In the past if you wanted to run an IP PBX platform on Windows, your only choice was to run Linux and an IP PBX like Asterisk or trixbox CE under VMWare or other virtualization method. While this would mostly work out ok, Asterisk can have issues with timing under VMWare which can cause sound problems with files being played back such as voicemail and IVR prompts.
For Windows administrators who have been looking for a real native Windows application and have been disappointed in the few lackluster products that have been available, things are about to change.
Early this year 3CX released version 7 of their IP PBX software for Windows-based systems. Version 7 was a milestone for the 3CX product in terms of functionality and reliability but was just a little lacking in some features and endpoint support. Within the next few weeks, 3CX will be unleashing version 8 which is set to really put 3CX on the map with enhanced features and third-party hardware support.
Why is 3CX Important?
Other people can tackle the Linux versus Windows debate but the fact is that most small-medium businesses run Windows exclusively and there are many thousands of IT consultants out there that donâ€™t know and donâ€™t want to learn Linux. While products like trixbox CE certainly opened the world of business telephony to many, many people, a solid product like 3CX being available on Windows could turn out to be an even bigger game-changer.
Is 3CX the best IP PBX platform available? No, and nobody is claiming it isâ€¦.yet. Other systems out there, from companies like Digium and Fonality, have a several year head start on 3CX and while version 7 has dramatically increased the acceptance level to many resellers and integrators, there has still been a few things lacking from it. Version 8, due out soon, addresses many of these issues and brings some the feature set much closer to competing solutions.
Taking a look at 3CX
3CX runs as a set of services and uses a web interface to configuring and manage the configuration. You can either use IIS or the Cassini web server that can be installed during the 3CX setup.
3CX uses the standard SIP protocol so it will work with most every third party VoIP phone that also speaks SIP such as phones from Polycom, Aastra, snom, Cisco, and Grandstream as well as SIP trunking services from companies such as Vitelity and Bandwidth.com.
While the interface may be a simple infinite-tree GUI, it is laid out well and in a logical order making it fairly simple to use with very little training.
From a user point of view there really isnâ€™t anything interesting about a phone system. The one thing a user interfaces with is their phone, and even those arenâ€™t that different between the different models that are available.Â One thing that 3CX brings to the mix is the 3CX Assistant, a program that melds the desktop and the phone into one handy application.
The 3CX assistant is more than just an app that shows the status of other phones, it also lets you manage incoming calls, call other extensions, make outbound calls, see other peopleâ€™s status, and chat with other people in the company.
The 3CX Assistant will become an essential productivity tool. While it may not be obvious at first, the more you use it, the more you will depend upon it. Being able to see when something is available or not, chat with them, and manage calls will change the way you interact with the other employees within your company.
No more calling people who arenâ€™t at their desk or having to go through the hassle of sending an email when all you need is a quick answer to something, just chat. Why not just use Yahoo or Microsoft Messenger? Any company that has used an outside instant messenger service knows that inevitably friends and family members end up in employeeâ€™s buddy lists. Keeping chat constrained to business purposes helps eliminates those outside distractions.
3CX licensing is based on simultaneous calls within the system and not on extensions like most other systems. This can make 3CX much more affordable than other commercial offerings. Inbound, outbound, extension to extension, and voicemail calls all count against the simultaneous calls counter. While this is rather unorthodox for a licensing model, it does mean that every version from the lowest Mini Edition to the largest Enterprise version all have the same identical feature set. There are no extra charges for call queues, bridged servers, conference rooms, or other higher end features that other systems charge extra for.
- Mini Edition (4 simultaneous calls) $350
- Small Business (8 simultaneous calls) $695
- Pro Business (16 simultaneous calls) $1,250
- Pro Business (24 simultaneous calls) $1,695
- Enterprise Business (32 simultaneous calls) $2,250
- Enterprise Business (64 simultaneous calls) $4,295
- Enterprise Business (128 simultaneous calls) $7,495
- Enterprise Business (256 simultaneous calls) $12,50