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