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3CX – An IP-PBX for Windows in under 10 minutes

Recently on Hak5 I showed how easy it was to setup a Windows based IP-PBX using software by 3CX, a company out of the small country of Cypress.

After having an urgent need to replace our aging PSTN based telephone system which costs $100/hr for some monkey to come in and make a simple extension change, my company decided it was time for something we could control.

I had been through this motion about a year prior, and in that time, came away with a solution from Mitel which ended up costing around $30,000.  Now this was a great platform, (IP3300 if I remember correctly) Office Communications Server 2007 integration, remote site support, Exchange 2007 UM integration, all of the key features that I had spent tireless hours implementing in our infrastructure to hopefully take advantage of in a new phone system.

However, the current economic conditions as they are, we could no longer justify a $30,000 price tag for a new phone system;  Enter 3CX.

After searching google for about a half hour, and looking at all of the asterisk based IP-PBX systems, I came across the 3CX IP-PBX platform which ran on top of Windows.  Now I know there are those of you out there that may be reading this thinking to yourselves, AHHH MORE WINDOWS.  Well you can go to hell, seriously.  My company is a Microsoft shop, end of story.  I have no need, nor the time to do something in linux that would take me personally longer than it would in Windows.  You may be quicker, and that’s good for you, but I can’t be bothered.  Windows works for my company, and that’s all that you need to know.

Back on track…  After downloading the free version (yes it’s completely free if you don’t need some of the advanced features such as Exchange 2007 UM integration, or call parking, etc.) I literally had a functioning internal phone system up and running in about 10 minutes.  The installation is painless, and the configuration steps a breeze.

So I decided to kick it up a notch.  I ordered a single Linksys SPA962 IP Phone from 888voipstore (I highly recommend these guys, sure you can find stuff for 10-15 bucks cheaper, but at the end of the day, I’m speaking to someone I understand, and who is very attentive to their customer)  After receiving said phone, I plugged in the mac address to the 3CX back end, and auto provisioned the phone.  CAKE!  Nice and moist, just the way I like it.

Next came the all important decision of how many people we’re going to roll this out to in Phase 1.  Answer? 16
I can handle 16, and apparently so can 3CX.  I had 16 extensions and phones configured in about 2 hours.  That includes the time it takes to upgrade the phones to the latest 6.1.5a firmware available from Cisco.

All in all I’m pretty satisfied with the 3CX package.  While I can’t get into every nitty gritty detail of my phone system, I don’t need to.  The software works, a few small issues not withstanding) and I can eventually turn over basic user maintenance to someone who isn’t an IT person because it really is that easy to use.

I really would suggest anyone with a Windows machine lying around the house who has a need for a basic PBX for use with either a VOIP provider, or a PSTN gateway look at 3CX.  I know I’ll be deploying a server here at the hakhouse for some other business purposes, and don’t have to worry about much beyond which machine I’m actually going to throw it on.

For more info on 3CX or to download the free version OR their enterprise version with a free demo license which unlocks all of the software’s functionality, but limit’s it to 2 concurrent calls should visit http://www.3cx.com

13 Comments

  1. Hey Matt. First, congrats on the promotion. Second, excellent tutorial/information on 3CX. Do you have any cheap/free VOIP providers? I’m trying to get a small business going and would like to implement a separate phone line using a PBX such as 3CX or Asterisk.

  2. Cool shit man. I need to look into this more. i’m trying to get my small business consulting business off the ground ( really small 5-30 employees) and i want to be able to offer something like this to them only problem is i know nothing about phones other than how to use them. For instance most people either have a few phone lines from verizon or a digital line from optimum business or which every cable provider covers their area. how would i implement this? other than the windows box and phones what else would i need?
    Ryan

  3. @Drakeg : if you’re looking for a voip provider, you can try http://www.teliax.com or http://broadvox.net I’ve personally used both of them and can recommend them without issue.

    @wolfman2g1 : There are media gateways from companies like linksys, or you can get an idea from this website here. http://www.888voipstore.com/popular-voip-adapters-c-340.html Basically you can have the PSTN lines converted over to straight SIP lines, or you can use one of those gateways to utilize the existing phone lines you have in place.

    It took me to wrap my head around the concept of all of this because I most definitely am not a telecom guy. But it does get easier as you play with it.

    Please let me know if you guys have any more questions.

  4. Matt,

    Great video. We stumbled on 3CX last fall because we were looking to replace our phone solution. We set it up and haven’t looked back. It is easy to set up and maintain and very cost effective for most businesses. We’ve got customers that have implemented it who are saving enough for the system to pay for itself in less than a year and a half.

    I will second that the Broadvox and 888voipstore guys are great. The folks at 3CX are top notch as well. I’ve met their CEO and one of their developers and have communicated with others that work for the company in their forums. Every aspect of it has been a good experience.

    Matt

  5. how many phone calls can i have make/receive simultaneously with say two phone lines?

  6. With 2 standard PSTN phone lines you’ll be able to have 2 external calls going at the same time.

    Matt : Yea I have to be honest, the other options didn’t really appeal to me, and I’m 90% happy with te 3cx solution. There’s just a couple outstanding things that I would like to see before I’m 100% on it. But those are easily worked around.

  7. I’m not sure if this is necessarily the place for it but I’m curious as to what features you’d like to see added/changed.

  8. We were a little disheartened by the comments about the refusal of OCS integration, as we went through great lengths to set the solution up in our office as soon as it was available.
    2007 UM integration needs to be completed, for example, MWI does not work when using Exchange as your VM server.
    Documentation needs to be a whole lot better, as they’re billing this solution as one that’s easy to setup, and while it was indeed easy, there was alot of digging around that I had to do and answers to questions that were buried in places other than 3CX’s website.
    There’s also a bug where calls don’t get disconnected from a conference session when a user hangs up the call channel is left open.
    Also, the ring group name injection in the CID string needs to be user selectable. As it’s currently at the end of the string, our RG names get cut off on certain calls, which makes it impossible to determine how to answer the phone as the person answering it doesn’t know the originating group.
    Those are a couple things that come to mind, but overall we’re pretty happy with the software.

  9. Thanks for the great review Matt! Much appreciated. If you ever have any questions don’t hesitate to let me know. I have registered on the site with my email…

  10. Thanks Nick, yea like I said, there’s just a couple things that I think could use a little work, and a couple feature requests that I have after deploying the system across my enterprise. I’ll be submitting tickets and the corresponding feature requests via the ticketing system soon.

  11. Excellent follow up – thanks for taking the time to not only read the posts we’ve made, but also demonstrating it on the latest Hak5 episode. You guys have put on a great show and it’s appreciated.

  12. Matt love the section you did on IP-PBX.

    Since I’m very new to all this I’d appreciate if you could describe what is needed carrier/hardware wise to get this working.

    What kind of line (or lines) much the carrier provide and are these just plugged to the NIC on the PC the software is installed. I’d probably get this working (the software/install part), but can’t quite imagine the infrastructure that is needed to even get started.

  13. Dear Matt ,
    thanks for your efforts and i saw many of your videos under YouTube you make it easy as well to everybody , i just tried this 3cx from long time ago i got it work fine local calling in LAN i didn’t success outgoing calls outside LAN , can please check this software http://www.myvoipapp.com/ . too.

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