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Published on September 30th, 2009 | by Alexis Argent

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Why 3CX? Interview with Nick Galea, the CEO of 3CX

This past week, VoIPon had a chance to interview 3CX’s CEO, Nick Galea to get answers to some of the questions which might cross the minds of business owners as they look to replace their traditional PBX with one of the many options available to them in next generation phone systems.

We asked Nick to elaborate on his answers in this podcast, but here is the summary.

VoIPon: Why should someone choose 3CX based system over the dominant open source software Asterisk?

Nick Galea (NG): 3CX should be the system of choice for any company running a Windows network and servers.

Asterisk is a Linux solution. It requires Linux knowledge and quite a lot of it too. If you are not familiar with Linux, then you will need to do a lot of training JUST to run a phone system. Choosing a Linux distribution with Asterisk pre-installed will not shield you from this either. A network administrator will:

  • have to understand how the Linux distribution works,
  • be able to apply security updates (which is critical),
  • connect it to the Windows network,
  • learn how to integrate it with Windows server applications, and
  • learn how to monitor it.

This will require a lot of time and technical support. If you factor in the cost of technical support, the total cost of an Asterisk-based system is much higher than that of a 3CX Phone System.

There are other reasons too.
  • The 3CX interface is very easy to use and is pre-configured for use with all popular IP phones, VoIP Gateways, and VoIP providers.
  • It comes as standard with a Skype gateway.
  • You will need much less time to come to grips with replacing your old telephone system.
  • Because 3CX is based on Windows, it’s also much easier to integrate with existing Windows server applications, such as Exchange server, Microsoft Outlook and so on.

All this functionality can be easily configured out of the box and this integration is what delivers real cost-benefits to a company.

In addition, Asterisk itself is focusing on its commercial distribution, Switchvox. Many of the new features are exclusive to this hardware-based platform, which is quite expensive.

VoIPon:  What type of companies would benefit most from choosing a 3CX based solution?

NG: All companies that have networks and servers running Microsoft Windows can benefit from a 3CX-based solution. They can do away with the old phone system and save money on call costs, phone administration, and increase productivity.

VoIPon:  Why a Windows-only system? Do you foresee a port to Linux in the product’s future?

NG: Companies that run Microsoft Windows don’t want to learn Linux just to run a phone system. They want an easy to use system that runs on Windows, one that they can easily manage with their existing Windows knowledge. Linux offers no advantages to them. We have no plans for a Linux based system, because there are plenty of solutions for Linux already.

VoIPon: What makes 3CX a cost-effective system? When you buy it, do you own it or is it a software as a service model in which you must renew each year to continue to use the product?

NG: 3CX is cost effective with many VoIP Gateways, including Patton, Grandstream, Sangoma, and also Berofix.

When you buy 3CX you own it for a good, and the cost is very reasonable. A small business edition, which will serve companies up to 30 extensions, will cost only 595 euros

VoIPon: What are some challenges in packaging and delivering a software-based PBX system to the enterprise?

NG: Actually, we have spent a lot of time removing the challenges of deploying an IP phone system by delivering a solution that runs on Microsoft Windows, a system that network administrators know and trust, and by automatically configuring VoIP Gateways, IP phones and VoIP providers, taking away a lot of the complexity of telephony.

VoIPon: Where do you see the future of telephony going? Are there any new features in the pipeline you can share? What might we expect from 3CX in the future?

NG: The future of PBX is software based and on Windows. Software-based because it’s the easiest way to deliver a maintainable system that can be easily be enhanced by new features. And with virtualization, there is absolutely no need for an appliance — just use the excess server power to run your PBX as a virtual machine. As a virtual machine, you get easy redundancy and it saves management, hardware costs and energy.

I see the market moving towards Windows because this is clearly the system of choice for most companies in the world.

Why would it be different for the PBX market?

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4 Responses to Why 3CX? Interview with Nick Galea, the CEO of 3CX

  1. Linux is too scary and difficult for Windows users? Ever used a TiVo? A TomTom GPS? Even BMW and Audi use an open-source Linux-based system for in-car entertainment.

    This isn’t about spreadsheets and word processors. Phone systems are (software) appliances. Whether virtualized or combined with a hardware gateway, the PBX is expected to be self-contained and rock-solid stable.

    Asterisk from scratch is usually the wrong choice for a small business with simple needs. Asterisk is a powerful and complex telephony toolkit (or engine) that can be built into a wide variety of applications (or vehicles), one of which is a PBX. And yes, this flexibility requires significant implementation knowledge, but the software is freely and actively developed. So if you like to DIY, anyone can download the latest open source code from http://asterisk.org.

