The 3CX Phone System consists of several Windows services, an SQL database to store configuration data, and a web interface for administration. The 3CX VoIP Client and 3CX VoIP Phone are softphones that allow us to use a computer coupled with a headset as a phone.
The 3CX Call Assistant is a software operator panel that allows us to see the status of the phone system, control phone calls, and do simple chats between the operator and the caller.
The 3CX Call Reporter allows us to print graphs and reports of call details.
After installing 3CX, the first place you'll visit is the administration web interface. This interface (GUI) allows you to set up and maintain your 3CX Phone System. It also helps a 3CX administrator to restart services that get hanged or stuck, even if the services are remote, as shown in the following screenshot:
The 3CX Phone System is made up of 13 Windows Services that make up the core of 3CX, as shown in the next screenshot. These are Standard Windows services, and you can use normal Windows administrator tools to work with them.
A very common question I hear is: "Can I disable this or that 3CX service?" The answer is "No." If you are very smart, you may be able to figure out how to save yourself a few kilobytes of RAM. Most likely, you will spend a lot of time thinking and in the end leave it running. They are all designed to run even if you are not using them.
There are three ways to navigate in 3CX—the navigation pane, the drop-down menus, and the quick launch toolbar.
The navigation pane has been a part of 3CX navigation since the beginning and allows you to navigate everywhere in 3CX. While some of the other navigation methods allow quick access to adding new extensions, PSTN devices, and other new objects, the navigation pane is the only method to navigate to an existing object and edit it.
The previous screenshot shows the navigation pane, and the objects in the list are described as follows:
Extension Status: See the status of each extension on your system.
System Extensions Status: See the status of 3CX system extensions.
Phones: See and manage your hardware phones.
Server Activity Log: See the status of your server and any errors in almost real time.
Services status: See the status and stop, start, or restart the 3CX Windows services.
Extensions: View, add, or edit your extensions.
PSTN devices: View, add, or edit your PSTN devices.
VOIP Providers: View, add, or edit your VoIP providers.
Inbound Rules: Set up where inbound Direct Inward Dialing (DID) is routed.
OutBound Rules: Set up how outbound calls are routed and to which PSTN or VoIP provider.
Ring Groups: Set up groups of extensions that can ring together.
Call Queues: Set up call queues.
Settings: This is where general settings like Music on Hold, office hours, and dial codes are set. This is also where the license is activated if needed.
Links: This provides links to useful features, such as the 3CX softphone download, purchasing 3CX, and more.
Help: This provides links to 3CX's FAQ, forum, blog, and more.
Drop-down menus provide an alternate method of navigating to most objects in 3CX. Navigation is divided into logical groups as follows:
Add: Adds new objects such as Extension, PSTN Gateway, and so on
View: Allows you to view the status of your system
Settings: Changes global 3CX settings like network, fax, and system prompts
Links: Provides links to downloads and updates
Help: Provides links to manuals, guides, and support for 3CX
The quick launch toolbar provides a one-click method to navigate to some of the most used objects in 3CX: Extension status, Server Activity Log, Add Extension, Add PSTN Gateway, Add VOIP Provider Wizard, Create Outbound Rule, and Create DID. The following screenshot shows the quick launch toolbar:
The 3CX Phone is a SIP softphone that will allow you to use your computer coupled with a headset as a replacement for a desk phone. The 3CX Phone is much like other softphones available and includes similar features. Some of the features included are as follows:
Take and place calls
Handle multiple calls (three at a time)
Place calls on hold
Show incoming calls
Telephony Application Programming Interface (TAPI) driver for dialing from Microsoft Outlook (Not free)
The call recording button saves a sound file on the local computer or in the 3CX Phone System
Auto-answer on paging is supported
Unlike the earlier softphone from 3CX (3CX VoIP Client), no presence indication is built-in because it is assumed the 3CX Call Assistant will be used if needed
