Among our favorite things regarding work in the Internet telephony business is the hands-on fun with equipment. Falling in this spectrum of hands-on joy is building telephony solutions with freely available platforms in the market.
Until recently, we have focused on Asterisk based systems such as 3CX for Windows, FreePBX and Elastix, to name a few. Owned by Digium, Asterisk is the preferred open technology for VoIP systems. Because various companies develop unique solutions with this technology, it is the most popular Internet open source IP PBX in the world.
All have their strengths though each have different methods for applying and utilizing the features of the system. Of course, other platforms exist as well like those based on FreeSWITCH. The sipXecs from SIPfoundry is one of many that use this technology as the basis for a VoIP platform. Like more developed Asterisk platforms, sipXecs has many native bonus features that simply require the toggling of existing settings.
UPDATE MAY 2015: SipXecs is now SipXcom, long story as to why this has happened, but for an update on SipXcom please view our new SipXcom guide.
Beefing up sipXecs
If you have some free time on your hands, find a spare computer – or create a virtual machine – and dedicate it to an installation of sipXecs. If following the guide from beginning to end, you can have a working calling solution in about 30 minutes, depending on how long it takes your machine to install the system.
Once configured, several additional features are available to supplement the system, without having to add additional modules like most Asterisk based platforms. Most features are available from the start and only require activation plus some setting changes.
Add Instant Messaging
Adding Instant Messaging (IM) to a phone system can be very productive as it enables a quick form of communication for employees. Like Asterisk, the core technology used for IM in sipXecs is based on the open standard called XMPP.
Implementing messaging into an installation is a fairly straightforward process. However, utilizing this feature will vary from device to device. Most soft-phones will have this capability yet some IP phones and most analog phones connected with an ATA will not.
To get started, first login to your system via a web browser from a computer on the LAN. Hover over the Systems tab and click on the Servers sub item. Next, click on the Instant Messaging item from the menu on the left. The next screen will look like the one depicted in Figure 1. Check both boxes and apply the settings.
Figure 1: Enabling XMPP
After this step is completed, head to the Users tab. Find a user you would like to use instant messaging with – if you want, all users can have the ability to use the feature because, well, why not?
Figure 2: Enable Messaging for a User
Go to the Instant Messaging option in the left menu and you should see the item featured in Figure 2 in the main area of the page. Make sure you check the Enabled box, unlike Figure 2, and apply the settings. Users registered for the service should be able to message each other with compatible IP phones and softphones.
Figure 3: Getting a Message on ZoiPer for Windows
Figure 3 seen above is an example of a message seen when an incoming message is pending while using ZoiPer for Windows. Clicking the Allow button will receive the message from the user indicated in the message.
Figure 4: The Message
After accepting the transmission from ZoiPer for Windows, a popup will appear on the screen as seen in Figure 4. From here, you can carry out a text based conversation. Note that other applications and phones on the market will have different methods for utilizing text messaging services.
This feature is not a something most would consider a “must have.” Video chatting can be done for free without utilizing your own resources. Not much else can be done aside from viewing the user on the other end of the conversation, unlike many popular screen sharing applications but it is a cool feature, nonetheless. Incidentally if you are interested in screen sharing applications, take a look at our GoTo Meeting vs WebEx article.
Figure 5: Add Media Services
Under the System tab and the Server sub item, click the link for your machine (it should read localhost.localdomain.com if the guide referenced earlier was followed exactly). Select the Media Services item and notice the codec section. Without going into much detail, the ones beginning with the letter ‘H’ all (well, most) relate to video in some way. To simplify the process, move all from the Available field to the Selected field.
Different devices will have different methods for activating video calling. With the ZoiPer mobile app, you simply tap the Video button during a call. If you have a conversation with yourself and also happen to look like you got lost on the way to an audition to be the next Notre Dame Leprechaun, you would see something similar to Figure 6.
Figure 6: Talking to Yourself with Video on sipXecs
Ideally, conferencing requires an additional machine to process the load of multiple internal calls. Configuring an additional server requires backtracking to the sipXecs guide and adding another system to the cluster however, it can be faked by referencing the same machine by supplying the loopback address (i.e. 127.0.0.1) though this will not always work because of hardware and configuration variables too extensive to cover in this blog.
To add another server, go to System and select the Servers from the dropdown menu. Click the Add Server then add the information about the machine on the next screen as seen in Figure 7 (yes, I messed up the IP address when I snapped the screenshot – oops!) The system will be looking for another sipXecs system to handle the conferencing load – so either create another sipXecs machine or reference your machine. Either way, it will be necessary to activate conferencing found in the Telephony Services under the System tab.
Figure 7: Add A Server From the Cluster
After a server is added, find a user you want to enable for conferencing or more specifically, one to be authorized to initiate a conference. Click the Conferences item on the left and a screen like the one in Figure 8 will appear.
Figure 8: Initial Setup for Conferences
Hit the Add New Conference hyperlink and a page similar to the one depicted in Figure 9 appears. This essentially creates a new extension, one that is specifically used for conferencing. Since this conference is based on user ‘200,’ I made the conference extension 205. My naming convention is such that I like to leave at least 10 numbers between each extension (and so should you!) though for test machines, I usually leave 100.
Figure 9: Configuring a Conference
After this has been applied to enough users, they will be able to successfully join a conference by providing the PIN of the lead conference extension.
The sipXecs system is truly a powerful platform to use for your business phone needs. Hopefully, this guide will help those who have installed the system to its most basic level and want to kick the tires on some of the more advanced features of sipXecs.
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