    Switchvox — Digium’s Asterisk-based business PBX — combines the reliability of the Linux platform (no blue screens, natch) with the accessibility of a web-enabled application. Managed from a web browser anywhere on your network, Switchvox builds unified communications on open standards including IMAP, XMPP, and XML. Switchvox is built to be a PBX for business, so it trades some of the programmer-centric flexibility of Asterisk for the ease of management that businesses need.

    When comparing the costs of a Windows-based PBX to anything else, remember the cost of the gateway that’s usually included in complete systems like Switchvox. If you’re building an IP-only system, check out Switchvox Free Edition at http://www.digium.com/en/products/switchvox/free-trial.php to see what standards-based, web-enabled unified communication can do for your organization.

    Open your windows — there’s a big world outside.

    Rod Montgomery
    Director of Services, Digium

  2. Nick Galea says:

    Hi Rod,

    Thank you for your comments.

    Yes, i have used a Tom Tom, and the entertainment system. But a PBX is not an stand alone music player. A PBX is a very important part of the company infrastructure and has to work with companies applications (eg Exchange, CRM, User Directory) and connect to the internet to allow for remote users to use the phone system. So it needs to be managed, monitored and secured. To be able to do this properly, you need to understand the complete system INCLUDING the Operating system on which it runs. Knowing just the web interface is not enough.

    Lets not get into FUD about Windows not being reliable. Of course it is. Its the server of choice for millions of organizations worldwide ranging from the the London Stock Exchange, to submarines, to Airbus Aeroplanes, right to the Small Business on the corner. They know and trust Windows.

    I dont think as PBX vendors we should be dictating what operating system the customer should run. There are plenty of companies that like Linux, of course they should go for Asterisk. However they are many companies that know and trust Windows. For those companies, 3CX is clearly the better choice.


    Nick Galea
    3CX – http://www.3cx.com
    Developers of 3CX Phone System for Windows

  3. Hi Nick,
    Thanks for the reply. I think we may have differing conceptions of what an appliance (software or otherwise) is. A proper appliance masks all the complexity of the underlying system. So in truth, the operating system doesn’t matter so long as it performs reliably and consistently. You didn’t need to learn Big Scary Linux to use TomTom, and millions of Windows users didn’t need to learn OS X to use an iPhone.

    Switchvox is a self-contained appliance that wraps the power of Asterisk and Linux in a business-friendly secure GUI. There’s no need to know, see, or use the Linux command line, just as with TiVo, CallManager, AvayaVoice, TomTom, and other Linux-based appliances.

    You seem to contend that it’s an advantage to run on Windows, because it’s already installed at millions of organizations. By that logic *every* business application should run on Windows. With so many superior alternatives available, customers just aren’t content to wear those Microsoft blinders anymore. Open standards (such as IMAP and LDAP, not MS-Exchange) give customers the freedom to choose the best solution without vendor lock-in.

    Three top concerns you mentioned — management, monitoring, and security — are handled neatly in Switchvox. After initial network configuration from a menu-driven console, all management is web-based. Call reports and backups are scheduled and delivered like clockwork. With the Switchvox Extend API (no extra charge), Switchvox can be monitored using standards-based, well-documented interfaces. For voice security, all IP-voice solutions trust the security and configuration of the underlying network. But in Switchvox, all web-based management is encrypted with SSL, the technology users trust every day with their banking and commerce.

    All the best,
    Rod Montgomery
    Director of Services, Digium

  4. Rod,
    As always, you make excellent points for the Switchvox appliance, which does what it does very well. The problem I have seen is that there are many, many IT consultants who are simply more comfortable with a product that is running on Windows than even a solid, stand-alone appliance that is running Linux. This is far less of a problem with a Switchvox appliance because, as you said, it masks all of the underlying technology under-the-hood and should therefor not require any working knowledge of Linux (unless you get a corrupt file system from a power outage, or some other major issue requiring you to have a working knowledge of Linux). An advantage that 3CX has is that it is designed as a software product to run on Windows and not as a hands-off appliance, this actually gives a lot of Windows-admin types a warm fuzzy about using it when they have been concerned about Linux-based products in the past.

    Yes, you do have a point about TiVo, TomTom, etc, but those are non-critical gadgets (ok, Tivo IS critical if you ask my wife) where a phone system is very much the most mission critical component in a business and there has to be a certain comfort level with the administrators and the platform it is on in order to have widespread acceptance. What Digium is doing with Switchvox and the Switchvox appliance by making it as much of a real appliance as possible is certainly making huge strides in the market and a Windows-based product like 3CX will open up thousands of new resellers who have been wanting a Windows-based solution.

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