Users and customers frequently ask why Digium offers both the free-and-open Asterisk engine and the commercial Switchvox IP PBX solution. The answer is simple: while both products fit into the larger universe of telecommunications technologies, they have very different purposes and are geared towards very different audiences.

Asterisk is built by and for communication systems developers. The resulting product is an engine that handles all of the low-level details of initiating, maintaining and manipulating calls between endpoints (phones). Since the initial release it’s been tested and refined by a community of more than 80,000 developers and integrators in 170 countries around the world.

Digium’s line of Switchvox IP PBX systems, based on the Asterisk engine, is administered through an easy to use graphical user interface (GUI) rather than raw configuration files and custom scripts. The Switchvox PBX includes all of the standard features of phone system plus Unified Communications capabilities like advanced voice messaging, instant messaging, desktop fax, drag/drop call control, multi-party conferencing and advanced IVR. Features that would cost thousands to bolt onto a traditional phone system are now available at an affordable price since the system is based on Asterisk open source software.

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So who should really pick Switchvox instead of Asterisk? People who aren’t telecom gurus who need a powerful, easy to install, easy to maintain, reasonably priced phone system. Don’t get us wrong: it’s entirely possible to create a powerful PBX system using raw Asterisk. The challenge of running Asterisk as a PBX is the deployment time, your ability to create code and maintain the system. Building an IP PBX out of raw Asterisk requires some fairly advanced technical skills, including a good working knowledge of IP networking, Linux/Unix system administration skills, traditional telephony experience and script programming know-how.

If you’re technically inclined and want to build a communication product or solution, then Asterisk is for you. If you’re in need of a great IP PBX phone system for your business at a great price, check out Switchvox.

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