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AsteriskNOW vs Trixbox vs Elastix

Anyone who looks to install an Asterisk based PBX will at some stage probably ask themselves as to what package they should go with as it just doesn’t make sense to install everything manually unless you’re super-hardcore.   Some research reveals there are qute a few options being: AsteriskNOW, Trixbox, Elastix, PBX In A Flash (PIAF) and a few other small less popular releases.  Now deciding between which one to install is not that easy and requires a bit of research, unless of course you have come across this blog post because I’ve done the research and now sharing it with you.  One of the problems with doing the research is that much of the information out there is quite outdated and can give you the wrong impression of what you should go for.  I’ll go through each of the distributions and then give a conclusion.

AsteriskNOW 1.7.1 (at the time of writing)

AsteriskNOW is distrubution created and supported by Digium, the company behind Asterisk.  Although some older versions were not based on CentOS, version 1.7.1 is based on CentOS 5 so you get all the benefits of CentOS, being one of the widest used linux distributions that just works with plenty of info around if you need to do something with it.  One the one ISO disk that you download you have the option of what to install.  You can install v1.4 or v 1.6 of Asterisk and you can choose to either install the barebones installation OR the installation with a front-end management interface being either FreePBX or AsteriskGUI.  Personally, because I prefer to modify the config files directly without a GUI and because my configuration is more complex than either FreePBX or AsteriskGUI can support I chose to install the basic version of 1.6 wihout either FreePBX or AsteriskGUI.  This is not something I could coose to do with either Trixbox or the others (not sure abotu PIAF).  The installation only took like 5-10 minutes and was as smooth as you could dream of.  So if you don’t or need a GUI then AsteriskNOW would certainly be the package you choose.  Also, if you do want a GUI but don’t want to install all kinds of extra stuff or if you want to have a GUI but still make quite a few changes to the files directly then the installation option with AsteriskGUI could be the way to go for you.  This is what I did initially before I got so comfortable with the asterisk config files that I found the GUI to be more annoying and constraining than anything else. The one downside I found to AsteriskNOW is that there is very little in terms of documentation, but then again you don’t really need any as such.  Also another thing to note which I personally think is an advantage is that you only get the OS, Asterisk and the GUI when you install AsteriskNOW.  There is no other rubbish like vTiger or some other CRM and other crap.  A PBX is a critical part of any business infrastructure and personally I don’ t feel you should have all other kinds of rubbish installed on your PBX that is not directly to do with the PBX itself.  Chance are your business already has a CRM system so you don’t need to install and run one on the PBX itself.  And even if you do need a CRM system or some other stuff you should install it on an Application Server, not on your PBX.  If you don’t run all kinds of rubbish on your PBX you can get away with a pretty light spec in terms of hardware and let the PBX do it’s job of being a PBX and not an application server.  If you do want to install other rubbish on your PBX despite best practices then you can but at least you’re not forced to!

Trixbox

With Trixbox the only option you get is a pre-packaged solution with FreePBX and all kinds of other rubbish pre-installed.  The operating system is also CentOS.  The setup is nice and simple as well, but perhaps is not as nice as with AsteriskNOW.  If you know you’re going to be running your PBX with FreePBX (which uses an intermediary mysql database to store the config before writing it out to the config files, unlike AsteriskGUI which just reads in and modifies the config files) then Trixbox is an option for you.  I personally found that Trixbox had nothing to offer me over and above AsteriskNOW perhaps with the exception of better documentation and a larger community, but the reality is that most of that is FreePBX anyway.  Another drawback of Trixbox is the fact that you don’t have Digium behind it so when new versions of Asterisk come out they don’t get bundled anywhere near as quickly with Trixbox as they do with AsteriskNOW.  Trixbox made sense when AsteriskNOW didn’t exist or was in it’s infancy, but these days it doesn’t have all the benefits they it once did.

Elastix

Elastix is a similar beast to Trixbox.  It comes with lots and lots of rubbish pre-installed and is more of a do-everything distribution of an application server of which the PBX is only one part

PBX In a Flash (PIAF)

I can’t say I’ve looked much into PIAF but I really don’t see the reason for going with it when you have Asterisk NOW and Trixbox as available options.  PIAF doesn’t seem to be anywhere near as popular as the other 3 either.

Hope all of this helps you choose the right Asterisk distribution for you.

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  1. August 12th, 2011 at 09:54 | #1

    Thanks for the suggestions. I have been using PIAF for several years with a fairly complicated setup, and have had some intractable issues lately so wanted to rebuild or try another package. Have downloaded Asterisk NOW and will see how it goes on my test machine.

    The problem I have had with PIAF and (before that Trixbox) is that almost every piece of documentation contradicts some other documentation.

