FreePBX 15 Alpha Now Available for Testing

It’s been a long time since we last updated you on the work in FreePBX 15. We started working on FreePBX 15 around August of last year. Throughout this time, we’ve continued to support FreePBX 14 and 13 with countless bug fixes and even a few new features. In this post we’d like to bring you up to speed on what’s been going on in FreePBX.

When we began working on FreePBX 15 our goal was to limit the number of features being added to focus on a small number of pain points we’ve repeatedly heard about from YOU! In fact, it’s your feedback that’s helped us to complete the 2 major features of this release; a reworked version of backup & restore with the ability to do between major version restores (want to back up from 14 and restore to 15? Now you can!) and a way to allow you to better integrate FreePBX into your existing workflow and processes using an API (Application Programming Interface).

FreePBX 15

Learn more about the new Backup and Restore in FreePBX 15 on our wiki: https://wiki.freepbx.org/pages/viewpage.action?pageId=114852215

While we’ve been quiet since January with our most recent blog post asking for additional feedback on FreePBX 15, the team has been hard at work ensuring we are able to deliver on what we promised and give everyone a chance to play with it. Without further ado, on behalf of the FreePBX and Sangoma team, we are officially releasing FreePBX 15.0 in alpha today for everyone to play with. In this alpha release, all open source FreePBX modules support the new backup & restore methods, which will allow for between major version restores. Instead of trying to group all data together in backup & restore each module is now responsible for its own data during the backup and restore process. Second, we have completed about 10 modules using our new built-in API, powered by GraphQL with more planned soon.

FreePBX 15

Learn more about the FreePBX API on our wiki https://wiki.freepbx.org/display/FPG/API

Now with that said, we also know that we asked you for feedback for what you wanted to see in FreePBX and we’ve been actively watching and listening to your suggestions. Unfortunately though, we were unable take on the added workload and really focus on any additional features you’ve ask for, but we look forward to working with the community to bring them to future releases of FreePBX.

Great, but how do I get FreePBX 15?

In the past, we’ve traditionally released an ISO and asked everyone to download and install for testing. However, we are taking a different approach this year with the hopes that it’s easier on YOU to test and provide feedback on the new functionality. This year we are releasing a version upgrade module but not through our traditional methods. Usually we release the version upgrade module via module admin, when we release our release candidates allowing customers to upgrade from the previous version, as we feel the product is close to its final release. This year we are releasing the version upgrade module at the link below which users can manually choose to download, upload and install to move to 15 and not wait for FreePBX 15 to be released as a Release Candidate. Once we feel FreePBX 15 is closer to an RC we will publish new ISOs and move the version upgrader into the module admin system in FreePBX.

However, before rushing off to upgrade your system, please note that this is NOT INTENDED FOR PRODUCTION USE. Let’s me say that one more time, please DO NOT INSTALL THIS ON A PRODUCTION SYSTEM! The version upgrade module is being provide for users to upgrade a new installation or backup of an existing system. The code will have bugs and at this point shouldn’t be relied on for production use.

To try out FreePBX 15, follow the following steps:

At this point you have done the equivalent of downloading and installing the module as if it had been available online. To complete the process, select the ’15 Upgrade Tool’ from the FreePBX Menu and follow the instructions on the screen to upgrade to the ALPHA version of FreePBX 15.

We hope you enjoy this release and that it makes working with FreePBX easier for everyone moving forward. As always, please report any issues to issues.freepbx.org.

Andrew Nagy, On behalf of the FreePBX Team

Choosing the Right IP Phone: Part 1 – End User Features

Choosing an IP Phone for your business can be an overwhelming task when considering today’s extensive market offerings. It’s difficult to identify the clear ‘winner’ when most makes and models offer similar hardware specifications when compared to their class, such as large color displays, multiple programmable buttons, HD voice, speakerphone and more line extensions than you’ll ever need.

So, playing the numbers game down a data sheet is clearly not the correct way to make a selection, but then how do you make the right choice?

The compelling differences between IP phone vendors becomes evident when focusing on the level of integration they have with the phone system (or PBX) they are paired with. Typically, IP phones designed by the same manufacturer as the phone system provide the highest level of integration because all the time and money is spent perfecting the combination. This allows the IP phone to leverage the full software capabilities of that phone system, enabling phone users with an advanced level of features. Check back soon for a future blog post where we will be discussing phone system features.

For businesses using FreePBX or PBXact phone systems, the IP phones that have the tightest level of integration are Sangoma s-Series IP phones, since they are all designed to work together and made by the same manufacturer – Sangoma Technologies. The s-Series IP phones offer users many advanced features and in fact go even a step further to offer some very unique features not seen on the market today.

