A2billing is no longer supported. Most people from the VoIP world know A2billing as one of the most popular open-source softswitch. During my 12-years career in the VoIP industry, I’ve talked to hundreds of A2billing users and I have been collecting their feedback for all this time.
In this article, I’ll share the most common challenges with A2billing based on the feedback I received from its users. I will also propose an alternative solution for those who have the potential to grow their VoIP business but struggle to do that due to the limitations with A2billing.
What A2billing is and why its support was discontinued?
A2billing is an open-source class 4/5 softswitch with billing and routing, designed for providing different VoIP services, such as residential, business and wholesale VoIP, calling cards and callback. It has existed in the VoIP softswitch market for a very long time. I was extremely surprised when I received this email from someone who is using A2billing:
A2billing is no longer supported. I called yesterday to get some help with database management and they declined to support us. Is this something where Kolmisoft would be a fit?
Then I decided to do a quick research on Google and found a few posts in the FreePBX community forum, where one of the A2billing users was asking to recommend some alternate solutions:
Since a2billing is no longer supported I am trying to find alternate solutions
There is no more support for A2Billing. I’m not even sure it works with newer versions of Asterisk.
To make sure it’s not some gossip, I decided to double-check this with Star2billing. It is the company behind A2billing that used to provide paid assistance to install and manage your own A2Billing platform. Star2billing confirmed that they no longer support A2billing because it is outdated and now they are focusing on DialerAI, a predictive dialer for outbound call centers.
Why do people use A2billing and what’s good about it?
The greatest thing about A2billing is that it is free and open-source. Anyone can download, use, and make changes to it. It means that you can start a VoIP business without any initial investment, which is every startup’s dream.
There were certain people in the open-source community who put their heart and soul to implement new features and make the platform better with each version. A2billing forum was active for a long time and anyone could ask questions and get help there. Those who didn’t want to wait for an answer in the forum could hire experienced freelancers to implement missing features and improve the platform based on their individual needs.
Even to this day I know a few people who run A2billing without any issues and incidents for years. However, each system is its pros and cons.
What are the challenges with A2billing?
Whenever I receive an inquiry from someone, I always ask: “What system do you use and how satisfied are you with it?” A2billing is the most often used system, so I have a big list of feedback that I have gathered for 12 years from different people.
Usually, people contact me when they have a problem with their softswitch, so it’s quite understandable that their feedback is about the challenges they experience. Next, I will share a list of reasons why A2billing users contacted me for an alternative solution.
Most people started to use A2billing because it is free. When you use something that is free you don’t really want to pay for support. You expect that you’ll manage to do everything yourself and won’t need any help. But that’s far from the reality unless you have great skills in managing Asterisk or your business partner or employee is the Asterisk geek.
Because of this reason I received many complaints from people that they don’t have support for A2billing. This is not really true because these people could always contact Star2billing for professional support. But I guess it was too expensive for them. What do you do if something is too expensive? You look for cheaper alternatives. A2billing was one of the most popular open-source softswitches, so there were many freelancers from the whole world that were happy to take any job at a lower hourly rate than Star2billing. What happened then?
Sometimes the problem was fixed and all parties were happy, but there were many cases when those freelancers disappeared without finishing the job or made some fixes, but later it turned out that the fix they made wasn’t complete and people who hired them could no longer get in touch. If you worked with freelancers, you shouldn’t be very surprised about this fact because ghosting (stopping all communication and ignoring all attempts to reach out) is a lamentable reality not only of dating but also freelancing.
It’s hard when you have no one to blame. When you download a free solution, you can’t blame its creators because A2billing is a community project. I’m sure that many A2billing users who are not tech-savvy and rely on freelancers have a fear that in case of a critical system issue, their business can be in serious trouble. You can sleep much better if you have an agreement with a reliable company and you know that if there’s trouble, you’ll get help 24×7.
