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The Gotcha-Free PBX in the Cloud: Introducing Incredible PBX @ RentPBX.com

We continue the Incredible PBX for Asterisk-GUI adventure today with an open source alternative for which many have been clamoring, an affordable Cloud-based Asterisk® platform with a no-strings-attached graphical user interface. As if the $15 a month hosting plan weren’t enough, the icing on the cake is the quick 2-minute setup on your choice of a dozen servers throughout the U.S. as well as Canada and Europe. If you can find the Enter key on a keyboard, then you can handle the complexity of the RentPBX setup. When you’re finished, you’ll have a turnkey PBX featuring some of the finest open source software on the planet. The software is all free, subject only to the terms of the open source licenses.

Target Audience: Home or SOHO/SBO in need of a turnkey, Gotcha-Free PBX in the Cloud

Default Configuration: Asterisk 11 with enhanced Asterisk-GUI, Kennonsoft GUI, and NANPA dialplan

Platform: CentOS 6.6 running on RentPBX Cloud-Based Server platform

Memory: 385 MB with 415 MB swap

Disk Size: 20 GB

Default Trunks: Google Voice, CallCentric, DIDlogic, Future-Nine, IPcomms, Les.net, Vitelity, VoIP.ms1

Feature Set: Fax, SMS messaging, VPN, Reminders, ConfBridge Conferencing, AsteriDex, Voicemail, IVR, Email, News, Weather, Voice Dialer, Wolfram Alpha, Today in History, TM3 Firewall WhiteList, Speed Dialer, iNUM and SIP URI (free) worldwide calling, OpenCNAM CallerID lookups, DISA, Call Forwarding, CSV CDRs

Administrator Utilities: Incredible Backup/Restore, Automatic Updater, Asterisk Upgrader, phpMyAdmin, Timezone Config, Plug-and-Play Trunk Configurator, WebMin, External IP Setup, Firewall WhiteList Tools

Getting Started with Incredible PBX for Asterisk-GUI (Cloud Edition)

Here’s a quick overview of the installation and setup process for Incredible PBX for Asterisk-GUI @ RentPBX.com:

  1. Sign Up for Gotcha-Free PBX in the Cloud – Choose server location and await credentials
  2. Complete the Install of Incredible PBX and Incredible Fax
  3. Set Up Passwords for Incredible PBX for Asterisk-GUI
  4. Configure Trunks with Incredible PBX for Asterisk-GUI
  5. Connect a Softphone to Incredible PBX for Asterisk-GUI

1. Sign Up for Gotcha-Free PBX in the Cloud at RentPBX.com

Visit RentPBX.com and choose the PBX in a Flash builds and complete the following steps:

When you begin the payment and checkout phase, enter your coupon code to take advantage of the $15/month discounted rate: NOGOTCHAS. Wait for the confirmation email with your server credentials and dedicated IP address.

2. Complete the Install of Incredible PBX and Incredible Fax

Nothing tricky here. It’s a 2-minute setup process. Log into your server as root with your default password using SSH or Putty. Once you’re logged in, RentPBX will randomize all of your passwords for Incredible PBX. Next, you’ll be prompted for the email address to use for delivery of your faxes. Once entered, you’ll be prompted for various information to install HylaFax and AvantFax. Just press the Enter key at every prompt. In a couple minutes, your server will reboot to bring Incredible PBX and Incredible Fax on line. Log back into your server as root and let Incredible PBX run its Automatic Update Utility to bring your system current. That’s it. You now have a turnkey Asterisk® PBX that’s ready for configuration.

3. Initial Configuration of Incredible PBX for Asterisk-GUI

Incredible PBX is installed with the preconfigured IPtables Linux firewall already in place. It implements WhiteList Security to limit server access to your server’s IP address, your desktop computer’s IP address, and a few of our favorite SIP providers. You can add additional entries to this WhiteList whenever you like using the add-ip and add-fqdn tools in /root. There’s also an Apache security layer for web applications. And, of course, Asterisk-GUI has its own security methodology using Asterisk’s manager.conf. Finally, RentPBX randomized extension and DISA passwords as part of the initial setup process. Out of the starting gate, you won’t find a more secure VoIP server implementation anywhere. After all, it’s your phone bill.

Even with all of these layers of security, here are 10 Quick Steps to better safeguard your server. You only do this once, but failing to do it may lead to security issues you don’t want to have to deal with down the road. So DO IT NOW!

