4. Intro to Papal and FreePBX

Ringfree’s customer and PBX management platform, called Papal Mainframe (or just Papal), serves as the primary interface for a large portion of what we do here at Ringfree. Specifically Papal serves as a central point for accessing customer information, PBX information, PBX configuration interfaces, and provisioning server interfaces. Support staff will typically make heavy use of all of these so all of them will be covered in some introductory detail in this article.

Customer Information

To access the customer information section of Papal, click on the phone icon in the upper left corner or search using the search bar in the upper right corner. In the customer list, click on the left-most icon that resembles a list to access the customer.

On the main customer information page, you’ll notice billing address information, contact information, and general account notes. On this page you have the ability to edit the billing address information and notes. Notes provided here are intended to serve as general notes regarding the account. Location specific configuration notes should be added on the Locations page.

Across the top of the customer information page are links to several other subsections of customer data: Contacts, Locations, Numbers, and Extensions. On the right you’ll also find links to the customer’s PBX and billing pages. The specific functions of each page are as follows:

  • Contacts: Here is where customer contacts are added, managed, and deleted. Contacts can be flagged as an account’s primary, secondary, or billing contact, and can be specified as to whether or not they are authorized to make changes to the account. This is one area you should check when verifying a contact.
  • Locations: All customers have at least one location while many of them have several. Instead of relying on a single universal place for location specific configuration details, each individual location should have an entry here containing those details. As we transition from Autotask to Freshdesk, there will be a lot of holes here that need to be filled, so please confer with David Wessell if there are configuration details not present. This section should be filled out during the customer on-boarding process and edited to stay current.
  • Numbers: This section provides a quick and simple interface for managing Direct Inward Dial numbers (or DIDs) across all the places in the Ringfree infrastructure that require DID specific information. Notably Papal, the PBX, and the SBC. In order for a phone number to work properly with Ringfree’s service and be appropriately billed for, it must be added in all places.
  • Extensions: At present, the Extensions page provides a quick and easy way to view existing user extensions along with their description, type, and SIP secret (or password). In the future, this page will be used to assist in managing per-extension billing.

PBX Information

To access the PBX information section of Papal, click on the icon in the upper left that resembles 3 servers (or 3 lines, or a modern menu icon) or search using the search bar in the upper right corner. In the PBX list, click on the left-most link labeled View.

There is little function to the PBX information page without administrative privileges, but this page serves as a quick and easy way to access commonly needed information regarding any specific PBX. In this context, a PBX is a Ringfree OS instance (along with FreePBX and Asterisk) running on a container within one of the nodes.

Users with administrative privileges will have access to node and vendor management options from this page.

PBX Configuration Interface

To access a PBX configuration interface, or the FreePBX admin interface, search for either the customer or the PBX or click the associated links in the upper left corner of Papal to load a complete list. In a PBX list, click on the pbxadmin link toward the center of the entry. In a customer list, click on the linked PBX hostname toward the center of the entry. The resulting page will be the FreePBX admin interface which by default will load the extensions view.

The specifics associated with FreePBX configuration will be covered in a later article, but the overall goal is simple: to associate inbound routes (DIDs) with appropriate intermediary and final destinations and to provide outbound routes for the extensions to use in order to make outbound phone calls. In virtually all cases, the latter will be handled during the customer on-boarding process and will rarely (if ever) require further attention whereas inbound configuration changes are extremely common.

Each inbound route represents a DID (or phone number) that is routed to the PBX. For the route to be functional, it requires a destination. That destination can be an intermediary destination such as a time condition, auto-attendant (IVR), or queue, or it can be a final destination such as a voicemail box or an announcement. Intermediary destinations require another intermediary or final destination to be specified thus creating the capacity for extremely complex call routing. Interestingly, user extensions can be used as both types of destinations depending on how they’re configured.

There are additional options not associated with call routing within the PBX Configuration interface. Commonly used options are Call Detail Records or CDRs and a bulk phone reboot tool. There are also views for managing customer recordings, hold music, and other odds and ends.

Provisioning Server Interfaces

Ringfree operates two provisioning servers: one for Polycom phones often referred to as PPT (for Polycom Provisioning Tool, also sometimes called “the PPT server”); and one for Yealink phones, often referred to as YConf. In both cases,  you’re provided with an interface where you can specify a device’s MAC address and input information necessary to register and label extensions. Within PPT you can optionally specify additional configuration files and define a number of line keys. Within YConf you can define specific line key behavior and specify arbitrary configuration options.