If you’re putting together a 3CX system for your business, you may be wondering what you need to buy and how to set it up. Never fear: I have information on software, hardware, servers, pricing, and all the other bits and pieces you need to put together a 30 user 3CX system.
3CX is a popular Windows software based PBX system for small and large businesses alike. It is one of the better PBX systems I have come across, in terms of price, ease of use, and feature set. It is probably a very good choice for your business.
The 3CX software is what everything else revolves around. Thankfully, their licensing model is very straightforward. The majority of features are included in the standard version of the software. This is licensed on a simultaneous users model. For example, to have a maximum of 8 calls happening at once you would need to buy the “3CX V12 Standard – 8 Simultaneous Calls” model which at last check costs around AU$935.00.
The beautiful thing about this model is that you can have a virtually unlimited amount of extensions and gateways setup, but still only have to buy the cheapest version if that’s how many calls you expect to happen at once.
If you need additional features, particularly those used in call centres and hotels, then you will need to upgrade to the Professional version and perhaps add some modules.
Professional vs Standard
The professional version of 3CX adds call centre features, Microsoft Exchange integration and remote presence functionality to see weather users in other 3CX-enabled offices are available.
Modules for Hotels and CRM Integration
3CX has addon modules available to provide extra functionality to hotels. They also have addon modules to integrate with CRMs such as SageACT, Microsoft Dynamics, Salesforce, SugarCRM and Google.
View the 3CX Price List to find out how much the software licenses will cost you.
Don’t forget a Windows License!
Don’t fall into the trap of failing to price in a Windows license. You can choose Windows 7, Server 2008 R2, or Server 2012 for all but the largest systems. I have found no issues using Windows 7, but will try and use Server 2008 R2, especially if I already have virtualisation rights.
In reality, 3CX can run on any standard computer hardware, so long as it’s capable of running Windows well. Most modern desktops these days are capable. The real-world required specs vary based on how many calls you’re processing, and how much storage you need for things such as voice mail and music-on-hold. Here are the official minimum specs for the 16 simultaneous calls version:
Core2Duo E4500 @ 2.20Ghz
1 GB RAM
IIS 7 or Abyss Web Server
10/100 Mbit/s LAN
I tend to run 3CX on a Virtual Machine. I have have much success running it on the same VMWare ESXi host as the office’s main domain controller and file servers, so long as it’s dedicated a couple of extra cores.
Here is the official minimum specs list.
If you need to purchase new hardware, I usually recommend Dell servers. Try and budget for dual power supplies and multiple hard drives in some sort of RAID configuration for extra redundancy. Their three year next business day warranty is well worth it, too.
While you can use any old SIP phone, I recommend you use handsets off the official 3CX Handset list.
At the moment I’m loving the Yealink SIP-T32G. Not only does it have a colour screen, it is also gigabit meaning you can make full use of your gigabit LAN. While you probably haven’t heard of Yealink before, I’ve found their phones to be solid and easy to use.
3CX VoIP Providers & Gateways
A SIP Trunk provider will allow you to make and receive calls to the public phone network. The official 3CX list for Australia is a bit lacking, but thankfully most SIP providers will be suitable. You can choose to buy “enterprisey” services from the big telcos such as Telstra and Optus, or you can go with a smaller provider such as WorldDialPoint, MyNetFone, or any of the hundreds of others.
Some providers will provision a dedicated IP connection to your premises to deliver their SIP trunks with a SLA. Others will allow you to access it over the public internet. Your choice here depends on your business requirements.
If you choose not to use SIP trunks, or want a backup, you will need some hardware to interface your 3CX software with the real-life phone network. I have used the Patton SmartNode range of gateways before, and highly recommend them. Contact me if you want pricing on any SmartNode products.
3CX Network Equipment
There are a few bits of networking gear you need to do a VoIP installation:
- Router / Firewall / Internet Gateway
- PoE Network Switch
Selecting a PoE switch is well worth the extra investment, as it will remove the need for wall warts (a.k.a. plug packs, transformers, etc). Be careful though – not all PoE switches actually have PoE on EVERY port. Make sure you check this detail very carefully when selecting a switch.
Your router could very well just be your existing one. Make sure you can do port forwarding, and that it is compatible with SIP. Often with cheaper routers you need to disable SIP Helper functionality in order for SIP to pass through properly. If you are starting from scratch, it’s worth taking a look at the Ubiquiti EdgeMax routers.
Make sure you budget an appropriate amount of time for setup. For a thirty user install, I’ve found a day is usually all it takes to do the install assuming you’ve already gathered the appropriate information ahead of time. This process can take longer if you have issues with networking gear, routing, cabling or advanced configuration. After the initial config there are usually a few stray hours spent here and there doing config changes. Overall, it’s a fairly easy system for a tech and phone savvy individual to get their head around.
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