Years ago I installed a number of phone systems, mostly Avaya Partner systems they were great, they had a ton of features for a reasonable cost. I've hung up most of my cabling tools but still play with phones from time to time. About a year ago, a client needed a new phone system, after searching high and low we decided on a windows based 3CX system.
I installed one at my office also, so I could both provide phone system support and learn how to develop for the platform. 3CX has an available API so we can talk nicely to the phone system. If you're looking to update your phone system, in my opinion 3CX is the way to go.
The 3CX phone system uses IP based phones, I've used Yealink phones and Patton networking devices with good success. For fun I tossed a cheap GrandStream device on a residential wireless phone system and have an extension I can walk with, without paying $600 for a custom wireless phone. Our 3CX system runs on a workstation class VPC under Hyper-V. It works great, after setting it up the main reason I look at it is to add a number to the blocked number list.
One issue now days with classic phone switches or systems is their phones are limited to that particular model switch. You can't carry your phone with you to the next system, and you surly can't take it on the road. With IP based systems you can do both. So if in the future 3CX isn't tickling your fancy anymore, there's no reason to toss your investment in phone hardware, just configure them for the new system. I don't see that happening as these guys have built a nice system and are adding major features every release.
And of course since it's software, there are add-ons and feature packages that can be added as easy as installed a piece of software. Need more lines just upgrade your license. There's even a free version for a Mom and Pop shop with 2 simultaneous calls, still with unlimited extensions. It is sold by simultaneous calls supported, with a 16 call license at just under $1400 right now. Upgrade maintenance is a good value at what looks like 20%, kind of the standard IMHO.
Here are some key features of the 3CX IP Phone system
- Complete phone system – Provides call switching, routing & queuing
- Purchase cost dramatically lower than a traditional hardware PBX
- Scalable – Unlimited extensions and phone lines. No proprietary expansion modules needed!
- Web based configuration & status indication – Easy phone system management!
- Unified Communications – Receive voice mail via email & see user presence
- Auto-Attendant (e.g. 1 for sales, 2 for support, etc.)
- Reduce long distance and inter office call costs
- No more expensive proprietary system phones – Use standard SIP phones
- Eliminate the phone wiring and make moving offices easier
- Easy call control, presence and extension management
- Click to Dial & Call Pop-up for Microsoft Outlook
- Receive & Make calls via the standard PSTN using VoIP Gateways or cards
- Save on monthly call costs using SIP trunks, VoIP providers or Skype Connect!
- Out of the box configuration for many VoIP Providers, VoIP Gateways, Skype™ and IP Phones
It even comes with a cool jazz on-hold track, I laid some voice over the stock music using Audacity and have a great 6 minute loop. Feel free to call our system at 937-424-5734 Select unmentioned Option 9 when the digital receptionist is taking and our on-hold loop will play. You will be stuck there, it's a great place to send telemarketers.
I like the fact that I can easily see if users have Voice Mail prompts setup. I don't care for many phone systems default prompt to leave a message, it's usually something like "please leave a message" With the 3CX system a look in \VoiceMail\Data\ExtensionNumber and you can see or listen to your companies outgoing messages.
If you're like me and have trouble recording prompts, they can easily be recorded on a PC then transferred and setup behind the scenes without ever picking up a phone. That is working the system a bit, this is a phone system so the web page configuration system connects to phones in many places. You don't talk into the computer microphone and record directly to a phone system.
If you have large amounts of drive space extension recording can be turned on by default, so all voice calls will be recorded in \Recordings\ExtensionNumber. For us it's nice to be able to go back sometimes and rehear a conversation. On average I record about a gig a month covering 15 hours talking. I probably refer to it twice a year. (maybe less)
Reporting is done through a website, it can drill down on a nice variety of search terms. I've never felt like I needed more when using 3CX Report features. I don't use it a lot, but it's nice to know if an extension called a number in a given time. And if you have recording turned on, you can hear what was recorded. The laws revolving around recording calls vary by state, most are one party consent and fine, some like CA are two party consent. IANAL (I am not a Lawyer) so consult one, I plan on keeping this information private and since I can't easily turn it off by state, everything records.
If you have any questions on the system, feel free to drop me an email firstname.lastname@example.org , I'll do my best to answer your question, or assist with your configuration. I'm focusing on 3CX development rather than installation, I post about tools I use, and I use this one the most. If you need a hand give a holler.