All software companies are constantly bombarded with requests from their users to add more and more features. Every feature added means more potential bugs and more problems to the final user. Some A2billing users complained about the lack of important features and others about BUGs and existing features that are incomplete or were not working properly. Here are some examples:
- You can’t create and activate/deactivate discounts for your clients
- Customers cannot export their CDRs to make an analysis
- The failover LCR does not work properly
- A callback is not working properly and calls back two times instead of one
- If a customer has several DIDs, it is not possible to choose CallerID randomly within his range of numbers
- Sometimes voice prompts are not playing from time to time and voicemail isn’t sent by email
- Sometimes billing is not done properly, for example when making a call forwarding, clients are not billed.
- Important statistics are missing (cannot see destinations, daily turnover, user consumption). This leads to a lack of control over what’s happening. If you can’t track the needed metrics, you can’t control your VoIP business properly.
- There’s an issue with call profitability reports and rate import/export
- Old features were wiped out after the system upgrade. E.g. The monthly summary per customer per destination country disappeared in the new releases (we only have a summary by a customer by day).
The ease of use
Nowadays user experience and ease of use are some of the top criteria in the software business. That’s why good UX and UI design professionals are often wanted and are highly paid.
Quite often I receive emails from technical people who complain about the complicated management of A2billing. The system is difficult to install, set up, and maintain. Moreover, A2billing requires a lot of attention which is very time consuming and causes headaches for those who have to use it daily. These are some of the issues I received, related to the complexity of the system:
- Making invoices in A2billing takes too much time. It is a very complicated process and needs to be done manually. Moreover, my clients want to get CDRs by email, but the system doesn’t have this feature. I also miss the payment gateway options because now I need to add payments by hand which is very time-consuming.
- Complicated tariff management. Buying and selling rates are in one tariff and it is very hard to work with such logic. Hard to manage rate updates from providers. The price list handling is often a nightmare.
- I must manage two separate accounts: one to sell DIDs (my website) and another to manually add payments. My clients order services (DIDs) on one system (my website) and then I need to manually provision it (transfer the credit to another account) on A2billing. This is a total waste of time.
If the A2billing interface is too complicated for people who administer it, you can imagine how difficult it is to understand for people with less technical knowledge (for example, resellers or end-users).
Speed, performance, and stability
A2billing works well if the call volume isn’t too big. However, there are performance issues (calls hang, system crashes), when the call load reaches around 100 concurrent calls. Nowadays you need a fast system, but A2billing has quite slow execution of A2billing PHP scripts on the server (you can read more about this issue in the A2billing forum).
Star2Billing states on their website that whenever they do installations of A2Billing, they see attacks via SIP occurring within a few minutes of installation, probing for access. The sad truth is that this system is very vulnerable and there are some security holes that are well-known to VoIP hackers. If you don’t know that, you can be hacked in minutes after opening your system to the public internet.
To use A2billing you need to be tech-savvy, have a great experience with Linux and Asterisk (or to hire a person with such skills) because you’ll need to do many fixes and customizations to make the system complete and stable. If you have great technical skills and experience with open source telephony systems (especially Asterisk), I am sure that you can run A2billing without any issues.
However, if your VoIP traffic is growing, you add new users and your business has an increasing number of clients, there’s a big chance that you’ll want something better. It’s much easier to work when you have:
- User-friendly interface for both administrator (you) and your clients
- Flexibility to use API that allows you to do any integration with your CRM, ERP, website or other systems
- Stable, fast and scalable system that can meet your growing traffic needs
- Automated invoice generation and tariff import
- Complete and working functionality
- System upgrades that can be done without any downtime
- Automated redundancy in case your main server is down
- Detailed documentation in case you have some question
- Professional support that is available 24×7
There’s no ideal softswitch that would meet all your requirements, but if you’re curious to evaluate other alternatives in the market, you can check out Kolmisoft class 4/5 softswitches. We have many satisfied clients who have previously used A2billing and now rely on our sofstwitches to grow their business.
If you’ve read till the end, congrats! I’m curious to learn if you have tried A2billing. What’s your experience with this system?