Home Forums SecAst (Security for Asterisk) General Which Asterisk distribution should I use? Reply To: Which Asterisk distribution should I use?

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To start with, you should be aware that there is only one Asterisk ‘distribution’ and it’s from Digium. it’s a telephony engine only (no GUI) – it’s powerful and many large enterprise users demand the level of control afforded by using this powerful engine directly (no GUI).

Next there are configuration generators, which add a nice GUI to Asterisk. (But Asterisk is still the telephony engine handling your PBX). These configuration generators hide a lot of complexity (and power) of Asterisk so they’re not right for everyone. There are undoubtedly lots of opinions on the best configuration generator but here’s my opinion:

  • Issabel: The Issabel project arose from the ashes of the Elastix project. This is one of the few remaining fully open source PBX’s. As noted below with Elastix, much of the support community and forums are in Spanish (but there is a lot of English too), but the product is suitable for all languages. Issabel remains a popular PBX and is rapidly growing as FreePBX popularity wanes
  • xCally Motion: A popular configuration generator in Europe and Africa, and growing in popularity in North America. xCally Motion is squarely targeted at small call centers. The user interface is slick and the range of features is impressive.
  • VitalPBX: A PBX distribution that is closed source and is trying to build a following. Initial reports from this PBX are positive and we expect popularity to keep growing. The roots of this distro are Ombutel (which is also the basis for Xorcom). Despite the common ancestry with Xorcom, this distro has surpassed Xorcom and is on track to be a serious contender. A slick UI, good features, and a small but dedicated development team make this worthy of consideration.
  • FreePBX: A popular open-source configuration generator in North America. FreePBX has a nice GUI and is a popular product. However, reports of frequent bugs which can disable features or crash the PBX cause some concern (don’t update if it’s working). Well suited to small office / home office installations. Beware: The Sangoma website constantly steers you to the “FreePBX Distro”, which is confusingly similar in name to “FreePBX”. See below.
  • FreePBX Distro: Based on FreePBX (but this distro is heavily closed source), this distro comes on an easy to install CD. However, at every turn this product pushes you towards commercial add-ons, registration, activation, etc. As well, there are reports that updates cause your PBX to upload ALL of your configuration data (including employee names, email address, etc. defined in the voicemail config) to Sangoma. Stay CLEAR of this one.
  • PBX In A Flash: This distribution is actually approximately 13 different distributions. The authors take other distributions and repackage them, often taking out commercial code to support a purely open source movement. The PIAF repackaging of FreePBX was one of the most popular distributions available (particularly since FreePBX is moving towards closed source and commercial). However, as FreePBX is closing its source code PIAF is trying to find a new position in the marketplace.
  • Elastix: A popular configuration generator in Latin America. A mostly open source product with strong support for Spanish users (and English too). Although not as popular as some of the others, their open source commitment was building a dedicated following. Legal troubles have shut down the product, and as of 2017 they are offering a free edition of ‘3CX’ for windows as a replacement. (Most users are switching to a different configuration generator).
  • Thirdlane: A small distribution whose claim to fame was multi-tenant PBX’s (as used by hosted PBX resellers). However, the advent of virtual machines (one tenant per VM), as well as other players offer multi tenant capabilities, has left this distribution as a niche player.
  • WaZo: A small distribution that combines a wide variety of technologies that tries to create a telephony solution to every problem (router, gateway, SBC, UC, etc). However, weak documentation, and what appears to be a very long list of issues keeps this project best suited to hackers. Trying to be all things to all people prevents this distribution from doing one thing very well.
  • Other: There are lots more distributions as well, so I’ll update this post over time.

So if I had to recommend one distribution for you to look at first, I would recommend Issabel v4. Second choice would be VitalPBX, and third choice would be FreePBX (open source, NOT distro).

There is oly one distro that I would suggest you stay clear of, so avoid “FreePBX Distro“. It comes as an easy-to-install CD/ISO, which suckers a lot of people in, but you are being led down a proprietary path and puts your private information at risk.