Asterisk Anxiety

Approximately 48 hours from now, Asterisk will be in full production usage at work. I have phones deployed to 8 out of 10 desks in my office right now and have instructed those users to be using that Aastra 9133i for all of their outgoing calls. Late Wednesday afternoon, our numbers will be ported from our old POTS lines with BellSouth/AT&T to our new PRI from USLEC/Paetec. I can’t help but be a little nervous about the whole situation. I know I’ve done my homework, crossed most of my t’s and dotted most of my i’s, but I still feel just a little bit anxious about it. Part of me is just scared to death that it’s going to blow up in my face and leave me holding the bag containing about $5,000 worth of VoIP/telephony hardware.

I have little doubt that the system, a Dell PowerEdge 830 with a Dual-Core P4 3.20GHz HT and 2 gigs of RAM, can handle the load, and I have little doubt that we will have any issues with the PRI. I believe most of my concern stems from how my users (aka co-workers) will embrace the new technology. People typically do not like change, and there will be a great deal of change involved here. Yes, it’s still a phone – you pick it up, dial a number, and get the person on the other end, and for my co-workers who only use that, they will care less. However, the voicemail works differently, conferencing works differently, and most importantly, they’re losing the “Line 1, Line 2, Line 3, etc.” functionality that they are all so used to. No longer will they be able to say “You have a call on Line X” but instead, they’ll have to transfer the call directly to that person’s extension. Also, our current “operator” is losing her ability to glance at her phone and see that x20 is on the phone or Line 3 is on hold. I’m planning to eventually bring this functionality back, but it will be a few weeks.

Once thing that I think is super-cool is how you can integrate Asterisk into pretty much anything. I plan to add our phone status on to our company intranet so that anyone can view our corporate phone list online and see if John Doe is on the phone or not before dialing the number.

The final item I’m most concerned about is reliability in regards to system failure/disaster-recovery. I have full faith in Asterisk and my ability to admin it most of the time, but what happens if the system crashes while I’m on vacation? Yikes – that’s what happens. I’m not presently aware of any consultants that have Asterisk experience within at least 50 miles of here – maybe farther than that. I should probably consider keeping a spare T1 interface card on hand, but it’s going to be hard to justify a $450 part sitting on the shelf “just in case” since my budget is already blown.

If you run Asterisk in a production environment, please drop me a note – I’d love to chat with you about it sometime.