Easy Asterisk in a Box: Jazinga VoIP PBX Appliance Reviewed

Feature Tour

At the end of the setup wizard, I was a little surprised to find that the system was not completely ready to make and receive calls. I later found this was due to a minor problem in configuring the VoIP account credentials. This caused me to examine the admin menus in greater detail, going beyond the automation the wizards offered on the main web screen.

Navigating to the Internet tab on the web GUI, I found all of settings that I would expect to have on a wireless router. These will be completely obvious to anyone with any amount of networking experience. Figure 4 shows the Internet > Connectivity screen where you set up the router WAN connection. I have included screenshots of other router setup screens in the slideshow.

Jazinga Advanced Menu, Internet Connectivity
Jazinga Advanced Menu, Internet Connectivity

Figure 4: Advanced Menu – Internet Connectivity (WAN)

Moving on to the Telephony tab of the web GUI reveals all of the various settings relative to the Asterisk portion of the system. Figure 5 shows the Phone configuration screen.

Jazinga Advanced Menu, Users & phones
Jazinga Advanced Menu, Users & phones

Figure 5: Advanced Menu – Phone configuration

As old school Asterisk users will surely point out, the convenience of the GUI is almost always paired with constraints on the end-user. It presumes that you will use the system in a manner common to a large number of users and may not readily accommodate esoteric configurations.

While this is true, Jazinga targets a user that is not likely facing exotic requirements. I was able to use the advanced menus to configure users, phones and VoIP accounts easily, and much faster than I would have on my old Astlinux server.

The PBX market has traditionally suffered a sort of “feature frenzy.” Vendors adding a bewildering array of features not because they were necessary, but because they were on someone’s marketing checklist.

Jazinga delivers the full feature set of a nicely configured small business Asterisk system, such as:

  • Blind transfer
  • Attended transfer
  • Music-on-Hold
  • Voicemail with message forwarding to e-mail
  • Call park & pickup
  • Conference rooms (2)
  • Multiple auto-attendants
  • Teams (aka ring groups)
  • User directory
  • Paging
  • Schedule-based call routing
  • Auto Callback
  • Remote SIP access
  • Remote admin access

Some of these functions may sound like IP phone tasks and not PBX functions.  But remember that Jazinga provides two analog station (FXS) interfaces. So these features also need to be exposed in the PBX dial plan and made available to extensions via * codes.

For example, *69 invokes a last number redial function, or *00 which is an “all page” causing all phones on the system to ring. The “Teams” feature lets you establish ring groups so that multiple phones ring when a call get routed to a specific department.

The music-on-hold feature (Figure 6) makes it very easy to upload music files right from the web interface. Once uploaded, the file is automatically transcoded into G.711 format for storage. This conversion takes under a minute for an average length song. Tracks listed as available for music-on-hold can be marked active, disabled or deleted as necessary.

Jazinga Advanced Menu, Music on hold
Jazinga Advanced Menu, Music on hold

Figure 6: Music On Hold

Jazinga claims that there is a “unified communications” angle to their voicemail implementation. When email integration is set up using IMAP, not only are messages forwarded to the user via email. But when the email is opened and/or deleted, such actions are reflected in the status and availability of the original voicemail on the Jazinga system. While very interesting, this was not something that I was able to test during my time using the system.

The onboard analog interfaces support two extensions and one trunk line. That could be enough for a very small home system but a few more extensions are often required in real-world installations. You have the option of adding a supported external ATA device to add a few more analog extensions. But the better approach is to add a few inexpensive IP phones.

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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