Cover Story

The Billion-Dollar Game Changer: Schmooze Com and the Open Source Community Set the PBX Free

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC  |  January 26, 2015

A million dollars isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? A billion dollars.

This dialog was lifted from “The Social Network”, but it could just as easily apply to FreePBX, an open source platform from Schmooze (News - Alert) Com Inc. But change the billion to billions, because that’s how much value FreePBX has contributed to the communications industry.

That’s why Schmooze promotes FreePBX as the billion-dollar game changer.

Starting Line

Schmooze was founded by a group of telephony and IT entrepreneurs with the goal of building a better business phone system based on software. Requiring a stable, customizable, feature-rich, software base to build on, Schmooze licensed FreePBX as the core of its PBXact commercial telephony platform. The company actively contributed to the FreePBX project while continuing to improve upon its own solutions.

Schmooze’s contributions to open source telecom increased over time, until eventually it made sense for Schmooze to acquire the trademark and copyright to FreePBX to become the project’s primary sponsor and manager. Today Schmooze’s core focus is to provide direction, technical innovation and financial support for the FreePBX Project and its millions of users. Specifically, Schmooze does open source development, delivers commercial add-ons, provides support, and manages the expansion of the FreePBX ecosystem across the globe.

Great Growth

FreePBX initially was designed as a simple GUI for managing Asterisk (News - Alert) configs, says Tony Lewis, Schmooze Com CEO. Before FreePBX, he explains, all configuration of Asterisk was done manually via the command line, and it required users to manage config files, so it wasn’t scalable. FreePBX quickly grew from four simple database tables to a modular design allowing developers to add their own applications along with hooks into the GUI and dial plan.

It takes the Asterisk telephony engine, adds PBX (News - Alert) capabilities, dialplan logic, and extra features to deliver a fully featured unified communications system that can be managed from a web browser-based GUI. FreePBX can be installed on premises-based hardware, virtualized, distributed across multiple locations, or implemented in the cloud. It can also be utilized across multiple endpoints, ranging from hardware-based phones, software clients, mobile devices, and even fully supported WebRTC endpoints. Telephony connectivity options are just as versatile as the rest of the system, allowing the use of standards-compliant VoIP connections, fully supported legacy PSTN connections, or to enable integration with wireless networks.

This broad functionality and support has enabled FreePBX to make the leap from a hobbyist technology to a mainstream solution. And it continues to grow.

Apply Liberally

“Open source communication platforms powered by FreePBX have been under continuous development for more than 10 years, with no signs of slowing down,” says Preston McNair, vice president of sales and marketing at Schmooze Com. “FreePBX accounts for millions of installations contributing billions of dollars in hardware, software, and services sales. We have analytics showing installations of FreePBX in more than 210 countries and territories around the globe, making it the most prevalent open source PBX platform in the world.”

Small home office, multi-location large enterprise customers, and the world’s largest contact centers can and do use FreePBX. The system’s feature set allows system administrators to manage unlimited extensions, voice applications, endpoints, conferencing, instant messaging, integrated faxing, automated call distribution, interactive voice response, paging, time-based call management, ring groups, call accounting, call recording, music on hold, company directories and call queues, and more, plus all the standard features expected from a phone system – all from one location.

Moving Forward

FreePBX continues to evolve to meet the latest communications challenges.

For example, in the latest version of FreePBX the User Control Panel, a new system portal for end users, has been written to be mobile-friendly, scalable to any device, and functional without having to install a browser plug-in. So whether end users are on smartphones, tablets, or desktops they can access their own settings, view and listen to prior calls, listen to and manage voicemail, and even place calls with the integrated WebRTC phone. They can also originate calls to their desktop extensions or wireless phones, forward their calls, as well as send and receive faxes and SMS/text messages.

Simple Solutions

While the open source development model allows for an innovative product, the Schmooze business model provides a simple way for businesses to deploy communications systems effectively. Schmooze supplies FreePBX Certified hardware, software, professional consulting, training and support, as well as a FreePBX integrated SIP trunking service through its popular VoIP service.

All of these services are available directly from Schmooze; however, the primary distribution across all industry segments and sizes is though the Schmooze Channel Program for distributors, resellers, system integrators, and VARs. This program allows channel partners and service providers to offer seamless communications technology integration, paired with their local industry expertise.

Schmooze also continues to add value to the FreePBX ecosystem by delivering solutions in collaboration with major hardware and software providers such as Sangoma, with which FreePBX is exhibiting at ITEXPO (News - Alert) in Miami. These extensive collaborations connect every aspect of the unified communications space, and help users deploy integrated and certified configurations of FreePBX. Certified FreePBX software undergoes rigorous testing to ensure it is easy install and uninstall, delivers a great user experience, and is compatible with FreePBX.

“FreePBX users have a wide range of support options starting with a very active online forum at,” says Lewis. “Tens of thousands of knowledgeable participants are also involved with an actively monitored IRC Channel (#freepbx on Freenode) and for in-depth documentation we provide a constantly updated wiki (see In addition to free support options, the project also employs a team of professional support engineers that can be engaged on an hourly or contract basis to support systems all around the world. The FreePBX team also conducts certified training and provides resources for our resellers in the form of our channel partner program.”

New users to FreePBX can get started quickly by installing the FreePBX Distro. The Distro installs everything required to build a phone system, and provides consistent upgrade paths to keep up-to-date with the latest features and software versions. The FreePBX GUI also has a modular design that allows support for additional functionality as needed, and when needed.

“Customers of proprietary solutions are generally at the mercy of the vendor’s vision, requirements, dictates, prices, priorities and timetable, and that limits what features they can implement,” says McNair. “With FreePBX, users are in control to make their own decisions to do what they want with the software. They also have a worldwide community of developers and users at their disposal for help and support.”

All of the above help adopters and supporters of FreePBX continue to move forward as their needs change and grow. That’s why the mascot of FreePBX is a red-eyed tree frog – because both the solution and the amphibian always move forward. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle