What a difference a year makes! Welcome to our Memorial Day blowout and semi-annual survey of the latest and greatest VoIP developments for 2018. This year we’ve ushered in new Asterisk® 13 LTS releases of Incredible PBX® on the CentOS, Ubuntu, and Raspberry Pi platforms as well as new versions for Issabel 4 and VitalPBX. To sweeten the pot even further, we nailed down a new Cloud-based offering for $10 a year that makes a perfect VOIP sandbox for our CentOS platform. For 2018, we also secured new (free) DID offerings in the U.S. and announced a Nerd Vittles exclusive providing access to 300+ VoIP providers worldwide, all at wholesale prices. And, last but not least, we introduced Digium’s newest IP phones for Asterisk including a $59 model that makes a perfect VoIP companion.



Choosing the Best VoIP Platform for Your Needs

Choosing a VoIP platform is partially a subjective decision, but there also are some glaring red flags to consider. We suggest you begin by deciding whether your preferences include any must-have’s. Do your requirements mandate an open source solution? Do you need text-to-speech and voice recognition? Does the operating system have to be Linux-based and, if so, must it be CentOS, Debian, or Ubuntu? If you’ll be using SIP phones, must the platform include phone provisioning software for your phones, or is the ability to purchase it as an add-on sufficient? Is paid support important in making your platform decision and how much are you prepared to pay? Are automatic or pain-free software updates critical in making your selection? Is migration from an existing platform a factor? Does a preconfigured, secure firewall matter, or are you prepared to do it yourself or take your chances? Before choosing to ignore security, read this RIPS analysis of FreePBX®. Here’s a snippet from the article. Read it carefully. It’s your phone bill.

Since FreePBX is written completely in PHP, we decided to throw it into our code analysis tool RIPS. The results were more than surprising and should tell you why a rock-solid firewall is absolutely essential.

The total amount of detected vulnerabilities is very high. Luckily, the majority of the detected vulnerabilities are inside the administration control panel, such that attackers either need to steal a valid account or they have to trick an administrator into visiting a malicious website that triggers one of the critical vulnerabilities. For example, a remote command execution vulnerability could be triggered by a less critical cross-site scripting vulnerability. By chaining both vulnerabilities, the severity is increased drastically and can lead to full server compromise.

In choosing which platforms to include today, we eliminated platforms which we considered too complicated for the average new user to configure. We also eliminated any platform that did not offer at least a free tier of service with a reasonably complete feature set as part of their offering. So here’s our Pick of the Litter.

We must confess that we are partial to the Incredible PBX offerings because they provide a turnkey GPL platform with minimal configuration required on your part. Regardless of platform, all come standard with a preconfigured firewall and about three dozen applications for Asterisk that will help you learn everything there is to know about VoIP telephony.

VoIP Platform Feature Summary

Aggregation: Incredible PBX 13-13 for CentOS/SL
License: Open Source GPL
VoIP Platform: Asterisk 13
GUI: FreePBX 13 GPL modules
O/S: CentOS/SL 6.9 or 7
Phone Provisioning: Open Source
Text-to-Speech/Voice Recognition: Yes/Yes
Software Updates: Automatic Update Utility included
Migration Tools: No
Security: Fail2Ban + Preconfigured Firewall Whitelist
Security Rating (as delivered): Secure
Comments: Lean & Mean or Whole Enchilada installers as well as ISO available

Aggregation: Incredible PBX 13-13 for Raspbian
License: Open Source GPL
VoIP Platform: Asterisk 13
GUI: FreePBX 13 GPL modules
O/S: Raspbian 7
Phone Provisioning: Open Source
Text-to-Speech/Voice Recognition: Yes/Yes
Software Updates: Automatic Update Utility included
Migration Tools: No
Security: Fail2Ban + Preconfigured Firewall Whitelist
Security Rating (as delivered): Secure

Aggregation: Incredible PBX 13-13 for Ubuntu
License: Open Source GPL
VoIP Platform: Asterisk 13
GUI: FreePBX 13 GPL modules
O/S: Ubuntu 18.04
Phone Provisioning: Open Source
Text-to-Speech/Voice Recognition: Yes/Yes
Software Updates: Automatic Update Utility included
Migration Tools: No
Security: Fail2Ban + Preconfigured Firewall Whitelist
Security Rating (as delivered): Secure
Comments: Lean & Mean or Whole Enchilada installers

Aggregation: VitalPBX
License: Closed Source
VoIP Platform: Asterisk 13
GUI: Free and Commercial modules
O/S: CentOS 7
Phone Provisioning: Free
Text-to-Speech/Voice Recognition: Optional/Optional
Software Updates: Automatic
Migration Tools: Yes
Security: Fail2Ban + User-Configurable Firewall
Security Rating (as delivered): Insecure
Comments: Incredible PBX add-on now available including TM3 firewall.

