Easy Asterisk in a Box: Jazinga VoIP PBX Appliance Reviewed

Setting Up

The Jazinga system arrived with minimal printed documentation—just a two-sided, single-sheet quick setup guide. This described physical setup and installation through to the end of the initial setup wizard.

Happily, the on-board help system is fairly comprehensive. It was useful in clearing up many of the questions I had when examining the advanced system menus. Although the basic information is there, the help details are sometimes a little thin, lacking reference to underlying principles. A little more depth might prove useful.

Jazinga provides two layers of administration. The wizards make basic processes very simple for inexperienced users. The rest of the “advanced” menus expose more of the internal details of the system.

In fact, while there are multiple wizards, they are really still a work in progress, with some more useful than others. However, both approaches are dramatically easier and more intuitive than administering Asterisk at the command line, or even some other web-based administrative overlays that I have used.

The most involved wizard is the one that runs at initial startup to get the system’s network and VoIP parameters defined. Beyond that, there are other wizards that can be used to achieve specific tasks such as:

  • Add / edit / remove a user profile
  • Create an auto-attendant menu (IVR)
  • Manage VoIP service provider accounts
  • Add /edit / delete a new route in the system (inbound calling)

I started by attaching the various devices I was going to use with Jazinga. This included a couple of Polycom phones, a Panasonic cordless phone on one of the analog FXS ports and a laptop for administration. Lastly, I made the connection from the systems WAN port to a Comcast cable modem.

At initial power-on, the system beeps once then starts to boot and run various applications. After a pause of a few minutes, it sounds three beeps in quick succession. This indicates that the system has booted successfully.

The boot process seems a little long at first and gives little indication of what is actually happening. On a larger Asterisk server I would normally be logged in via SSH and watching the console to monitor boot progress. With Jazinga, I just listened for the beeps and watched the front panel light for periodic drive activity.

Once fully booted you are ready to go through the initial setup of the system using the web interface. The system assumes a default IP address of 192.168.50.1. Pointing a web browser at that address or more simply http://jazinga.local/ brings up the initial login screen.

Setup Wizard

The very first time you access the web interface you are met by the Setup Wizard (Figure 3).

Jazinga setup wizard
Jazinga setup wizard
Figure 3: Setup Wizard start

The wizard takes you through the initial setup in about twenty steps as follows:

  • Welcome screen
  • Emergency dialing (911) notice
  • License agreement
  • Establishing an admin password
  • Establish WAN connection type & related settings
  • Enable Wifi, establish encryption type and passphrase or passkey
  • Select analog line or a VoIP account for default use
  • Enter VoIP account details
  • Enter initial user profile
  • Assign user an extension number & voicemail
  • Assign user a phone
  • Optionally establish “Team” aka ring groups
  • Optionally establish an auto attendant menu
  • Create auto attendant script, select text to speech or record your own voice
  • Setup routing for each auto attendant selection
  • Auto attendant graphic summary
  • Setup Wizard summary

The initial setup process is quick and took me less than 30 minutes to have the system up and running with a couple of users and extensions.

See the slideshow for Setup Wizard tour and other admin screens

The auto-attendant portion of the setup was interesting in that it offered two ways to create the menu announcements. Presuming that one phone is already set up and working, you can record the announcements in your own voice. This is very much like configuring a voice mailbox, a process that should be familiar to everyone by now.

Alternatively, you can type in the auto attendant script and choose to have the system use a text-to-speech feature read the announcement for you. Text-to-speech programs have been around for awhile but have never been as easily accessible as this. The program used a female voice to read the IVR script. While it stumbled with some words, it was in fact better than I had expected. Most people, especially businesses, will probably choose to record their own menu prompts so that they flow well and sound as natural as possible.

8 thoughts on “Easy Asterisk in a Box: Jazinga VoIP PBX Appliance Reviewed”

  1. I would strongly suggest you take a look at http://www.rowetel.com/ucasterisk/. Not only is this a completely open-source project, but you can purchase one for < $300. So far, they don’t have support for G.722 or other wide-band codecs, but they are working on them (the beauty of Open Source).

