3CX Makes the Leap to Unified Communications

The low-cost, Windows-based PBX adds video, presence, and other enterprise features.

By Adam Stone | Posted Aug 5, 2010
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With the latest upgrade to its IP phone system, 3CX is upping the ante. Adding video support and new enterprise features, the company is making a leap into unified communications.

Founded in 2006, the Cyprus-based company has offices in the U.S., U.K, Australia, and Hong Kong. Its open-standard, Windows-based platform works with standard SIP phones and replaces a proprietary PBX.

3CX’s new V9 allows for video calls with other 3CXPhone users, or with standards-based video phones such as those from from Xlite, Yealink or Grandstream. "We now have a full UC solution with all the features that you hear about, but still at the core of it is a powerful PBX," said CEO Nick Galea.

3CX comes in both a free and paid version. While lacking some functionality, the free version still is sufficient to meet most small-business needs, Galea said.

The commercial solution starts at about $400 for 10 extensions, which includes the software but not any needed IP phones. A $700 package supports up to 25 extensions. The system can scale up from there. On the high end, Galea said, the company has installations ranging from 500 to 1,000 users. The system can handle up to 500 simultaneous calls, which, typically, would mean an installation of about 2,500 extensions.

The solution comes in two parts. 3CXPhone replaces the traditional PBX. It supports standard SIP soft/hard phones, VoIP services and traditional PSTN phone lines. 3CXAssistant is a desktop utility allowing users to transfer, park or launch calls. It handles presence, phonebooks and other functions.

In addition to the new video capacity, V9 adds support for Android smartphone users, who can make and receive calls from anywhere using their extension. To do this they would download the 3CXPhone for Android softphone and configure it to interface with their 3CX.

The company is working on an iPhone version, recognizing iPhone’s impact in the marketplace. Still, Galea said, Android was a logical starting point. "Android is amazing. They have 160,000 activations per day. All the major manufacturers are selling smart phones based on Android," he said.

"What you have seen in the last six months is that the number of applications for Android and the numbers of phones for Android had has increased dramatically," he said. The company is nonetheless hedging its bets: It plans to release an iPhone capability within the next few months.

In a further nod to enterprise users, V9 adds a provisioning feature that allows users to install client applications via an HTTP link that will automatically install and configure them. This simplifies the process considerably, Galea said.

"For larger companies it just saves them a whole lot of administrative time, and that is what we are trying to do here: To build a solution that is easy to install and easy to manage," he said.

That ease of management comes in part through 3CX’s reliance on the Windows platform. As opposed to Linux or a proprietary solution, a Window-based system is more likely to be accessible to administrators, Galea said.

V9 also has a significant enhancement meant to serve users with multiple locations. The multi-site function brings presence, transfer, conference calls, and other features into branch offices.

This can be powerful. Suppose a call comes into the main office. Without multi-site functionality, the receptionist passes it on to the remote sales office. Who’s there to answer? The receptionist can’t guess.

Now add presence to the remote office. That call doesn’t just land in the sales department. It lands on the desk of someone known to be available.

With the addition of video along with a diverse range of other enhancements, 3CX has set itself to build on its existing momentum, gearing up for a leap into the enterprise market. Looking ahead, the company has changes in the works that could further empower those customers in their efforts to communicate.

"We are working to integrate with services like Skype going forward, so that companies can communicate with as many people as possible without requiring a proprietary client," Galea said. "That makes your video that much more powerful, because your customers can use it even if they are not on your system or not using SIP."

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