First, log into your server as root with your root password and do the following:

Make your root password very secure: passwd
Set your correct time zone: ./timezone-setup
Create admin password for web apps: htpasswd -b /etc/pbx/wwwpasswd admin newpassword
Make a copy of your other passwords: cat passwords.FAQ
Make a copy of your Knock codes: cat knock.FAQ
Decipher IP address and other info about your server: status

Second, log into your server as admin using a web browser pointed to your server’s IP address:

Click USERS tab in Incredible PBX GUI
Click Asterisk-GUI Administration
Log in as user: admin with password: password
Immediately change your admin password

Log in to Asterisk-GUI again with your new password. Expand the options available in the GUI (if required):

Options -> Advanced Options -> Show Advanced Options

Last but not least, Incredible PBX includes an automatic update utility which downloads important updates whenever you log into your server as root. We recommend you log in once a week to keep your server current.

4. Configure Trunks with Incredible PBX for Asterisk-GUI

Now for the fun part. If this is your first VoIP adventure, be advised that this ain’t your grandma’s phone system. You need not and should not put all your eggs in one basket when it comes to telephone providers. In order to connect to Plain Old Telephones, you still need at least one provider. But there is nothing wrong with having several. And a provider that handles an outbound call (termination) need not be the same one that handles an incoming call (origination) and provides your phone number (DID). We cannot recommend Vitelity highly enough, and it’s not just because they have financially supported our projects for almost a decade. They’re as good as VoIP providers get, and we use lots of them. If you’re lucky enough to live in the U.S., you’d be crazy not to set up a Google Voice account. It’s free as are all phone calls to anywhere in the U.S. and Canada. The remaining preconfigured providers included in Incredible PBX for Asterisk-GUI are equally good, and we’ve used and continue to use almost all of them. So pick a few and sign up. You only pay for the calls you make with each provider so you have little to lose by choosing several. The PIAF Forum includes dozens of recommendations on VoIP providers if you want additional information.

With the preconfigured trunks in Incredible PBX for Asterisk-GUI, all you need are your credentials for each provider and the FQDN of their server. Log into Asterisk-GUI Administration as admin using a browser. From the System Status screen, click Incredible PBX Apps. Click on each provider you have chosen and fill in the blanks with your credentials. When you’ve saved all of your settings, log into your server as root via SSH and type: service asterisk restart or asterisk-restart. You can also issue the command in the Asterisk-GUI by choosing the Asterisk CLI tab2 in the left column. Doesn’t get any simpler!

Update: It should be noted that Incredible PBX for Asterisk-GUI also supports Anveo Direct trunks; however, they are configured differently because of the way Anveo handles the calls. You’ll need the PIN provided by Anveo to set up your trunk, and Anveo supports CallerID spoofing so you can enter any CallerID number for the trunk that you are authorized to use. You’ll find the Anveo Direct setup link in the Incredible PBX Apps tab. To route an outgoing call through Anveo trunk, dial 2 + any desired 10-digit number.

Here is the complete list of dialing prefixes and the trunks to which they are associated:

  • 1 – Google Voice
  • 2 – Anveo Direct
  • 3 – Future Nine
  • 4 – CallCentric
  • 5 – DIDlogic
  • 6 – IPcomms
  • 7 – Les.net
  • 8 – Vitelity
  • 9 – VoIP.ms

For free iNUM calling worldwide, the following dialing prefixes are supported in conjunction with the last seven digits of any destination iNUM DID. Free iNUM DIDs for your own PBX are available from both of these providers as well.

  • 0XXXXXXX – CallCentric
  • 90XXXXXXX – VoIP.ms

5. Configure a Softphone with Incredible PBX for Asterisk-GUI

We’re in the home stretch now. You can connect virtually any kind of telephone to your new Gotcha-Free PBX. Plain Old Phones require an analog telephone adapter (ATA). Because your server is actually in the RentPBX Cloud, a standalone SIP device is required. Good choices are ObiHai’s OBi100 or OBi110 (if you have a phone line from Ma Bell to hook up as well). SIP phones can be connected directly so long as they have an IP address. These could be hardware devices or software devices such as the YateClient softphone. We’ll start with a free one today so you can begin making calls. You can find dozens of recommendations for hardware-based SIP phones both on Nerd Vittles and the PIAF Forum when you’re ready to get serious about VoIP telephony. Don’t forget to WhiteList the IP address of each SIP phone you wish to connect using /root/add-ip or /root/add-fqdn.