    1. Shamus,

      I’m well aware of that project. It doesn’t really relate to the target market for Jazinga. A lot of Asterisk appliances are still too complicated for an end-user to setup & configure. The GUI that Jazinga has developed makes the system more approachable. To the VAR it’s a way to ease the rollout of a new site, and perhaps hand-off some admin functions to local staff. For some people it will be enough that they can pick up admin operations on their own.

      In many cases being the absolute cheapest is simply not the point. I run Astlinux on an HP thin client that I recycled. Cost $0. But that’s not very approachable for many people. Further, having a vendor to turn to for help can be very valuable.

  2. Thanks for your very informative blog. I hope it’s ok that I post on a somewhat tangential topic to this review. Do you know about hybrid phone systems such as the Panasonic KX-TDA50G, Samsung OfficeServ 100 or NEC DSX-40? They come to the IP-PBX market from a legacy of key systems, but otherwise they seem relatively comparable to me. It’s almost as if you need to focus more on what kind of handsets/cordless phones they offer than the systems themselves.

    I’m currently using a Google Voice+Vonage+Skype setup but I know my ancient Cisco ATA186 and discontinued Philips VOIP841 won’t last forever. Since I’m moving to a new house that we’re renovating, I’m trying to find a future-proof solution that’s a grade above the usual consumerware (Philips or Gigaset come to mind) but doesn’t cost too much ($1,000-$1,500 top with 4 or 5 handsets) and whose administration won’t ask me to turn into a telephony expert. Any additional thoughts welcome, if you have anything to add on the topic.

  3. Olivier,

    We once used a Panasonic KX-TG4000 key system, and really like it a lot. We had the main base, four cordless handsets and one cordless desk set. It worked really well in a very PSTN kind way.

    Now we use a Gigaset system and a couple of Polycom desk phones, all through a hosted IP-PBX. All wideband capable. Very nice, though the Gigasets are definitely consumer gear. Good, but consumer grade.

    If you want to go one step up I’d look into the new low-end Polycom Kirk DECT cordless systems. The cost has come down. The handsets are very nice, better than consumer grade. You can still use a couple of Polycom desk phones to fill it out. Probably within your stated budget.

  4. The restriction to the G711 codec is very limiting. The Rowtel IP04 provides much more functionality at a much lower price.

    1. Rod,

      Perhaps what you say is true at some level, but they’re fundamentally different devices. I really admire David Rowe and his various projects, but they target at a different group of users. More of a techie, open source crowd.

      In contrast, Jazinga is a commercial offering by a company devoted to its ongoing support and development. They have a unique GUI that makes system admin very simple, and possible even for end-users. The codec limit was something that they were willing to reconsider based on user feedback. Have you listened to the VUC podcast when their CTO appeared as our guest? Here’s a link: http://recordings.talkshoe.com/TC-22622/TS-172964.mp3

      I think that both systems have a legitimate place in the market.

      1. I agree that the IP04 used to be strictly for the open source techie, but I hope I don’t promise too much when I tell you that we have a stable firmware with GUI available in two flavors. There is the VoIPtel CE (Community Edition) which we support through our Forum, and for the business user we have VoIPtel SE (Supported Edition) that is available with 3 different level Support Contracts. More info is available at http://voiptel-se.com
        And there is a new and very innovative player around. We have just signed up with http://www.positrontelecom.com , they have a similar unit to the Jazinga without the WiFi. But what is even more interesting is their Blade PBX’s, PCI cards with a complete PBX onboard. You can install several of them into a PC, no software or drivers required. We are currently finalizing a series of 2U and 4U Blade Appliances based on these cards. The initial models will be with Positron Blades only, later we will introduce a Server Blade Upgrade for added functionality. You will find some more info at http://blog.voiptel.no

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