad state of our political system and really annoying for me. When the calls start coming in next time, I may force the caller to press the ‘1’ key on their phone to complete the call. This should stop all ‘Robo Calls’.
- Continuing Education: A big part of my goal here is to teach myself how SIP phone servers work.
Many people, Blogs, consultants, etc… have written a lot about setting up an Asterisk SIP phone server with Google Voice. I have not invented anything here, and rely heavily on their hard work and dedication to their craft. So that being said, here is what I did to get Asterisk running with Google Voice.
Download the ISO file for PBX in a Flash. PBX in a Flash is essentially and CentOS distribution, which includes all the software required to get the phone server online. The installation was pretty straight forward and the website http://nerdvittles.com/?p=791 has the process documented reasonably well, so I will give credit where credit is due. The process did need a bit of time on my hardware, and this is due to the fact that I installed the system on hardware which is several years old. Actually, a nice part of the system is that the PBX will run on old hardware. I was looking for an old laptop to use, but settled on a desktop several years past its prime.
Once the system restarted, I was able to quickly create two extensions, and had my phones running in a matter of minutes. The first phone I have is a LinkSYS SPA942 and it was very easy to set up utilizing the web interface. The second phone is actually a LinkSYS Voice Gateway with Router SPA3102. This is a great device which plugins into my network switch and has the ability to connect a regular phone to the SIP PBX server.
The biggest issue that I discovered after the nerdvittles.com write up, is that they didn’t mention anything amount the dial patterns, and these were not setup on my system as automatically as implied. So, this manifested itself in a situation where I could dial into the PBX from outside, I would call inside extensions, but I could not dial out. The dial patterns, match the phone number you dial and tell the server which trunk to use to dial out. Since there were not setup, I would get a voice message saying the call could not be complete as dialed. Once I added the correct dial patterns for my area, I was in business.So my next steps are voice mail, more toys, test reliability and setting up two different caller IDs depending upon which phone dials out. This is for the most part continuing to learn the system, but important to me none the less. I cannot wait to call my phone company….