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.
For months I considered purchasing a Raspberry Pi single board computer. For the unaware, the Raspberry Pi is a single board computer, which is amazingly inexpensive ($35) and reasonably powerful for its size and cost. The design concept was to create a small, inexpensive computer to use as a learning tool for children. The back-story is really cool and a great example of how things should be done, well worth the read.
The Raspberry Pi Model B is a 700Mhz ARM1176JZF-S core processor with 512 MB of ram. It has an HDMI and RCA video out, built in Ethernet, 2 USB connections and audio out. Storage is done with an SD card and powered by a 5 Volt, micro USB connection.
The first thing to know about the Raspberry Pi, is that this is all about cost for them. So, there is nothing extra in the package. When ordered, your will get the ‘board’, no power cord, no SD card, no case, nothing. This is not a pick one up from Best Buy and plug it in kind of computer. But that is part of its charm, and the intent behind it, is to teach kids how to work with computers.
As an active Network Administrator I have several bad habits. The first is that I play with computers in my spare time. The second, is that I have too many computers. Five years ago when I purchased my home, a friend gave me a 1/2 height server rack. I mounted by home server on a shelf and ‘It began’.
By ‘It Began’ I mean the expansion of my home computer requirements. Over the past five years, I have added a variety of new systems to my home network, including phone servers, alarm systems, etc… My 1/2 rack is perfectly suited to hole these systems and my home stereo system as well. The functionality was nice, it securely holds my computers, although . However, it doesn’t look all the great. This isn’t a huge concern for me, but I would always like it to look better.
Recently a friend of mine gave me a full height, enclosed server cabinet. The cabinet comes with locking doors, side walls, exhaust fans, side doors and in reasonably good shape. The price was right, and certainly would add a certain cache to my home office. The server cabinet didn’t come with any shelves, or rails. The cabinet will be rather heavy when full which could cause a problem in a home environment. There are a few small issues to overcome, but for me, the advantages significantly outweigh the work.
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.