What is an open source phone system?

By Stan Baldwin
Updated: January 26, 2011

The concept of open source software has been with us for decades. In the personal computer operating system world Linux, an implementation of the Unix operating system, has steadily gained advocates against the offerings from Redmond and Cupertino.

Overview

An open source telephone system is built on generic computer hardware, avoiding both the significant costs of specialized equipment as well as the unique capabilities that equipment affords. The open source software offers a programming interface and encourages users to create the features and tools they need. The results are frequently shared with other users.

An open source reseller will typically offer a “standard” implementation which includes all the features most small businesses should need. The appropriate selections from the vast array of user contributions addressing equipment interfaces, protocol drivers, routing, media management and so on, can be tested and included in the supported open source based implementation. The reseller's experienced staff is also available to add whatever unique features a particular business customer may want and can afford.

Advantages

The advantages of open source begin with the lack of a licensing fee and extend through the diverse catalog of contributions made by the community of users, to the flexibility of implementation which permits the code modifications required to meet the needs of each organization.

Disadvantages

The disadvantages of open source software mirror the advantages. No license costs means the expenses of maintaining the software must be borne internally. The ability to write your own code requires you also test and support that code. The stability of code contributed by other users cannot be assumed. Many of the economies of scale afforded the commercial providers of software are not available to companies choosing to “roll their own” by building on an open source foundation.

A middle ground between one-size-fits-all off-the-shelf commercial programs and the challenging world of open source DIY is available. Many organizations do build their own Linux based systems, but businesses tend to look to an intermediary which can provide a stable implementation, technical support and help with customization when needed. The “resellers” of open source operating systems provide the model for a number of companies now offering “supported” implementations of open source VoIP software.

While a cost savings with open source VoIP is probable, the long term attractions are more likely to be the greater degree of control over this key business tool and the ability to add, remove or modify the functionality to closely match the needs of your business.
 

Featured Research
  • [Infographic] 8 Common Pain Points UC Eliminates

    Every company has moments of frustration, it is when these moments become extended periods of inefficiency, or pain points, where we start to see loss in productivity and employee morale. What truly sets a successful business apart from those of its competitors, is how they take these pain points and use them as opportunities to improve upon procedures and systems to eliminate pain points and move beyond what was the status quo. more

  • Go VoIP and Go Green

    You may be looking to switch to VoIP because of the cost benefits that it will bring your company, but did you know that it is also FAR BETTER than traditional phone systems for the environment as well? With environmental impact being at the forefront of both consumer and business minds, it is essential that business decisions are made now based on economic AND ecological impact. more

  • eGuide: Comparing UC Vendors

    Changing your company’s business communications solution is an investment in time and money that will touch everyone in your organization. A successful unified communications (UC) deployment should streamline everyone’s work flow, simplify IT operations and deliver a lowered total cost of operations. Your company deserves nothing less. more

  • Getting More from Your VoIP System

    Too many businesses fall into the trap of setting up their VoIP as a "plug and play" and getting to work. However, we have found that this thinking only leads to businesses failing to get the most out of their VoIP experience. We have put together an in-depth guide that will walk you through 15 easy steps to get more out of your system. more

  • Making Your Phone System Work

    Deciding what to do about a legacy phone system can be difficult. The advantages of modern systems like VoIP are well-documented, but the switch can still be resource intensive. Updating your old system is usually the better decision, but circumstances often make this impossible. Fortunately, there are other ways to improve and tweak an existing system to enjoy better performance. more