Last year, I wrote about cancelling my home phone line with our local provider and replacing this home service using the wonderful “PBX in a Flash” software on a server located in my house. The original article details the process and hardware utilized. Of coarse, the overall goal of this project is to cut home phone service costs, provided better phone service. My wife Heather LOVES receiving voice mail messages on her computer via email.
In practice, there are a few draw backs to the the setup. The good news is that there are solutions to every problem.
The first issue, is that running a server in my house adds to the power bill. In this case, a server is simply an old desktop computer. However, there are costs to this setup. The computer is spinning a hard drive, cooling fans, cpu fans. All of these components add to my power usage, which at $0.10 per KWh, in Las Vegas, means that we are paying $175 / year to run the phone server. This cost of $14.60 per month is significantly better that any phone rates I will get from AT&T, Verizon, Charter, etc… which is about $50 per month. However, this is still money I would rather not spend on home phone server, which in the time of cell phones is a diminished service.
The second issue is the sound of the phone server running in my server cabinet. Hard drives, power supply fans, cpu fans and cooling fans all add to the ambient sound in my office. In an office server room, this sound would be nominal and expected In my home office, this small increase in background noise is very annoying.
Another consideration is the cost of maintenance. Computer components wear out. Hard drives fail, fans seize etc… and replacements cost money. Even though I have replacements parts readily available I would rather not incur these costs.
Finally, I am an environmentalist and conservationist. This doesn’t mean I subscribe to, or dismiss global warming climate change, etc… or Rather, it means that I care about the environment, my environment and I want my environment to be comfortable and clean, in nature, the back country, my yard and my office. As a general rule, I would rather not have a computer spinning loudly in the corner. I would rather not fill land fills with old computer components, and would rather not use a server to heat up a room, which in turn is cooled down via a powerful A/C unit to make my office environment comfortable.
The solution to all of this is my little Raspberry Pi. In the event the Raspberry Pi has not reached your level of consciousness the Raspberry Pi is an ARM based single board computer which is available for $35. The Pi is about size of a deck of cards, requires only 5 watts of power, requires no cooling fans, can boot up from an SD card and is silent.
Stated differently, this is a cheap, quiet computer with no moving parts, costs less than $5 per year to run and is still powerful enough to run PBX software.
My Raspberry Pi is running PBX in a Flash software and utilizing the free Google Voice calling feature. All of the software, instructions and a great source of knowledge is the website nerdvittles.com. Thanks to nerdvittles.com, Google Voice and the wonderful Raspberry Pi I have dropped my communication costs by over $600 per year with improved sound quality and a new virtually limitless feature set.