Some of Sangoma’s s-Series IP phone unique features are:

BLF (Busy Lamp Field) Long & Short Press: The ability to long press or short press BLF extensions to have customized actions. For example, you can program a BLF extension so that it can intercom the extension if idle state, or go straight to voicemail on busy state, by simply short pressing the BLF extension. BLF Long & Short Press Features Guide

5-way Conference Calling with Leader Drop-off: Allows users to intuitively add up to 5 participants on a phone call. Great for taking care of business right away instead of having to schedule a conference call to invite your parties. The conference leader can even disconnect from the call without affecting others on the call. More on Conference Calling

Phone Apps: Advanced phone applications allowing users to control most popularly used features using the display and navigation buttons. Think of PhoneApps as having full-screen control to manage each of the tools most commonly used, such as DND, call-forwarding, conferencing, which completely eliminate the need to remember feature codes. This saves users and businesses time and money. List of Phone Apps & Demos

UC Intelligent Features: Most of the features users control from their IP phone are actually adjusted on the phone system! This keeps all the intelligence with the phone system (and not locally on the phone) so that it is able to do things such as: update all the user’s other devices when they update their presence settings to Do-Not-Disturb; send voicemail to the user’s extension if a call is forwarded to the user’s alternate number which goes unanswered…etc. Many of the other manufactures’ phone features are controlled locally on the phone, leaving the phone system unaware of those change, which spells unexpected phone events for users. What is UC?

UCP Integration: Ability to customize Sangoma IP phone programmable buttons and PhoneApp settings directly from the User Control Panel of FreePBX and PBXact, allowing users to customize the look and feel of their s-Series phones without the need for IT support. Check Out UCP for EndPoint Manager

So, which is the right IP phone for you? It all depends on what type of solution you are looking for. If you are looking for a basic phone any phone will do, but if you are looking for a solution to help users be more productive, save your business time and provide staff and customers the best experience possible, then it’s the IP phone that best utilizes its ecosystem.

For more information on Sangoma IP Phones for FreePBX or PBXact visit: https://www.sangoma.com/products/phones/

FreePBX 14, Distro 14 & More!

It’s sure been an amazing year here at Sangoma. We are finally proud to announce the official stable release of FreePBX 14 and also the stable release of our Enterprise Linux 7 based distro which contains many updated system libraries, not least of which is PHP 5.6.31, NodeJS 8.1.4, and Python 3.6.

Over the last 16 months, we’ve been hard at work developing FreePBX 14, and we’d like to highlight four (of the many) major improvements: Auto-Update Security Releases, Distro updates in Module Admin, Calendar Module, and an upgraded User Control Panel (UCP). To learn more about all of the new features of FreePBX 14 make sure to checkout our last blog on FreePBX: https://www.freepbx.org/freepbx-14-release-candidate/

Since then, we’ve also introduced a few major features in parallel into FreePBX 13 (that are also in FreePBX 14), the most significant one being multiple and improved directory support in User Manager. Now you can setup multiple Active Directories, LDAP directories and internal directories to control the Users that are on your PBX. FreePBX will even auto create extensions for you from your remote directories. Of course, as FreePBX is an Open Source project, this is all completely free!

You may be asking yourself “What does a new version of PHP or NodeJS get me?”. Previously in FreePBX 13 and lower we were working with PHP 5.3 and NodeJS 0.12. By requiring newer versions of these as part of FreePBX 14, apart from significant improvements in the languages themselves, the performance improvements are the most noticeable difference. This means you’ll have a snappier FreePBX on your hand, with much quicker reload times. Behind the scenes, on the back end, we are also able to utilize new libraries that also have performance improvements in themselves.


https://lornajane.net/posts/2014/php-5-6-benchmarks/

We’ve started work on FreePBX 15 which we hope to have an early release of in October 2017. Three of the most important features we are planning for FreePBX 15 is a complete revamp of our RestAPI, Backup and Restore upgrades, so you will – in the future – be able to restore from and to a different versions (Only 15 and higher, so will be able to restore – for example – 15 into 16 or 17 into 15), and a new File Store module, which will allow you to store backups (or faxes and other files) on S3, FTP, email, ssh and more!

Over the next year we will also be working on bringing FreePBX onto PHP 7.x with commercial modules.

With the release of this blog we have also released a version of the FreePBX module “Version Upgrader”, which is for standard manual, or custom installed systems, and will help the owner upgrade all the associated packages (PHP, and Node, as mentioned above). For FreePBX Distro installs we are fine tuning and checking a simple one-line command that you can run on your server to upgrade the Operating System to 7, and FreePBX to 14 at the same time, all automatically. Of course, when running this RPM your system will reboot and there will be downtime, and there are some minor prerequisites (such as a 64 bit machine, and at least 10gb of free space). As of today the distro upgrader is being released as a public beta, and more information is available on our wiki page: https://wiki.freepbx.org/display/PPS/Upgrading+from+FreePBX+10.13.66+to+SNG7

Please remember, as adoption of FreePBX grows there may be things we missed. If you find any issues please open a bug at https://issues.freepbx.org and we’ll look into it as soon as we can. You can also ask for help on our Community Forums, where you may be able to get assistance from experts in the community, too.

Thank you for using FreePBX and we look forward to what develops through 2017!

The Value of a Professional Voice

I regularly contribute blog articles and speak at telephony conferences about IVR Best Practices. One of the key points that I always wish to impart is: getting your auto-attendant and IVR prompts voiced by a professional is not only be a great idea – it’s a move which will inform your callers of your professionalism and overall image awareness.

