3CX has rolled out a major software release for its Microsoft Windows-based software PBX, the 3CX Phone System for Windows. The new Version 15 includes a number of improvements based on feedback from partners and customers, including automation of many system processes for “zero admin,” a redesigned management console, additional third party application integrations, improvements to its WebMeeting solution, a Free PBX Edition for small installations, and more.
To recap, 3CX first introduced its Phone System for Windows in 2006 as a software-based, open-standards telephony solution and a cost-effective alternative to traditional proprietary PBX hardware. 3CX software fits well into a company’s existing IT infrastructure, including virtualized environments since the software can be installed along with other applications on an existing Windows machine or on a virtualized server running Hyper-V or VMware technology. The system has been tested with, and pre-configured for, a large number of third party SIP Trunking services, SIP telephones and VoIP gateways that support the SIP standard. The solution has become known for its all-in-one functionality, advanced feature set and affordability for small and mid-size businesses.
Last year with V14, the company “found its hybrid cloud” so-to-speak, introducing a new deployment option – a wholesale hosted/cloud offer designed for Managed Service Providers (MSPs) and Value Added Resellers (VARs) that want to support multiple customers using 3CX in the cloud. Now, authorized 3CX channel partners have the flexibility to offer the 3CX Phone System for Windows as an on-site deployment or as a hosted/cloud service, either hosted by 3CX (a single instance solution in which the partner rents hosted instances from 3CX) or hosted in the partner’s own facility for more control (a multi-instance solution in which the partner can install up to 25 instances on a single Windows server). Additionally, customers can flexibly mix and match cloud and on-premises 3CX solutions within their corporate network.
3CX was recognized earlier this year by Frost & Sullivan as price/performance value leader in the unified communications market due to its innovative solutions and strong value proposition that addresses changing market requirements and increasing competitive pressures. Pricing for on-site installations is based on the number of simultaneous calls (no per extension licensing). For example, support for 128 simultaneous calls is priced at $8,995 USD (Standard Edition) or $11,545 for the (Pro/Enterprise Edition). 3CX Cloud PBX uses a subscription-based pricing model.
3CX, a 100% channel company, restructured its Partner Program in 2016, adding new partner levels, a new points system and a free certification program. Today, 3CX has offices in the US, UK, Germany, Hong Kong, South Africa, Russia and Australia, serving some 50,000 customers worldwide, including Boeing, McDonalds, Harley Davidson, Pepsi and other major corporations.
Generally available as of July 11, 2016, the new V15 software supports a number of important enhancements. Here are some highlights:
- Process Automation (Zero Admin): With V15, 3CX has automated many of the system processes, including system backup and restore, management updates, failover configurations and security. This reduces time spent on operation and maintenance and makes on-site installations “as easy as cloud services” in that little administration is required by the customer. Deployment of the solution now takes an average of only 15 minutes, according to the company. A new administration dashboard displays performance information and makes it easy to monitor and log events. V15 also improves built-in security with automatic generation and management of SSL certificates, encryption of voice traffic via SRTP, detection and auto blacklisting of SIP attack tools and more.
- Application Integration: V15 adds native support for more third party CRM and business process applications (no plug-ins are required). A new scriptable interface makes integration easier for IT administrators and allows them to centrally install and maintain these applications. The 3CX Pro/Enterprise Edition currently integrates with about a dozen third party applications, including Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Office 365, Microsoft Dynamics, Microsoft Exchange, Salesforce, SugarCRM, Google Contacts, Exact, Zendesk, Freshdesk, act! and Datev. End users or partners with development skills can develop source code for additional integrations using the 3CX Visual Studio Plugin Template that generates most of the code needed. For those without development resources, 3CX accepts suggestions online and will consider the integration for a future enhancement.
- WebMeeting Improvements: 3CX WebMeeting is a client-free web conferencing solution that leverages WebRTC technology to enable one-click conferencing, meeting recording, remote control and screen sharing. The solution can be deployed as an on-site server or accessed as a hosted service, and pricing is based on the number of concurrent meeting participants (10, 25, 50 or 100). Note that a 10-user license is free with the Standard Edition (25 users with the Pro/Enterprise Edition and five users with the Free PBX Edition). V15 adds a redesigned interface that makes it easier to start and control video calls with a personal URL for each user, and new single stream technology is employed to reduce bandwidth usage.
- Free PBX Edition: V15 re-introduces the 3CX Free PBX Edition as a “lite” version that comes with eight simultaneous call licenses, free web conferencing for up to five participants, a single SIP Trunk and one year of free maintenance. The Free Edition is a good way for small offices evaluate the solution. Upgrading later to one of the more fully-featured commercial editions (Standard or Pro/Enterprise) is a simple license activation.
Down the Road
3CX will be incorporating the new V15 capabilities into the 3CX Cloud PBX Server soon, making the new dashboard, management console, application integrations and WebMeeting improvements available to customers that choose to subscribe to the 3CX solution as-a-service. 3CX is refreshingly open about forthcoming features and enhancements and takes seriously the input from partners and end customers on the company’s online forum. Plans are to address most of the top 20 ideas posted there in an upcoming Service Pack. Stay tuned.