Aggregation: Incredible PBX for Issabel 4
License: Open Source GPL
VoIP Platform: Asterisk 13
GUI: FreePBX 11 GPL modules
O/S: CentOS 7
Phone Provisioning: Open Source
Text-to-Speech/Voice Recognition: No/No
Software Updates: Semi-Automatic
Migration Tools: No
Security: Fail2Ban + Unconfigured Firewall
Security Rating (as delivered): Secure with Incredible PBX add-on
Comments: Incredible PBX add-on provides secure platform

Aggregation: Incredible PBX for Wazo
License: GPL3 Open Source
VoIP Platform: Asterisk 15 RealTime
GUI: Wazo GPL3 modules
O/S: Debian 9
Phone Provisioning: Extensive Open Source
Text-to-Speech/Voice Recognition: Yes/Yes
Software Updates: Automatic or 2-minute Manual
Migration Tools: No
Security: Fail2Ban + Preconfigured Firewall
Security Rating (as delivered): Secure WhiteList with Incredible PBX add-on
Comments: High Availability & Call Center GPL3 Modules

Aggregation: FreePBX Distro a.k.a. AsteriskNOW
License: Closed Source
VoIP Platform: Asterisk 13/14/15
GUI: FreePBX GPL and Commercial modules
O/S: Closed-source CentOS fork
Phone Provisioning: Open Source (minimal) or Commercial
Text-to-Speech/Voice Recognition: Optional/No
Software Updates: Manual from Hidden Repo
Migration Tools: Yes
Security: Fail2Ban + User-Configurable Firewall
Security Rating (as delivered): Insecure
Comments: Extensive commercial NagWare preinstalled

 

Deploying a Local Server vs. Cloud Platform

We’ve always been big fans of local servers because you have almost total control of your own destiny. This was especially true when the Raspberry Pi came along to take the financial pain out of the server equation. But the price of Cloud-based servers has continued to plummet. For 2018, you can run any of our favorites on the least expensive platform at Vultr or Digital Ocean for $2.50 a month. Spending another 50 cents buys you automatic backups.1 And, for the Incredible PBX 13-13 build with CentOS 6.9 (64-bit), we’ve found a deal at HiFormance that offers a high-performance OpenVZ platform at an annual cost of just $10. The technical specs are impressive (even better if you sign up for 3 years), and we don’t think you’ll find a comparable deal with anything near comparable performance and specs anywhere, period. You get your choice of hosting sites including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Buffalo, Atlanta, and Dallas. Complete tutorial available here.

NOTE: OpenVZ/SolusVM platforms not suitable for CentOS 7, Debian 9, or Ubuntu 18 implementations, and some providers do not yet support Ubuntu 18.04 platform although Vultr and Digital Ocean both do.


Available Free Trunks for VoIP Servers

For many years, we’ve offered free Google Voice connectivity with our VoIP platforms. And that remains true at least for a few more weeks. On all of the Incredible PBX platforms, Google Voice trunks can be set up to make free calls in the U.S. and Canada provided you have a U.S. residence and a U.S. cellphone number to verify that you are who you say you are. There’s even a ray of hope that the Simonics gateway may allow you to continue using Google Voice after Google Voice’s mid-June drop-dead date for XMPP. Details here. But what about the rest of the world. For 2018, we solved the problem by offering free DID trunks for inbound calls and a collection of 300 wholesale VoIP carriers worldwide to make outbound calls at the same wholesale rates offered to the very largest resellers. Simply pay a 13% surcharge in lieu of the $650 annual fee, and TelecomsXchange (TCXC) will provide you access to their entire suite of wholesale carriers together with state-of-the-art tools to manage all of the services.2 The Nerd Vittles setup tutorial is available here. Enjoy!