  2. JPB
    October 24th, 2011 at 21:57 | #2

    “There is no other rubbish like vTiger or some other CRM and other crap. A PBX is a critical part of any business infrastructure and personally I don’ t feel you should have all other kinds of rubbish installed on your PBX that is not directly to do with the PBX itself. ”
    My friend I suggest you ask the Businessman before making such comments, To make a call and receive a call / transfer etc is nothing, even MS can do it in their PBX. To integarate Business applications and make a Proper Salesforce to WORK with incomming and outgong calls – takes much more than what you offered.
    I guess we will have to ask someone else for a Proper VS write-up you were to lasy to look at it from all angles. Sorry m8

  3. October 25th, 2011 at 00:02 | #3

    I think given the fact that I actually own a moderate size business with about 20 staff and a 10 person call center I am actually in a position to pass judgement. In fact we actually have a very nice integration with the PBX including 4 large call center displays which show the call center staff how many calls are in the queues, how long they’ve been waiting, who’s on call and who’s available to take calls and so on. BUT, we didn’t wack all this stuff onto the PBX, because a PBX is exactly that, a PBX, not an application server for our CRM, ERP and every other system. For a 3-5 person company who can’t afford to invest into infrastructure putting everything onto a single box may be an option, but when you can afford to invest into infrastructure you’re far better off running your application server separately from your PBX, as there is far less chance of your PBX having issues when you don’t run every application under the sun on it. Why don’t you run your firewall, DNS, DHCP, Mail, MySQL, Web and every other server on the one box? Because it’s not good practice. If you want to do an el-cheapo solution than sure, but if you want a more solid solution then you should let the PBX be the PBX and not EVERYTHING.

  4. January 5th, 2012 at 00:53 | #4

    Hi Guys I am a newbie on this of pbx I am a consultant looking to learn one of this free pbx systems and stick to it like that I could offer a good quality service to my customers I am not good and coding and more like a network guy a person who goes to small business and help them going technology wise and right now I have two of my customers that ask me to help them with this I thought is a good opportunity for me to learn something new but I am not good with coding and even reading this post I couldn’t make up my mind which with system to go with I read in another post that trixbox possible will go away soon and I was hopping to use them for some reason free pbx is a no no. I help a business to switch from analog to nextiva well the customer were somewhat happy but they lost afew capabilities. please advice.

  5. January 10th, 2012 at 06:42 | #5

    I had a bit of trouble understanding the english in that post. I would basically say go with AsteriskNOW over Trixbox as it’s just the PBX without the bolt-on crap like CRM and so on, which doesn’t logically belong on the PBX.

  6. May 13th, 2012 at 01:28 | #6

    I have an extensive background in PBX’s and have tried out most of the Asterisk flavors you are talking about. Trixbox gets broken when you have to upgrade it. PIAF is Asterisk and the kitchen sink. It has the feel of a homemade system. It is very reliable. Elastix has the look and feel of a professional PBX. It is very stable and you can get limited support that is good if you understand English. Asterisk Now is just a PBX with basic functions. No addons are possible unless you get under the hood. The tech support with Asterisk now is fantastic when you call Digium. I would recommend PIAF if you want every feature available in the world, Elastix if you want a corporate PBX with a great user experience, and Asterisk Now if you want a solid basic PBX.

    I agree with the writer of this article that you can write your own asterisk configuration files, however if you want a system that works out of the box go with one of the three I have mentioned. From download to a working PBX can be done in half a day or less.

    There are a lot of commercial versions available from companies like Toshiba, Schmooze, Evolution, and others. Google is your friend.

    We use and setup Elastix for customers.

  7. November 6th, 2012 at 16:25 | #7

    Hi,
    I’m looking to set up a PBX for my phone system (company is just me right now), just going to set up one phone (maybe a softphone for now) and a SIP client on my smartphone, same extension, direct ring, no IVR, IP fax for both incoming and outgoing, voicemail. I have a client that outsources their on-site support to me and they do a lot of Asterisk hosted PBXs for their clients. After discussing things with them, they suggested I get a free Amazon Web Services account and install Trixbox as a way to get familiar with Asterisk. I’ve learned that Trixbox is now discontinued so I was looking for alternatives. While I’m not afraid of a CLI or a little scripting, I’m a hardware guy, I’d rather be soldering components onto a PCB than playing with code, so GUIs are great for me.
    I looked for alternatives and based on my needs I thought Elastix might be the best option since it has proper fax support. I haven’t read anything that said these other distros have a CRM and such, but I’ll take your word for it, and it make sense that CRM and other stuff that isn’t specifically telephony related should not be on the PBX, fax support makes sense to me on the PBX.
    What would you suggest is the best option for me? I’m obviously on a very tight budge just starting up, and free solutions (even without support) are ideal.

    Thanks,
    Daniel

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