Home Box to Trixbox

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How to set up a powerful home PBX system with Trixbox and FreePBX.
Handling Incoming Calls

The most complex part of the phone system is handling the incoming calls as designed. There are three parts to configure for incoming calls: audio messages to be played to the caller, Digital Receptionist menus, also known as Interactive Voice Response (IVR) menus, and the Time Conditions that determine which Digital Receptionist will handle the call.

To keep the system simple, I used only two outgoing messages. The first, titled Night, says: “We are unavailable at this time, please press 1 to leave a message, or if this is an urgent matter press 0 to ring all the phones.” The second message, titled Weekday, says: “Thank you for calling. To ring the house, enter 21; to ring the office, enter 22; to ring all the phones, enter 20 or stay on the line.” Using these scripts, I select System Recordings from the left-side menu and select Add Recording to get to the first screen (Figure 18). It is possible to upload a WAV file directly, but I used an extension to record directly into the system. After clicking Go, I saw the screen shown in Figure 19 with instructions for recording the message. After recording each message to my satisfaction, I gave the recording its name and clicked Save.

Figure 18. Set up an outgoing recording from extension 22.

Figure 19. Set up options for recording a message.

The Digital Receptionist is only a bit more complex with three menus. I defined each of these by selecting the Add IVR link at the top of the right-side menu. The configuration of a Digital Receptionist menu is quite straightforward, once a person knows what each option does. The general section at the top allows for defining or changing the name of the IVR; next, is the number of seconds the caller has to enter an option, after which the t option is used; Enable Directory and Directory Context allow the caller to go to the automated directory system by entering #; Enable Direct Dial means that the caller can enter directly any extension defined in Extensions; Announcement is the audio message played to the caller before making the dial options available. Below the general section are other choices callers can select to take them to other parts of the system. Options for the caller to enter must not conflict with any Extensions. What can be chosen for destinations depends on the modules installed in the system, and most are self-explanatory. One of the possible destinations is another IVR menu that allows for very powerful cascading menu systems.

With this understanding of Digital Receptionists, we can look at the contexts I defined. Access Extensions is intended for the work/school day (Figure 20). It plays the Weekday announcement, allows direct dialing of any Extension, defines options to ring the Ring Groups, and if the caller does nothing (the t extension), all phones ring. RingAll-dflt is for evenings and weekends (Figures 21 and 22). It plays the same message, but it does not allow direct dialing any of the extensions. Rather, all extension numbers entered are redirected to ring all phones. The last IVR, Voicemail-dflt, is for calls arriving after all the children are in bed (Figure 23). The Night message is played to the caller, who can enter 0 to ring the whole house or enter 1 (or do nothing) to go to the family voice-mail box. Direct dialing extensions is not allowed. With those three message menus, the system was ready to handle all incoming calls.

Figure 20. Set up the Digital Receptionist.

Figure 21. Set up ring-all defaults.

Figure 22. Finish setting up ring-all defaults.

Figure 23. Set up voice-mail default.

Next, to define which of the Digital Receptionist contexts handles calls based on the time they are received, I used Time Conditions. There are three categories of time I want to differentiate: the normal workday, non-workday waking hours and everything else. I first defined the weekend and evening Time Condition (Figure 24) so that calls between 7 am and 10 pm (22:00) go to the RingAll-dflt IVR, and outside of that time, calls are handled by Voicemail-dflt. Then, I created a Time Condition to handle the weekday times (Figure 25), which checks to see whether the time is during the work/school day, and if so, it passes the call to the AccessExtensions IVR. If it does not match, it is passed to the WeekendEve condition for further testing. So, if a call comes in on Monday through Friday and between 7:30 am and 5 pm (17:00) the AccessExtensions IVR handles it. If a call is not in that time frame, the WeekendEve Time Condition takes control. If the call is between 7 am and 10 pm any day of the week, the RingAll-dflt IVR handles the call; otherwise, the Voicemail-dflt IVR takes control.

Figure 24. Set up time conditions on how the Digital Receptionist works.

Figure 25. Time Condition for Weekdays

The remaining segment for handling incoming calls is to decide what to do with calls when they arrive in the system. Inbound Routes examines the Dial-In Direct number and caller ID and direct the call accordingly. I have only one route (Figures 26 and 27) for all incoming calls, so I left the DID Number and CID fields blank, and the Destination is the Time Condition Weekday, which routes the call to the initial time condition.

Figure 26. Inbound Route Configuration

Figure 27. Fax Handling for Inbound

The Inbound Route screen also allows for fax handling and setting a distinctive ring on SIP phones (but not for ZAP channels). For added security against phone solicitors, the Privacy Manager can be activated, requiring callers with no caller ID to enter their phone number before proceeding through the system. I do not have caller-ID service, so I left that off. I have found that the phone system itself deters many of the automated phone solicitations we used to get.

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