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Hopefully, by now, the VPN tickets have ended and that you’re all working from home with almost fully operating systems and your clients are the same. If not, this post may be for you. A major telephony partner (3CX) has announced a free 3-year license to help companies to work from home and communicate as effectively as possible. Click Here to request a free license key.

Some of the features include:

  • Integrated Web-Meetings
  • Live Chat (WordPress Plugin Available)
  • Office 365 Integration
  • Mobile App (iOS/Android)
  • Unlimited Extensions
  • Call Queues/Digital Receptionist/Wallboard/Reporting
  • Web Client/Chrome Integration

3CX is a software-based PBX meaning you can run it on any Windows/Linux hardware and even in the cloud (Personally I’ve used Azure and AWS but there is also support for Google Cloud and more)

We’ve found over the years that the system supports a huge number of SIP providers (even those not officially supported still work flawlessly providing you have the correct settings from your provider)

3CX Management Console shown for V16.

Personal Recommendations

I’ve been a huge fan of 3CX over the years and think it has come a long way in making cleaner and faster installations as well as making the interface clean and simple to navigate. Here are some of my tips on how to save money and time!

AWS

Although you can install 3CX on a PC on-premise, Amazon AWS allows you to use a Debian instance sized at t2.micro for free for 12 months, afterward costs are at around £8-£10 per month for hosting the system. I find that for a client with little call recording requirements with less than 10 users this works perfectly. (t2.micro comes with 8GB HDD as standard and 3CX uses around 1GB).

SBC (Session Border Controller)

As the system is hosted in the cloud, ideally you want a direct ‘tunnel’ to your premises. This is where an SBC comes in. This will tunnel all SIP and RTP traffic down one, encrypted port, and allow for plug and play provisioning and a much cleaner setup. I personally use Raspberry Pi’s for this job as they are cheap, small and they never fail.

Here’s a link to the Pi that I use from Amazon: Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ Desktop Starter Kit (16Gb, Black)

The alternative here is to use STUN which will connect each phone directly to the PBX in the cloud. I don’t personally like this method as it means opening and changing various SIP/RTP ports for each location and if the end-user is provisioning their own phones and enters their username/password incorrectly, they will blacklist their IP address and you’ll have to start over again.

PBX Express

For a little setup, you can save yourself a lot of effort. The PBX express will build your PBX for you in the cloud, provision it with all of your settings, and in under 10 minutes provide you with a list of all the settings and usernames/passwords. You can find out more about the PBX Express here.

Partner & Certification

Becoming a partner and getting certified is something that you’re going to want to do if you’re looking to continue using and selling the system long-term. I passed the 3 certification exams in about 1 hour total. The more employees you have certified and the more systems you sell, the higher up their partner list you will go.

Value

One of the main issues I have with 3CX is that the pricing is public. This means that any client wanting to see what you’re paying can (roughly). The biggest selling point of installing a PBX like this should always be your time. You can easily sell the PBX, Cloud Servers/SBC’s and so on, but to actually install the system, build the web-chat functionality, integrate to Office 365 or external CRM systems (ConnectWise is also supported) and train them on how to use it could easily net you more profit than the annual cost of the license fees.

Further Help

I’ve been certified in 3CX for many years now and would love to hear about your experiences or issues if you’re having any. Likewise, if you’re reading this and thinking of starting out with 3CX for yourself or your clients but aren’t sure how to build a Debian PBX in the cloud then please let me know! I’d be happy to put some posts up on how to do various things with the system.

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