One of the phone systems that I have been playing with over the last few months is Windows based 3CX phone system from the UK based company of the same name.
I have known about the 3CX system for quite sometime, having first come across the company while doing some searches on YouTube. Now, I come across a ton of products every week. My office and home are litter with them. However, most do not hold my attention for more than a few days, like the 3CX system has.
It is windows based and very easy to use.
Before I get into the nitty gritty of the review, let me preface this by saying that will I can be dangerous with code if given the chance, I am not a programmer and very much do not want to be one, so I am biased towards systems that are built for the average technologist (or employee).
3CX Phone System for Windows is a software-based IP PBX based on Windows. From the get-go this is one of the most important differentiators of the product as it “feels” like any other windows product that millions of business users are use to. In addition, because the phone system is software, it can run on an existing PC (if you are a small company) or you can run it on a dedicated Windows server.
The 3CX phone system comes in three different flavors:
- Small Business Edition – From $595
- Pro Edition – From $995
- Enterprise Edition – From $1650
Each of the three versions contains a standard, yet robust feature set including auto-attendant, call forwarding, call parking, call pick-up, called id, voicemail, voicemail to email, ring groups, hunt groups, Outlook and SalesForce.com integration, support for most SIP based IP Phones and the popular voice codecs.
It was one of, if not the easiest install and configuration I have done to date (as it relates to phone systems). From the initial download on the website, install and configuration, consisting of having two IP Phones registered, a basic auto attendant and a VoIP provider set-up, it took all of 40 minutes. That is fast.
What made the install so easy was that it was Windows based (so I could download it right to my PC) and with their intuitive web based interface setting up extensions, provisioning phones, creating an auto-attendant was painless. Although I did not set-up a POTS line or integrate the system with Outlook, I did spend some time “playing around” with those configuration settings and they were straight forward as well.
For many, simple isn’t sexy, but when you don’t care to spend days (or weeks) configuring a phone system it sure is!
The 3CX systems greatest Pro is also one of it’s downfalls (depending on who you are). Since it is built to be simply and easy, it does not have a ton of bells and whistles. Certain must haves such as find-me-follow-me and call queues (available with paid version only) are not currently available.
Although I did not integrate the system with an analog gateway for PSTN connectivity, I can tell you (based on previous experience) that configuring an analog gateway isn’t always easy. This has the potential to be a pain point for those who are less than savvy (Unless you are using a Patton gateway, in which 3CX automatically creates configuration files
which can be uploaded to the gateways. This makes configuration of gateways with 3Cx a snap). In addition, because it is Windows based, there are not any PCI cards that I know of that can be used as an alternative to an external gateway.
Overall Impressions of the 3CX Phone System
Honestly, it was tough to find much wrong with the software. It is easy and simple to set-up and maintain, it has a pretty robust feature set, supports a wide variety of hardware and is very affordable. Software aside, 3CX provides excellent support and the organization is very visible and accessible. Furthermore, their forum provides a wealth of knowledge.Now, if you are an enterprise looking for a phone system, this isn’t for you, but if you are an SMB without an IT staff (or one that is not VoIP/Linux savvy) this is an excellent solution for you.