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Replacing Obsolete Nortel MICS and Looking at FreeBPX. Opinions?

Replacing Obsolete Nortel MICS and Looking at FreeBPX. Opinions?

(OP)
Apologies in advance for the long post. I’m looking for a VoIP solution to replace our Nortel MICS system. We’re a special needs school for kids with Autism and have two locations. Each location currently has a Nortel MICS, PRI and 20Mbps internet service. The Nortel PBXs are connected to each other via a Point to point T1 and between the 2 sites we currently have 130 handsets, the vast majority of which are in classrooms and common rooms and are only used for emergencies, intercom, and paging, etc. These phone don’t have any incoming or make any outgoing calls. Perhaps 25-30% of the handsets are sitting on desks and our overall call volume is quite low despite the large number of phones.

We have CAT6 drops for voice and data at both facilities and use Cisco Catalyst 2960 series switches throughout so QoS shouldn’t be a problem. We’ll soon be changing our ISP and will have 100Mbps internet service at our main location and a 100Mbps point-to-point link between both facilities. We plan on keeping PRI at both locations along with a couple of POT lines for redundancy and plan on having 2 PBX appliances; one at each location.

We’ve looked at Allworx and Digium systems as they are the few commercial offerings in our budget range. We like both systems and either seems like it would serve us well. I have 2 issues with these systems:

1. The huge markup on the appliances despite their lower end CPU, RAM, and HDD specs; I can build a server with the same specs as a $5000 appliance for $800-900 worth of parts.
2. The licensing costs, recurring software assurance costs, etc.

Don’t get me wrong; I understand that these companies rely on recurring sources of revenue to remain in business and that their pricing is very competitive with other products in the marketplace. But as a non-profit, large recurring costs are a very real issue and I’m trying to minimize them where possible.

Anyway, with that long winded introduction out of the way, here’s where I’m at: I’ve started looking at FreePBX. It seems solid, it’s based on Asterisk (Digium), and gives us all of the features available with the Allworx and Digium systems. I can build or buy an appliance at a fraction of the cost of the Allworx or Digium applicances and I can use Digium phones (which I really like), and licensing and upgrades/updates are free of charge. Technology-wise, we have 3 guys (including me) in the IT department. We’re a pretty savy and versatile bunch and can generally work our way through networking, server config, and other IT issues pretty quickly. However, we’re Windows guys who know little about Linux, Asterisk, and VoIP in general. I’m reasonably sure we could get FreePBX up and running and configured. I’m more nervous about how we might get support if things go horribly wrong.

I’m looking for opinions, experiences, and success (or failure) stories from users who have gone through a FreePBX deployment, the pain, the joy, and how the system performs on a day to day level. In short; The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

Thanks in advance -- Steve

RE: Replacing Obsolete Nortel MICS and Looking at FreeBPX. Opinions?

Look at E-metrotel it's a platform based from freepbx but will also allow you to run the phones you have now. Then you can just replace the sets as needed with SIP phones. Not having to purchase 130 new sets right now will come pretty close to paying for the system.

RE: Replacing Obsolete Nortel MICS and Looking at FreeBPX. Opinions?

(OP)
Thanks. Had a look at one of the videos with the T series Nortel phone and it's pretty slick. The guy on the video was keying in feature codes on the Nortel phone to get an outside line to make a call. I'm not sure if that's of the Nortel phone model being used or whether programmable feature codes aren't possible when using these phones. The latter would be a deal breaker for us. Definitely worth a closer look, though.

Thanks -- Steve

RE: Replacing Obsolete Nortel MICS and Looking at FreeBPX. Opinions?

Hey Steve,

You can pretty much mimic the same Feature codes and same dialing patterns on the E-MetroTel UCx as you would use on a Norstar or BCM T series phone. The system is very flexible. What would be the deal breaker? Explain in more depth please.

Joseph Sus Jr. Nortel Enthusiast
www.joetheucxguy.com

RE: Replacing Obsolete Nortel MICS and Looking at FreeBPX. Opinions?

There is also an E-MetroTel forum here on Tek-Tips if you have more questions. There are a lot of experts on there.

Joseph Sus Jr. Nortel Enthusiast
www.joetheucxguy.com

RE: Replacing Obsolete Nortel MICS and Looking at FreeBPX. Opinions?

Hi Steve
Based on my experience, I will suggest to take a look on Elastix (www.elastix.org)...tHis is an Open Source Asterisk based system with more than few build in goodies...For start, google "Elastix without Tears" pdf document which will give you really good guideline for setup and running this system. Stability wise, I have systems which running for last 4 yr (some with Call Centre) without any downtime...
Also, for any Open Source (read:any) IP system, search for recomended network security implementation...

BR

RE: Replacing Obsolete Nortel MICS and Looking at FreeBPX. Opinions?

