Since the PBX in a Flash project began less than three months ago, we’ve been promising to provide Managed PBX Service and Hosted PBX Service for those that wanted these options. So today we introduce PBX-Management for PBX in a Flash, and next week we’ll bring you hosted service as well. Today’s offering really is for resellers that want to provide cradle-to-grave support for their customers although it works equally well for end-users that just want a little peace of mind.

PBX in a Flash actually grew out of the Concordiax PBX offering that has been well received in the United Kingdom. It’s founder, Joe Roper, has been using Asterisk® since the Asterisk@Home 0.3 days and was a big fan of Nerd Vittles. When he heard we wanted to develop our own Asterisk distribution with no strings attached, no surprises, and no bugs, he picked up the phone. The first release of PBX in a Flash was essentially Joe’s Concordiax PBX product minus PBX-Management. It was rock-solid reliable, stable, and easily extensible. In short, it provided all the things we were looking to bring to the open source community in an Asterisk aggregation.

So what does PBX-Management do? For openers, PBX-Management affords resellers the ability to exert some control and reduce administrative overhead on remote PBX system deployments while providing support and backups that can be managed remotely and painlessly. Each PBX checks in every 30 minutes with a heartbeat reporting on the health, condition, and IP address of the host PBX. A reseller can see the status and overall health of all installed PBX in a Flash systems in a glance.

Records are kept about every PBX in a Flash system including the number of extensions, zap hardware, uptime, IP address, database passwords, name, address, location as well as billing and IT support contact details and, most importantly, time-stamped support notes of actions that have been taken with respect to each installation. All of this information is available from a single web page.

Additionally, there are a number of actions that can be performed on any PBX in a Flash system that is subscribed to "managed care." For those of you that have remotely managed PBX systems, you know the hassles that are involved in the care and feeding of these systems. Many such systems have dynamically assigned IP addresses and clueless end-users that don’t know the difference in an IP address and a zip code.

Some PBX-Management functions still are undergoing construction and testing, but here is a brief description of all of the components:

  • Lock Server – Sets the database to read only, so that your customer cannot make any changes. This was introduced for .htaccess based authentication, (maint/password) so that the customer could look at CDR, and other reports without fiddling with other settings which may break the box. With the FreePBX database authentication and ACL access on the PiaF system, this function is not as useful as it used to be.
  • Suspend Server – Disables access to the database. This is as a revenue protection measure, so that if one of your customers defaults on his payment, either for support or for the initial purchase, the system will continue to work as normal, but the customer cannot access his PBX for adds and changes, but the system continues to work in the same state that it did when the PBX was suspended. We have not built in the functionality to switch off a customer PBX, as the reseller may be open to litigation if the customer loses their ability to make and receive calls, even if this is accidental. Suspend will also switch off Backups and Mail relay where used. The server can be un-suspended at any time. Once suspended, the server can then be deleted from PBX management. This is still undergoing testing.
  • Move Server – Moves the PBX to another reseller account.
  • Backup Server – Still under construction, but you can guess what it’s going to do.
  • Clone Server – When a PBX is first installed and registered, a clone button will be available. This will allow you to clone a PBX from an existing broken system onto the replacement box, in the time that it takes for the PBX to download the backup from PBX-Management. You can only clone to a box which has zero extensions. Hence, a production system can never be overwritten with another user’s settings. As this is a function of the backup, it is not yet fully functional.

And what does PBX-Management cost? Well, for now, nothing. It’s a perfect opportunity for anyone to try it and see if it meets your needs. And until all of the functionality described above is working flawlessly, you won’t pay a dime. Once the system becomes production quality, the cost will be 25¢ per month per extension, a portion of which is returned to the PBX in a Flash development team to support future development. And, yes, you can quit at any time with no penalties of any kind… other than losing your managed care service.

How It Works. To install PBX-Management on your existing PBX in a Flash system, you first must sign up for the service at this link. Then you download a script and execute it. This is the same process used to add other components to your PBX in a Flash system. To install PBX-Management, your MySQL database and Asterisk manager passwords must not have been changed from the defaults. When you run the script, you will prompted for the PBX-Management username that you obtained when you registered for PBX-Management service. The following functions then are performed:

  • Registers your system with PBX-Management.
  • Downloads your logo to the main PBX in a Flash web page and to the top right hand corner of FreePBX.
  • Changes the MySQL root and freePBX passwords to a random password generated by PBX-Management. The passwords are recorded in the interface.
  • Changes the Asterisk Manager password and records it in PBX-Management. Customers don’t like the FreePBX reminders that default passwords still are being used.
  • Sets up a cron job to run a heartbeat in /etc/pbx which reports the health, status, and IP address of the system to your PBX-Management account every 30 minutes.

Installing PBX-Management. Once you have your account established, here are the commands to execute on your PBX in a Flash system. Until testing and development is completed, Joe strongly recommends that you evaluate this on non-production systems only! We would also encourage you to make a full backup of your system before you begin. PBX in a Flash includes one of the best backup solutions in the industry so there’s no excuse for not having a good backup. Once you’re finished making your backup, log into your server as root and issue the following commands:

cd /etc/pbx
wget http://www.pbxmanagement.com/PBXScripts/ConcordiaRegister.pl
wget http://www.pbxmanagement.com/PBXScripts/ConcordiaHeartbeat.pl
chmod 711 Concordia*
./ConcordiaRegister.pl

You will be prompted for your PBX-Management username. The script is successful if it ends with the following:

Error: 000000000000000000000000000000

You then can log into PBX-Management to view your PBX on line using the credentials you used when you registered. No changes will be made to your system unless you plug in your correct login. And, as previously noted, while the system is being refined and improved with new functionality, there will be no charge to register through this link. Charges will only commence once the backup functionality is completed, and Joe will notify all customers well in advance of the cutover date providing you an opportunity to leave the program if you so desire.

How to Disable PBX-Management. If you should decide to cancel out of the PBX-Management program and wish to disable the heartbeat, first write down your MySQL root password by accessing your PBX-Management account online. Then simply remove the cron job for ConcordiaHeartbeat.pl and delete ConcordiaxRegister.pl, ConcordiaHeartbeat.pl and ConcordiaID.txt from the /etc/pbx directory on your server. Enjoy!


 

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This article has 4 comments

  1. OK, I’ve seen the discussions about hosted PBXs and managed PBXs, but what is the benefit? For the end-user? For myself (as a distributor)?

  2. Ok, this sounds good and all, but what I’ve been really expecting / hoping for, was a remote management I can have total control over, as in I install the engine in my own server, and my clients will call home to my server so I can remotely manage from there.

    I just don’t see the reason to have my clients call home someplace else that is not my server. Maybe is just me… Anyway, just my thoughts…

    [WM: There’s more infrastructure than you might think to support this.]

  3. The benefits are many. For you as a distributor, you get a web based dashboard of all your installed PBX systems with their health and status, and IP, even if they are on DHCP. You have links to add support notes about each machine. Ultimately, each machine will back-up to the remote site, and coupled with a clone button, you will be able to clone settings to a replacement machine.

    The system also reports number of extensions, on which you may well use to bill you support fees.

    From customers point of view, they get the security of a backed up server, and improved response and administration from you, and it does not cost very much money.

    I realised after the first 6 or so machines I installed, I could not remember where they were, or what customised apps they had, or what hardware was included. So I built pbxmanagement as an administration tool.

    Any questions about the system or you want further details – get in touch with me via http://www.concordiax.com/concordiaxweb/html/contact.php

    Joe Roper

  4. Was this project abandoned? The site no longer exists.