We recommend the YateClient softphone which is free. Download it from here. Run YateClient once you’ve installed it and enter the credentials for the 6002 extension on Incredible PBX. You’ll need the IP address of your server plus your extension 6002 password. Choose Users -> 6002 and write down your SIP/IAX Password. You can also find it in /root/passwords.FAQ. Fill in the blanks using the IP address of your server, 6002 for your account name, and whatever password is assigned to the extension. Click OK to save your entries.

Once you are registered to extension 6002, close the Account window. Then click on YATE’s Telephony Tab and place some test calls to the numerous apps that are preconfigured on Incredible PBX. Dial a few of these to get started:

7001 - IVR Demo
123 - Reminders
947 - Weather by ZIP Code
951 - Yahoo News
*61 - Time of Day
TODAY - Today in History

If you are a Mac user, another great no-frills softphone is Telephone. Just download and install it from the Mac App Store.

Configuring Google Voice

If you want to use Google Voice, you’ll need a dedicated Google Voice account to support Incredible PBX. The more obscure the username (with some embedded numbers), the better off you will be. This will keep folks from bombarding you with unsolicited Gtalk chat messages, and who knows what nefarious scheme will be discovered using Google messaging six months from now. So keep this account a secret!

IMPORTANT: Do NOT under any circumstances take Google’s bait to switch from Google Chat to Hangouts, or you will forever lose the ability to use Google Chat with Incredible PBX. Also be sure to enable the Google Chat option as one of your phone destinations in Settings, Voice Setting, Phones. That’s the destination we need for The Incredible PBX to work its magic! Otherwise, all inbound and outbound calls will fail. Thus far, Google has apparently had a change of heart on discontinuing Google Chat support so it’s enabled by default in all new Google Voice accounts. Nothing free lasts forever so make some alternative arrangements before disaster strikes!

Once you’ve created a Gmail and Google Voice account, go to Google Voice Settings and click on the Calls tab. Make sure your settings match these:

  • Call ScreeningOFF
  • Call PresentationOFF
  • Caller ID (In)Display Caller’s Number
  • Caller ID (Out)Don’t Change Anything
  • Do Not DisturbOFF
  • Call Options (Enable Recording)OFF
  • Global Spam FilteringON

Click Save Changes once you’ve adjusted your settings. Under the Voicemail tab, plug in your email address so you get notified of new voicemails. Down the road, receipt of a Google Voice voicemail will be a big hint that something has come unglued on your PBX.

One final word of caution is in order regardless of your choice of providers: Do NOT use special characters in any provider passwords, or nothing will work!

Now you’re ready to configure your Google Voice account in Incredible PBX. You can do it from within Asterisk-GUI by choosing Google Voice within the Incredible PBX Apps tab. Once you’ve entered your credentials, don’t forget to restart Asterisk, or Google Voice calls will fail. If you still have trouble placing or receiving calls, follow these tips.

OK, Smarty Pants: Show Me the Beef!

We know what some of you are thinking. "What does a fast food worker really know about VoIP and Gotcha-Free PBXs?? Before I waste a bunch of time on this, show me the beef!" Fair enough. Sit by your phone and click the Call Me icon below. Type in a fake name and your real phone number. Click the Connect button, answer your phone when it rings, and press 1. You’ll be connected to the Incredible PBX IVR for Asterisk-GUI. Pick an option from the menu of choices and take the Incredible PBX apps for a spin on our dime… actually it’s Google’s dime. Everything you see and hear is part of what you get with Incredible PBX for Asterisk-GUI including the ability to set up your own click-to-dial web interface exactly like this one. The demo just happens to be running on our Mac desktop. So… what are you waiting for? Click away and try Incredible PBX for yourself. And, by the way, nobody besides the NSA and Google will be monitoring your call. 😉

Nerd Vittles Demo IVR Options3
1 – Call by Name (say “Delta Airlines” or “American Airlines” to try it out)
2 – MeetMe Conference (password is 1234)
3 – Wolfram Alpha (say “What planes are overhead?”)
4 – Lenny (The Telemarketer’s Worst Nightmare)
5 – Today’s News Headlines
6 – Weather Forecast (say the city and state, province, or country)
7 – Today in History
8 – Speak to a Real Person (or maybe just voicemail if we’re out)

