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3CX Phone System Pro 16 Update 8 review: Flexible and affordable

Concerned about hosting an on-site VoIP system? Rest easy – this PBX is easy to set up, yet hugely versatile

A screenshot of the 3CX Phone System Pro 16 Update 8 dashboard
£554 exc VAT (16SC Pro with 1yr maintenance)
  • Heaps of hosting options
  • Great value
  • Tons of call-handling features
  • Setup can be somewhat time-consuming

Any business looking for an on-premises IP PBX needs to check out 3CX’s Phone System. It provides a remarkable range of features and terrific platform support, yet it’s very affordable. 

There’s a variety of packages on offer, but all of them support an unlimited number of extensions and include all mobile apps. In fact, the standard service is free for the first year, which should give you more than ample opportunity to try it out. 

After that, licensing is based on the number of simultaneous calls you want supported. Small businesses may get by with the free-forever 8SC version, which, as the name hints, handles up to eight calls at once; for mid-sized offices, the 16SC Pro package costs £554 per year. It’s recommended for up to 50 users, although that’s just a guideline. 

All of the tiers provide a solid set of call-handling features, including inbound and outbound rules, call parking and videoconferencing. A digital receptionist presents custom messages and menus to ensure that callers reach the right person, while homeworkers can easily redirect calls to their mobiles. Meanwhile, web conferencing comes as standard these days.

If you pay for a Pro or Enterprise licence, you get additional access to call queues, call reports and recording services. There’s also tight integration with Microsoft 365, and a range of CRM and help desk solutions such as Salesforce and Zendesk.

Naturally, you’ll need to provide your own server hardware and handsets, and you’ll also need a SIP trunk. 3CX supports a huge range of providers: we used GoTrunk and dished out Yealink T58A handsets to our users.

A screenshot of the 3CX Phone System Pro 16 Update 8 settings panel

As for the server, you have plenty of options – you can actually install Phone System on a Raspberry Pi if you wish. It will also run on a regular Windows or Linux server, or if you prefer the virtual approach you can run it in a VMware, Hyper-V or KVM host. You can even run it in the cloud, on Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure and AWS – or take it easy and let 3CX host it for you. We chose to virtualise the system on a Windows Server 2019 Hyper-V host; the process wasn’t exactly speedy, but we followed the smart wizard and had everything up and running in under an hour.

Part of this involved setting up forwarding rules on our firewall, to allow remote extensions and mobile apps to connect to the PBX. This may sound complicated, but 3CX made it easy with detailed online tutorials and a helpful firewall checker tool.

Provisioning our Yealink phones was even easier, as the 3CX software spotted them as soon as they came online. All we had to do was assign extensions; 3CX then updated their firmware and they were ready for our users.

As you configure your users, each one receives an email advising them of their extension details, along with a PIN for voicemail access. For anyone who won’t be solely using a desktop phone, there’s a URL for accessing the web client, download links for the Windows softphone app and Chrome browser extension, and a QR code that can be used to instantly register the mobile app. The setup wizard creates an external fully qualified domain name (FQDN) and SSL certificate to enable remote users to connect securely over the internet.

3CX Phone System 16 is a top choice for SMBs that want to host an on-premises IP PBX. It’s a flexible and affordable solution that’s packed with call-handling features. It’s a good bet for the future too: a major OS upgrade is already being prepared for release, bringing improved performance and even more remote-working features.

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