Mind Your Business: The Asterisk Alternative

By Steve Michaels

Q. I have older call center equipment and need to upgrade. I have heard about a new telephony platform/switch called Asterisk. What is it, and can I use it for my telemessaging call center?

A. Asterisk is an open source software telephony engine and is available for download free of charge. It seems to be the buzzword in our industry, as it enables you to offer robust features using standard computers and off-the-shelf servers. This telephony platform has been adopted by call centers and telemessaging companies because of its robustness, flexibility, and price. It provides all the capabilities of current systems with features like remote agent, barge-in or coaching, IVR, advanced skill-based ACD, automated custom attendant, conference bridge, voice logging, voicemail, predictive dialing, and unified messaging; it can even serve as the telephony interface for your call center’s website.

The telephony of Asterisk interoperates with traditional standards-based telephony equipment using relatively inexpensive hardware or Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) systems. It can be configured as the core of an IP or hybrid PBX, switching calls, managing least-cost-routing, enabling features, and connecting callers with the outside world over IP, analog (POTS), and digital (T1/E1) connections.

Internet Service Providers (ISPs), call centers, telemessaging services, competitive local exchange carriers, and first-tier incumbents are using open source Asterisk software. Feature servers, hosted services, voicemail systems, and prepaid calling solutions based on Asterisk have reduced call center costs and provided flexibility for these businesses, as well as many others.

If service is a concern, the hardware used to power this system is off the shelf from your local computer store, saving you money by not having to pay service and maintenance fees to a distantly located vendor. In addition, hot-swappable servers are also available, allowing immediate on-the-fly cutovers during an equipment failure.

There are several vendors who are now offering and supporting an Asterisk platform with full-featured applications specific to the telemessaging industry. Therefore, if you have an old system that needs upgrading, the Asterisk solution may be the cost-effective option you seek.

Steve Michaels is a business broker with TAS Marketing and can be contacted at 800-369-6126 or tas@tasmarketing.com for questions.

[From Connection Magazine March 2009]

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