Homework Assignment: Mastering the Incredible Apps and Asterisk-GUI

Just Released: The Gotcha-Free Incredible PBX Application User’s Guide

Your next stop should be a careful reading of the new Incredible PBX Application User’s Guide. It documents the 31 apps for Asterisk that are included with your new PBX. You also need to learn all you can about Asterisk-GUI and how to make the best use of its powerful feature set. Here’s one word of warning. We mentioned that Incredible PBX was a hybrid system that combines some customized settings with the standard Asterisk-GUI interface. Before modifying existing settings for the default trunks, extensions, and default routes, take a look at the credentials* files in /etc/asterisk. If you modify any of these trunk entries or the Outgoing or Incoming Call Rules in Asterisk-GUI, you may break the Incredible PBX setup. So steer clear of that minefield until you know what you’re doing. Adding new extensions and additional trunks is perfectly fine and will not break anything.

Rather than reinvent the wheel, we’ll point you to some excellent tutorials that already have been written. Start with Chapter 3 of Digium’s Asterisk Appliance™ Administrator Manual. Next, review Chapter 11 of The Asterisk Book (Second Edition). Finally, take a look at a couple of the tutorials that have been written by other companies that incorporated Asterisk-GUI into their hardware products, e.g. Yeastar’s MyPBX SOHO User Manual and Grandstream’s UCM6100 User Manual.

In the meantime, if you have questions, join the PBX in a Flash Forums and take advantage of our awesome collection of gurus. There’s an expert available on virtually any topic, and the price is right. As with Incredible PBX, it’s absolutely free.

We also are quickly building a collection of tutorials tailored specifically for Incredible PBX for Asterisk-GUI:

Enjoy your new Gotcha-Free PBX in the Cloud!

Don’t forget to List Yourself in Directory Assistance so everyone can find you by dialing 411. Add your new number to the Do Not Call Registry to block telemarketing calls. Or call 888-382-1222 from your new number.

Originally published: Monday, February 23, 2015

Support Issues. With any application as sophisticated as this one, you’re bound to have questions. Blog comments are a terrible place to handle support issues although we welcome general comments about our articles and software. If you have particular support issues, we encourage you to get actively involved in the PBX in a Flash Forums. It’s the best Asterisk tech support site in the business, and it’s all free! Please have a look and post your support questions there. Unlike some forums, ours is extremely friendly and is supported by literally hundreds of Asterisk gurus and thousands of users just like you. You won’t have to wait long for an answer to your question.

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


Special Thanks to Our Generous Sponsors

FULL DISCLOSURE: ClearlyIP, Skyetel, Vitelity, DigitalOcean, Vultr, VoIP.ms, 3CX, Sangoma, TelecomsXchange and VitalPBX have provided financial support to Nerd Vittles and our open source projects through advertising, referral revenue, and/or merchandise. As an Amazon Associate and Best Buy Affiliate, we also earn from qualifying purchases. 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 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.

BOGO Bonaza: Enjoy state-of-the-art VoIP service with a $10 credit and half-price SIP service on up to $500 of Skyetel trunking with free number porting when you fund your Skyetel account. No limits on number of simultaneous calls. Quadruple data center redundancy. $25 monthly minimum spend required. Tutorial and sign up details are here.

The lynchpin of Incredible PBX 2020 and beyond is ClearlyIP components which bring management of FreePBX modules and SIP phone integration to a level never before available with any other Asterisk distribution. And now you can configure and reconfigure your new Incredible PBX phones from the convenience of the Incredible PBX GUI.

VitalPBX is perhaps the fastest-growing PBX offering based upon Asterisk with an installed presence in more than 100 countries worldwide. VitalPBX has generously provided a customized White Label version of Incredible PBX tailored for use with all Incredible PBX and VitalPBX custom applications. Follow this link for a free test drive!

Special Thanks to Vitelity. Vitelity is now Voyant Communications and has halted new registrations for the time being. Our special thanks to Vitelity for their unwavering financial support over many years and to the many Nerd Vittles readers who continue to enjoy the benefits of their service offerings. We will keep everyone posted on further developments.

Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

  1. Vitelity, Google, and RentPBX provide financial support to Nerd Vittles and the Incredible PBX project. []
  2. If, for some reason, the Asterisk CLI tab does not appear on your server, click Options -> Advanced Options -> Show Advanced Options. []
  3. Allison is available to record custom voice prompts with the same quality as this one. []