Published: Monday, March 5, 2018  Updated: Monday, May 28, 2018




Need help with Asterisk? Visit the PBX in a Flash Forum.


 

Special Thanks to Our Generous Sponsors

FULL DISCLOSURE: RentPBX, Amazon, Vitelity, DigitalOcean, Vultr, Digium, Sangoma, 3CX, TelecomsXchange and others have provided financial support to Nerd Vittles and our open source projects through advertising, referral revenue, and/or merchandise. We’ve chosen these providers not the other way around. Our decisions are based upon their corporate reputation and the quality of their offerings and their pricing. Our recommendations regarding technology are reached without regard to financial compensation except in situations in which comparable products at comparable pricing are available from multiple sources. In this limited case, we support our sponsors because our sponsors support us.

Awesome Vitelity Special. Vitelity has generously offered a terrific discount for Nerd Vittles readers. You now can get an almost half-price DID from our special Vitelity sign-up link. If you’re seeking the best flexibility in choosing an area code and phone number plus the lowest entry level pricing plus high quality calls, then Vitelity is the hands-down winner. Vitelity provides Tier A DID inbound service in over 3,000 rate centers throughout the US and Canada. When you use our special link to sign up, Nerd Vittles gets a few shekels down the road to support our open source development efforts while you get an incredible signup deal as well. The going rate for Vitelity’s DID service is $7.95 a month which includes up to 4,000 incoming minutes on two simultaneous channels with terminations priced at 1.45¢ per minute. Not any more! For our users, here’s a deal you can’t (and shouldn’t) refuse! Sign up now, and you can purchase a Tier A DID with unlimited incoming calls and four simultaneous channels for just $3.99 a month. To check availability of local numbers and tiers of service from Vitelity, click here. NOTE: You can only use the Nerd Vittles sign-up link to order your DIDs, or you won’t get the special pricing! Vitelity’s rate is just 1.44¢ per minute for outbound calls in the U.S. There is a $35 prepay when you sign up. This covers future usage. Any balance is refundable if you decide to discontinue service with Vitelity.


RentPBX, a long-time partner and supporter of PIAF project, is offering generous discounts for Nerd Vittles readers. For all of your Incredible PBX hosting needs, sign up at www.RentPBX.com and use code NOGOTCHAS to get the special pricing. The code will lower the price to $14.99/month, originally $24.99/month. It’s less than 50¢/day.


When considering commercial PBX alternatives, why not turn to the company that brought you Asterisk, the platform that also serves as the foundation for Switchvox. Digium’s out-of-the-box VoIP phone system is available on-premises or in the cloud with enterprise-caliber UC features and pricing that’s ideal for small and mid-size companies, schools, universities, & non-profits.


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

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  1. On the Vultr and Digital Ocean $2.50 platforms, be sure to (1) create a 1GB swapfile once you’ve chosen your operating system. (2) Then, for Vultr, issue the following command before beginning the Incredible PBX install: apt-get install cloud-init.
    (3) Now complete the steps outlined in your preferred Nerd Vittles tutorial, and you’ll be all set in about 15 minutes. []
  2. Our special thanks to TelecomsXchange. They have generously offered to contribute a portion of the wholesale surcharge to support the Incredible PBX open source project. []

This article has 4 comments

  1. Who knew phones could be so much fun! This is an awesome blog post at a time when we are reevaluating our options and upgrading our old "Ward Special". Thank you!

  2. The HiFormance link does not work for 3CX which requires 3.x kernel to run the wizard. HiFormance only supports 2.x through that link. E-mailed them and their response was that 2.6 is the latest stable kernel for OpenVZ, and you would need to switch over to KVM servers in order to use the 3.x kernel.

    [WM: That’s correct and is the reason we recommended Vultr as the least costly platform for 3CX.]

  3. 3CX seems slow (if at all) to send keys for trial of latest free-offering/package? Am offering only basic info (don’t want phone calls) – maybe that is the issue (sales wanting full marketing for the key)? Thanks.

    [WM: Got ours very quickly but we used a different email address. Have you previously obtained a 3CX key? That could be the problem.]

  4. Published, thanks a lot for the article post.Much thanks again. Fantastic.

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