3CX Phone System review

3CX delivers everything you could possibly want from a software IP PBX – and at a good price, too

Price
£270
  • Simple handset provisioning; Great feature-set;
  • Slight glitches during setup;

The Phone System from 3CX has been around for a decade - a long time in VoIP. It has become the preferred PBX software choice for many service providers, thanks to a remarkable range of features that scale easily from SMBs to enterprises. It's also one of few software products designed to run on a Windows host.

You can try out 3CX without any financial commitment, since the two-channel version supports two simultaneous internal or external calls for free. Commercial licences are flexibly priced; a four-channel licence costs 270, including one year's software maintenance, while a 16-channel licence costs 964.

We installed 3CX in the lab on a Windows Server 2012 R2 host and had it running inside 30 minutes. A slick wizard-based setup walked us through settings (note the number of digits in internal extensions can't be easily changed later).

Before connecting our SIP trunk, we needed to open up SIP and RTP ports on our firewall using forwarding rules; happily, 3CX provides excellent online tutorials for this. It also provides a firewall checker tool, which tested all required ports and confirmed that we were good to go.

At this stage we hit a glitch with our Sipgate account - we could only connect if we selected the German option in the wizard. After adding our details, we had to manually modify the server and proxy hostnames to make it work with our UK account.

The next step is extensions. Your user list can be entered manually or imported from Active Directory, so details such as email addresses and mobile numbers are picked up as well. Each user gets a randomly generated PIN, so they can securely access voicemail from their phone.

Handset provisioning couldn't be easier: our Yealink T23G IP phones were automatically detected and popped up as new entries in the console. Once each had been assigned an extension, 3CX pushed a profile to it. This set the provisioning URL and secured access to the web console by changing the default password.

The 3CX software can optionally send a welcome email to each user, with details of their extension number, voicemail PIN and download links for the 3CX softphone app for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS. An attachment to this email contains the necessary settings for softphone apps. After we'd installed the iOS app, we simply needed to point it at this file to set everything up for use.

There's an impressive range of PBX features. The 3CX digital receptionist can provide callers with a menu of options for directing them to the right extension. Our SIP trunk had three external numbers assigned, and we were easily able to configure 3CX so that each one went to a different extension.

Users can be put into ring groups. Incoming callers can be placed into queues, and different responses can be configured outside normal office hours. Outbound call-routing features are just as versatile.

We were able to choose what features each extension was allowed to use: we permitted outbound calls only with the correct prefix, and each rule could have up to three routes assigned as backups.

If you want to host your own IP PBX, 3CX's Phone System does everything you could ask for. We found it easy to install, and were bowled over by the incredible range of call-handling features it offers at such a reasonable price.

This review was originally published in PC Pro issue 261.

Verdict

If you want to host your own IP PBX, 3CX’s Phone System does everything you could ask for. We found it easy to install, and were bowled over by the incredible range of call-handling features it offers at such a reasonable price.

Windows 7/Server 2008 R2 upwards

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