Save yourself any and all headaches and go with the emetrotel! It is an asterisk based system so it has all of the features and options of all of the systems mentioned on here. The beauty of it is you don't have to do any of the cryptic programming you would have to do if you went the free pbx way. The emetro is designed to be predictable and supportable like all of the other manufacturers. I have sold and installed many of these systems and without exception, everyone who has bought and deployed one have been more than happy with them. Your Nortel phones work better than they do on the Norstars or BCMs so there is virtually no end user training required except for the options it gives you that your old system doesn't have.

I know it doesn't affect you, but this sytem also supports the Nortel/Avay CS1000 system and can in fact, support phones from both BCM and CS1K on the same system at the same time. Doing multi-site installs is the easiest I've seen in more than 20 years (especially if you have an MPLS network).

If you have Nortel equipment, this is by far the most cost-effective option you can choose. I know, because I work on almost every PBX manufactured today. Get a demo on one and you'll see for yourself........especially if you're a Nortel centric tech or administrator.

Not sure which video you were looking at but the emetro box can be set up with trunk access codes (like 9 or 8 or whatever) just as easy as any other PBX, or it can be set up to just dial out without an access code just like the Norstar or BCM can. About the only thing it can't do that the Norstar/BCM does is to have analog trunks ring and appear on buttons on the sets..........but it can come pretty close with SCA keys. Has never been a show stopper for anyone yet that I know of.

RE: Replacing Obsolete Nortel MICS and Looking at FreeBPX. Opinions?

(OP)
Hi Joseph,

Sorry, I meant that users having to key in feature codes rather than use features codes assigned to buttons would be a deal breaker. Good to hear that it's possible to duplicate the functionality of the programmed features.

Thanks -- Steve

RE: Replacing Obsolete Nortel MICS and Looking at FreeBPX. Opinions?

(OP)
Hi zoo1,

I started with Elastix and really like the feature set but discovered that Elastix is based on Asterisk AND the FreePBX GUI. There's nothing wrong with that but, Elastix development trails behind FreePBX development. Also, I understand that the ELastix team in in the process of writing their own GUI which would remove the dependency on FreePBX which is good but introduces a much great possibility that updates to the codebase dependent on FreePBX will continue to slow as more and more developments efforts are focused on the new GUI. FreePBX seems like a safer bet to me at the moment.

Thanks -- Steve

RE: Replacing Obsolete Nortel MICS and Looking at FreeBPX. Opinions?

(OP)
Hi telcodog,

Thanks. I'll have a closer look at cost and licensing.

Steve

RE: Replacing Obsolete Nortel MICS and Looking at FreeBPX. Opinions?

You can go the asterisk and freepbx route if you are really good with code and want to use SIP phones only. This will be a dramatic departure for your end users.

If you want to keep your retraining to a minimum and keep your users experience seamless, I would agree with Telcodog above. If you want the option to use Nortel digital and Unistim Nortel IP Phones (Unistim has a ton more features than SIP phones) I would again agree with Telcodog. Unistim can be supported on the raw Asterisk platform using a "chan-Unistim" coding, but the features are relatively nothing more than an analog 1 line phone. I've tried Unistim sets both ways.

I speak so highly of the product, as a user, because I am happy that a group of people are able to keep what most telephone users loved about Nortel, alive.

Joseph Sus Jr. Nortel Enthusiast
www.joetheucxguy.com

RE: Replacing Obsolete Nortel MICS and Looking at FreeBPX. Opinions?

Here is what I don't understand. This is the 100's or so question about the same thing.

Loosely quoted: "I have a Nortel (or whatever system) and i want new stuff but I want it really really cheap but I want it to work like a million $ system and also want it to be so easy to administer that I don't even have to pay someone making a living with it because I want to save money all the way."

We are mostly people here that make a living with this and rely on customers to ask us to do work for them and we take pride in our work (most of us at least) so we put our heart and soul into a setup and try to make it as painless as possible to change to a new system and service what we install, but we still have to feed our families so we have to charge for it.
So why don't you stick with your MICS and your M-series phones until the last one has been wiped off the face of this earth (which will be a long time as these are the most durable systems you can possibly encounter) and save yourself the hassle of a new system.

I find it offensive to come to TT and ask people to give you advise to take bread off their table and money out of their pocket and I don't care if you work for a company that doesn't have a lot of money because Donald Trump also will not spend money on something he doesn't need or want and he could surely afford it. If I want something or need something then I can either buy something cheaper or finance it or save up for it and that is also what companies do.

Joe W.

FHandw, ACSS (SME), expired ACIS (SME)


"This is the end of the world, make sure to buy your T-shirt before it is too late"
Original expression of my daughter

RE: Replacing Obsolete Nortel MICS and Looking at FreeBPX. Opinions?

