Is it Possible to Outgrow an Open Source PBX?

An update to this blog post can be found here or at the bottom of this page.

Many small businesses have started with an open source PBX like FreePBX or another one based on Asterisk. But once you have that in place, is it possible that you might need to move to a more business-oriented solution– one that is supported? In other words, is it possible you might outgrow what you started with?

Open source PBXs are perfect… for the right customer. If you as a customer are programming oriented, then digging into an open source PBX is great. And it might be fun to go download new releases and pick the specific phones you want and keep the system updated with the latest security upgrades.

But let’s say your business grows. And you have less time for that than you used to. Or the techie guy who first said, “hey, let’s do this open source thing,” has moved on, leaving you with an unsupported mess!

Certainly in that case it would make sense to upgrade to a commercial system, so that someone else handles the updates, the support, the specific upgrades required, and has a choice of phones and SBCs that work with the unit. The system can still be open source-based and can behave like you are used to, but you’d have more time to run the business. In other words, it could be a supported open source communications system.

Or let’s say you need other features beyond what the open source version offers. You might want specific routing capability. You might want to add on applications beyond simple phone calls. You might want to add smartphone support via a smartphone client. You need MORE.

In all these cases, it makes sense that you would “outgrow” what you are currently using. We’ve had customers start with an Asterisk-based PBX, moved to FreePBX from Sangoma (also based on Asterisk), and then from there moved to the Sangoma commercially-supported PBX version PBXact.

It definitely makes sense for a growing business.

Yesterday, I wrote a blog called “Is it Possible to Outgrow an Open Source PBX?”. The blog was misconstrued with regards to how I stated the premise of situations that may call for someone to move to a commercially supported PBX. It was insensitive to our open source community and the great work they do. If I offended anyone, I am sorry. Yesterday’s blog post does not represent any change in Sangoma’s commitment to our open source projects or the ecosystems around them. Open source projects continue to play a vital role within our business, and we are thankful for all those who choose to be a part of the broader open source telephony ecosystem.

Let me try to state the premise I was trying to convey in yesterday’s blog post in a different fashion.

It’s easy to get started with building a PBX with Asterisk or FreePBX. That’s why they have been so successful – they’re great platforms and they’re easy to use. One downside, however, is that building your own PBX puts the burden of updates (to the underlying operating system as well as telephony platform) on you if you are managing the system yourself, or on someone else if you outsource that work. Unlike most phone systems of the 20th century, a modern PBX is just another type of computer server and needs to be updated and maintained just like any other server.

So what are your options when it comes to maintenance? If you’re not comfortable doing the maintenance yourself, you could go to an integrator who specializes in support of open source telephony platforms. (Luckily, you’re not locked into just one vendor for help!) Another option is to use a turn-key solution or hosted solution that minimizes the amount of maintenance you need to do. That’s all I was trying to say – there are options to reducing your maintenance burden.

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