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How do I design and implement my own VoIP startup?

Desinging and implementing your own VoIP startup is a costly and taxing venture but it can be done with our expert's useful tips.

I am an engineering student and I have the opportunity to do a project about a VoIP startup. The project involves designing, planning and implementing an IT infrastructure for a VoIP service company. The projected aim of the company is to have 20,000 users within two years, utilizing an open source VoIP server, preferably Asterisk, and an easily manageable solution for non-IT users.

Is this project possible, especially for two or three clients on the same server -- this server can be located in a virtual machine? Can you suggest how I could start this project, as I am a beginner in VoIP?

The proof of concept where you have two or three clients on different PCs setting up calls through an Asterisk server is not too difficult to do. You can go to the Asterisk Web site and download, install and configure it on a Linux machine. From there you can go to the CounterPath Web site and download their free X-Lite phone which you can install on the PCs. You then register the X-Lite phones with the Asterisk for different users and can make calls.

The network design piece requires more thought. You have to understand how many locations you will have. You need to ensure that in each major office you have a tiered switching network -- edge switches, maybe with Power over Ethernet (PoE) and UPS systems for backup -- to power the IP phones, mid layer switches and backbone switches. You typically only need Quality of Service (QoS) on the wide area network (WAN) links that tie together your offices. You may want to indicate that the offices are linked together by a provider such as Straitshot or Masergy.

You need to then talk about server redundancy for reliable telephony, in case a server goes down. You also should consider the method by which configuration backups are handled. Now, for outside phone service, you're either going to connect to the traditional phone network -- public switched telephone network (PSTN) -- or to Internet Telephony Service Providers (ITSPs) using Session Initiation Protocol (SIP). For the gateway, you can consider something like the MX25. This is interoperable with Asterisk and will let people choose if they want E1, Analog, or Basic Rate Interface (BRI). If you connect directly to SIP service providers, ensure that you use a SIP-aware firewall for security -- such as a SonicWALL with the latest software.

Next, consider the remote or home workers for the company. They should have a broadband connection at home. You need to have a virtual private network (VPN) concentrator at the head offices, and connect the remote home users by using a device such as the ZIP4x5 IP phone. This builds a VPN tunnel back to the concentrator and can then register with the Asterisk.

These are just some ideas and considerations to get you started.

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