The 3CX Phone has a very thorough call logging built-in, and Missed, Answered, Dialed, Recorded, and All calls lists are available. We can see the quantity and duration of the different groups of calls, as shown in the following screenshot:
The 3CX Phone also does call recording at two places—recording calls to the local PC hard drive or to the 3CX Phone System, so that they show up in the 3CX user portal. Looking up Calls recordings on the local PC is shown in the following screenshot:
In short, the 3CX Assistant gives you, the user, a visual indication of what is happening with your phone system. The 3CX Assistant will also allow us to do some call control by dragging and dropping objects. It is a software version of what, in the good old days, was a hardware device that the receptionist used to direct calls. The 3CX Assistant is a new addition to the 3CX suite. The road map is for the 3CX VoIP Phone and the 3CX Assistant to eventually replace the 3CX VoIP Client. Following is a list of indication features:
The status of all connected Extensions
The status of all Queues
The status of all Parked calls
Allows visual grouping of extensions
Voicemail indicator (along with the number of voicemails)
Following are a few of the 3CX call control features:
The 3CX Assistant also provides a way to integrate incoming calls with your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) or some other software package by specifying a program to run and allowing you to pass the caller ID to it as a parameter. The following screenshot shows the 3CX Assistant Configuration screen:
The 3CX Call Assistant also includes a nice and simple chat client, as shown in the next screenshot. This allows users to communicate via instant messaging without installing a full-fledged instant message server like Openfire or Microsoft Office Communications Server.
The 3CX VoIP Client is a SIP softphone like the 3CX softphone and is an older product that is being sunsetted by 3CX. Because it has some unique features, we will mention it here. The following screenshot shows a 3CX VoIP Client:
While the 3CX VoIP Client has many features similar to other standards-based SIP softphones, it also has features that are proprietary to 3CX and helps make it more tightly integrated with the 3CX Phone System. Few of the features are as follows:
A red light means the other extension is not registered to 3CX
A green light means the other extension is registered to 3CX
A yellow light means the other extension is on a call
A black light means the other extension has been set to Away
Tunneling all VoIP traffic over a single TCP port
A button to divert an incoming call to voicemail
A button to toggle Away or Available status to publish simple presence information to other extensions
A button to start recording this conversation that will save the recording on the 3CX server as opposed to just saving a sound file on the local computer (Not free)
Queue status monitoring (Not free)
The 3CX VoIP Client has one powerful feature that is not included with most other free SIP softphones. It has the ability to run a program or web page and pass the caller ID of an incoming call to that program or web page. All you need to do is check the Notify external program checkbox, enter the path of the program, and add any Program parameters. In the previous screenshot, 3CX VoIP Client will run the program
%callid% as the parameter. If the phone number calling you was 1-800-555-8383, Windows would run
c:\getgpdata.exe 18005558383. You can also use this method to open a web page. Think of the integration possibilities! This is a powerful feature and is available for free.
Because of the lack of wide microphone support in Terminal Services, 3CX does not support running the 3CX softphone or 3CX VoIP Client on Terminal Services.
One last thing that we should note about the 3CX VoIP Client is that 3CX is sunsetting the 3CX VoIP Client and moving development efforts to the newer 3CX VoIP Phone.
Note that most of the 3CX components are downloaded and installed separately. The 3CX Call Reporter is installed when you install the phone system, and there is a shortcut in the 3CX Phone System's Start Menu folder.
The 3CX Gateway for Skype allows us to use Skype to make calls on our 3CX Phone System. Originally, this was an add-on module to 3CX, but we are including it in this section as it has been integrated with 3CX. You can add a Skype Trunk Line just like a PSTN or SIP trunk line as shown in the following screenshot:
The 3CX Hotel module is a web-based application that adds a full Hotel PBX to 3CX. It provides features such as wake-up calls, check-in and check-out, guest call log printouts, and room service can set the room availability via a phone call.