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I've been asked, within six months, to deploy a phone system. The exact wording was "a phone on every desk." They want inter-phone transfers, external calling, and even software IP phones for our travelling sales guy.

If this wasn't all enough I am meant to do it as cost effectively as I can. We have existing Linux and Windows servers with a fair bit of spare capacity (at a data centre).

My real problem is lack of knowledge. There seems to be information out there but I am so far out of my depth that I'm not sure what I am looking for (e.g. SIP or PSTN? SaaS or run it myself, Cisco IP Phones Vs. what?, etc).

Honest I don't even know what phones I'd buy even if I was able to rent or install a suitable phone service. Nor how that service would connect into a "real" telephone network?

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6 months? Wow! I wish I had 6 months for a project like that. I could take a couple of vacations in that time frame. Find and reach out to local vendors who will have the expertise to advise you on options and implementation. You basically need two things: 1. Phone service and 2. Infrastructure. –  joeqwerty Mar 28 '12 at 14:15

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I would suggest you to either:

  1. Get Asterisk and create a full pabx system with it (plenty of docs and guides around)
  2. Buy an assembled solution from Cisco or other vendor

I would go with asterisk. Take a look at Adhearsion for a cool telephony API and I am sure they have software for what you want to do.

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