(OP)
Sorry if my post offended you or anyone else--that certainly wasn't the intention. I'd gladly pay to have someone install an Elastix or FreePBX system. I have no issue with anyone making a living and charging for their services and given the the choice between hiring a large company or a smaller local company I almost always choose the latter.

What I do have a problem with is the licensing schemes manufacturers come up with. I'm currently looking at Digium products. If I buy the appliances, add-on cards, VoIP gateways and 170 phones, I must also buy 170 licenses at approx. $60 each. The licenses in my case account to approx. 20% of the total system cost. If it ended there, I might be OK with it. But I must also pay a yearly recurring renewal on these licenses. The recurring annual cost is approx. 20% ($12) of the original license cost. Then, I must pay $500 in recurring annual costs for what amounts to software assurance for each of the appliances. If I allow my renewals to lapse I can't add any additional phones, get any updates, etc., until I pay all of the catch up fees. So, if I don't renew after the first year and 3 years later I decide I need to add another 10 phones, I must pay 3 years worth of missed license renewals: 170 phones * $12 * 3 years = $6120 PLUS $375 in reinstatement fess. Oh, and I get to pay another $600 for user licenses associated with the 10 new phones

Dunno about you but to me, that's insanity. Personally, I'd rather pay for the upgrades if and when I need them and only pay once for the user licenses rather than pay for the rest of my life.

Regarding keeping the Nortel system; I'd love to do that but most companies in the Boston area are no longer supporting them. We were using a small company in NH and a couple of their Nortel old timers retired. The owner decided it wasn't worthwhile to continue supporting them. They pretty much dropped us overnight and left us in the lerch.

So yeah, I get your point but I also have a bigger picture to look at. I run IT for a special needs school. It's non-profit. Every dollar that doesn't go towards the teaching program is one that needs to be made up some other way, usually by fundraising. Keeping costs down is a huge part of what I do, even if that means making decisions to use open-source solutions to avoid paying ridiculous prices for licensing.

RE: Replacing Obsolete Nortel MICS and Looking at FreeBPX. Opinions?

Sorry I might have come off a bit to harsh.
That licencing scheme sounds insane to me as well. With all that added cost you might as well go with a Cisco and still save money at the end.
Look at Avaya they might not be cheapest but no recurring licencing fee at least not yet, of Digium gets away with that they might do that too as soon as Cisco will follow.
Emetrotel like some other guys mentioned could help keeping the phones on service and save on money initially while giving you new features. Avaya could allow you to keep phones to buy they will lose some functionality but you can replace them with Avaya phones in batches if need be. I don't know much about the Emetrotel but for the Ip office from Avaya you will find some good companies in your area and it is fairly easy to administer the basic day to day adjustments.
Licencing is always a one time fee and you can pay for upgrade licenses of you want the latest mayor upgrades or wait until you find one you want and then still only pay for the license to go directly to that release. I still can't get how Digium gets away with this.

Joe W.

FHandw, ACSS (SME), expired ACIS (SME)


"This is the end of the world, make sure to buy your T-shirt before it is too late"
Original expression of my daughter

RE: Replacing Obsolete Nortel MICS and Looking at FreeBPX. Opinions?

A lot of Anti Nortel people are going to try and convince you that the Emetrotel solution is crap. Don't believe them, they just want you to ditch your Nortel equipment and replace it. Go with your gut feeling. Go with Avaya because you want an Avaya product, not because some Avaya guy tells you someone else sucks. Go with Digium because you believe in the product. Call each one of the companies and get the facts.

Joseph Sus Jr. Nortel Enthusiast
www.joetheucxguy.com

RE: Replacing Obsolete Nortel MICS and Looking at FreeBPX. Opinions?

Quite frankly if you don't want Emetrotel, cisco, Avaya, Digium, you can try pure sip, voip.ms offers this.

Joseph Sus Jr. Nortel Enthusiast
www.joetheucxguy.com

RE: Replacing Obsolete Nortel MICS and Looking at FreeBPX. Opinions?

RLSbutton, I am not sure where you read that someone here said

Quote (RLSbutton)

Emetrotel is crap - or - ditch your equipment

Seems we all have a bit of an off night.

Yes I am an Avaya guy winky smile
Yes I appreciate the functions that an M or T series phone has on a MICS, CICS or BCM that loses 20% of it on an IPO
No I don't spend time reading into the Nortel systems any more because I don't see them coming back and Feature *0 is most what I need
No I don't think that Avaya IP Office is the holy grale of phone systems
No I don't like VoIP but it is here to stay
Yes I miss pulse dialing and the dialers that I could dismantle and put back together blindfolded

Joe W.

FHandw, ACSS (SME), expired ACIS (SME)


"This is the end of the world, make sure to buy your T-shirt before it is too late"
Original expression of my daughter

RE: Replacing Obsolete Nortel MICS and Looking at FreeBPX. Opinions?

It's not you Westi, but in general most on here seem to be anti Nortel or E-MetroTel in one way or another. I am not directing at you and I apologize. Sorry....whenever someone mentions the word Nortel, they are destroyed like a poodle amongst a pack of coyotes on these posts.

Even a part of me is an Avaya guy. I've loved the 6408D+ sets, the 9600 sets throughout the years, and even the old school Generic3 System 75 systems. I've installed a few IP Offices to much success, but I am also concerned because I read a lot of Avaya blogs and twitter posts promoting Flare and Cell Phone clients and they keep talking about the "death of the deskphone." or "who needs their deskphone anymore?" Avaya seems to be forgetting about businesses such as retailers, hotels, airports, 911 centers, hospitals....etc....all big organizations that rely on safe available deskphones for communication and they are using what they see in high tech offices such as Google and Facebook (who don't use phones at all) as an example for everyone moving forward. It baffles me at what they are trying to become.

So to answer the original posters comment. I guess Steve should just got an explore all of the options. Avaya can provide a functional new stable system for the existing MICS users with a reliable history of Western Electric/ATT/Lucent/Avaya behind them. The IP Office is easy to program, and seeing that it has a flash memory drive instead of a mechanical hard drive, is quite advantageous over the previous BCM line. I also think it's nice that you can mix the Digital Avaya sets with Nortel sets....having T7316's next to 6408D+ sets.

If the user wants a more "Nortel-like" experience that can be configured to be CS1000 or BCM mode, then they should look at E-MetroTel. It's such a difficult question these days when one asks about how to replace the Norstar, since Norstar was so rock solid. My IP Office and both my E-MetroTel UCx are rock solid with no problems, in fact they are networked together. That's why when someone asks this question, it's hard not to promote both.

Joseph Sus Jr. Nortel Enthusiast
www.joetheucxguy.com

RE: Replacing Obsolete Nortel MICS and Looking at FreeBPX. Opinions?

typo above,

So to answer the original posters comment. I guess Steve should just got an explore all of the options

should read:

I guess Steve should just go and explore all of the options.....darn iphone typo.

Joseph Sus Jr. Nortel Enthusiast
www.joetheucxguy.com

RE: Replacing Obsolete Nortel MICS and Looking at FreeBPX. Opinions?

Good that it wasn't me peace

I have to agree with you on the older sets (I have 5 6408D+ in my house) and I would love to take the Emetrotel for a test drive but my experience with Nortel is very limited and mostly I use Feature *0 to find extensions and ports smile before I take the KSU off the wall moving the phones to an IPO.

I heard good things about the Emetrotel but mostly here on TT not met anyone that actually has one which could be because I am not going to companies that are happy with their system.

Joe W.

FHandw, ACSS (SME), expired ACIS (SME)


"This is the end of the world, make sure to buy your T-shirt before it is too late"
Original expression of my daughter

RE: Replacing Obsolete Nortel MICS and Looking at FreeBPX. Opinions?

If I was running a non profit school, I wouldn't waste funds on VoIP phones. Given your stated low call volume, your Nortel Norstar is your best solution. Plenty of support and parts available.

Do you really need a point to point T1 or PRIs?

You may also look at an SL1100 by NEC. For your type of environment, digital phones are your friend.

RE: Replacing Obsolete Nortel MICS and Looking at FreeBPX. Opinions?

(OP)
jsaad,

Point-to-point T1 is used to connect both PBXs. It's not a true point-to-point, it's emulated using TDMoIP RAD Ware boxes over an MPLS connection. It's required for site-to-site 4 digit extension dialing. We have a receptionist at our main location and she handles calls for both sites. Not all extensions have DID numbers so being able to call the secondary site is a requirement. Dunno about where you are but Nortel support around here is sparse and fetching $120+ per hour. We've found a couple of "one man shop" outfits and they're usually busy enough that we can't get them quickly. Not ideal when we need support quickly. Most companies have dropped Nortel support in favor of more modern equipment. Throwing more money at our current system seems foolish since the support situation isn't going to get any better.

RE: Replacing Obsolete Nortel MICS and Looking at FreeBPX. Opinions?

A small diversion...The IP Office was created by a UK based company and Avaya aquired it. Outside of heritage, today's Avaya really doesn't have much in common with Western Electric/Bell Labs, AT&T and Lucent Technologies. Avaya broke with it's past when it retired the Partner ACS a few years back. sad

I love2 "FEATURE 00"
http://dexman.webs.com/

RE: Replacing Obsolete Nortel MICS and Looking at FreeBPX. Opinions?

stevevi, if this sytem works for you and you're not really looking to add more features. Then can you tell us about where you're located maybe someone here can give you a contact for support.

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