One popular line of thinking is: “Let’s just get the person answering phones at the front desk to voice the message. They talk all day, how hard can it be?”

And it’s true: your front-office staffers are probably very capable, and even willing to voice your custom prompts – and they may even do an acceptable job. But there can be issues with using staff instead of hiring a voice-over pro.

The Employee Working the Front Desk Can Change. The staffer that you enlist to voice your auto attendant might move to a different position or leave the company. Now making changes to your IVR becomes an issue. Do you just use another employee? I recently called the IVR of the largest cable provider in Canada, and I counted 15 different voices on their IVR. It sounds inconsistent, disorganized, and amateurish. You want to demonstrate continuity and professionalism when clients call your business. A professional IVR, using the same voice for all the prompts in your system, will give callers a sense of consistency, familiarity, and stability.

Employees Will Be Recording Directly Into the Phone. When you hire a voice-over professional, you’re getting clean, clear digital files, recorded in a professional environment. The files can be converted into any format/codec your system requires. You want to project an image of a professional company. Editing is included, removal of breathing, unnecessary pauses and background noises make the professional difference.

Professionals are Available and You Are Not Taking Them Off a Project. Chances are – even though a staffer might be on your actual premises – they may not be available for corrections/additions/updates the way a dedicated professional would be. Your staffer was hired for a purpose – and voicing telephone prompts isn’t what they should be busy with. A task like voicing and editing prompts for the phone menu will likely get stuffed down on the list of importance, and not be given the proper attention – whereas it’s my core competency.

There’s a Reason Why My Husband and I Go Out for Sushi Instead of Making it at Home. I’m a pretty fair cook, and can actually make my own sushi at home – but not easily and not quickly. It’s a skillset – and if making sushi was my job, I’d be pretty darn good at it. Letting a professional prepare your sushi means you don’t have to worry about all the ingredients and steps; you simply get to enjoy a great experience. So it is with IVR.

Computer-Generated Voices Sound like Computers. Another perceived “shortcut” which many view as a work-around to hiring a pro to voice your system is the implement a Text to Speech utility – where phrases are typed in and the utility spews forth sentences. While a good stop-gap measure/temporary replacement for “holes” in your IVR, even the well-executed ones will always have an “automated” sound to them. There are many people that are turned off by a machine recording, saying it feels impersonal. (When I voiced the Allison TTS Engine – Cepstral’s #1-selling TTS voice – clients kidded me that I’ve replaced myself with a “machine”. Even the one built on my voice is a poor substitute for custom IVR recorded from scratch.)

The takeaway: while everyone can speak, hiring a professional to voice your auto attendant, IVR, greetings, and on-hold systems makes a much better impression on customers, setting your company above your competition and demonstrating your professionalism. Professional IVR is an easy and affordable investment in your corporate image and should be a serious consideration for anyone building a phone system your customers will use daily.

Allison Smith is a professional telephone voice, heard on platforms for Cisco, Vonage, ShoreTel, Bell Canada, Cincinnati Bell, Mitel, and the Asterisk Open Source PBX. Web: www.theivrvoice.com. Twitter: @voicegal. You can purchase her custom professional voice prompts easily and directly from Sangoma in the FreePBX Store.

Webinar: Improve Team Collaboration with Sangoma’s Zulu UC Softphone

Sangoma webinar

Thursday, June 1, 2017 @ 7AM & 2PM EDT

Register

As more of today’s workforce is working outside of the office, organizations need to update their communication tools to ensure team collaboration is up to speed.

Sangoma’s Zulu UC is the ultimate Desktop integration tool that improves work place productivity and communication. Designed for FreePBX and PBXact Phone Systems, Zulu offers many features and benefits to your employees.

Zulu UC Features

  • Zulu Softphone client, featuring:
    • Chat – Includes individual / group messaging with emojis
    • SMS & FAX with SIPStation service
    • Contact Calling – So you never have to remember anyone’s phone number
  • Click-to-Call from Web Browsers, Outlook Email Client and CRM Helpdesks
  • Call-Pop for helpdesk integration

Coming Soon: Zulu Mobile Client for iOS / Android and Screen Sharing

Attendees of this live webinar will receive 50% off a 1-year license of Zulu UC. See below for terms and details.

This is the best deal we’ve released this year, so don’t miss out!

*Offer includes 50% off a 1-year license of Zulu UC inside the Sangoma Portal Store. Promotion valid from Thursday June 1, 2017 at 12:00AM EDT until Friday June 16, 2017 at 11:59PM EDT. Not valid on prior purchases. All transactions must be completed, checked out and paid in full by the cut off time. No extensions or exceptions will be made. Offer applies to 1-year license only. All prices are listed in USD, and priced as listed at time of checkout. Sangoma is not responsible for typo’s or omissions in prices listed above, module purchases are subject to the commercial module EULA. Purchases must be made directly in the Portal store, as promotion codes are not integrated into Module Admin purchasing within the FreePBX GUI. Please ensure you are choosing the correct PBX deployment you wish to purchase add-ons for, we cannot move licenses once purchased.