Thursday, December 06, 2007

[Updated] Release Review: "3CX Proves That Soft Is Better Than Hard - When It Comes To Phone Systems" :)

I already talked about 3CX some weeks ago.
It is a dynamic company which produces a Windows based software PBX that could replace the highly expensive hardware ones.
It is also a company with a kind of sense of humor: if "3CX sounds like Free Sex" could be in doubt, their press release title clarifies everything :)

They just delivered version 5 of their 3CX Phone system. From their Press Release:
3CX Proves That Soft Is Better Than Hard - When It Comes To Phone Systems

3CX Phone System allows businesses to completely break free from the shackle of hardware-based, proprietary phone systems. Built on the open SIP standard, 3CX Phone System interoperates with all popular SIP phones, VOIP Gateways and VOIP providers.
Nick Galea, CEO at 3CX said, “We are excited to deliver version 5 of 3CX Phone System at a time when the market is realizing that proprietary, hardware-based PBXs are becoming obsolete. 3CX IP PBX is a modern software based PBX that evolves the communication of businesses to the 21st century, by delivering mobility, productivity and cost-saving advantages”.

I think they can make 3CX Phone System a real success if:

  • They target small offices and business that have branch offices, esp. worldwide.
  • They plan to specialize their application on at least one direction. It could be an add-on, so that the general purpose version can still work unaffected for the broader market.
  • They plan to give phone support, along with online chat and e-mail. You know, if something is not working, it's bad. When it comes to phone systems, it's really bad. If something is not working on your phone and you cannot receive support, it's DOOM!
  • Customers are aware that 3CX is not responsible of any service interruption/problem on the data pipe. "If your ADSL is down, your phone is down. Just make sure you have a B plan for your phone system, if you need high availability". Most of offices don't, anyway.

Having said that, I think 3CX new release is really putting a highly competitive challenge among the other players. As usual, 3CX phone system is released as Free and Business editions, and here you can compare them by feature availability.

To me, the Business edition is worth just for these features, among others:
  • Call recording
  • Bridging with other 3CX servers (branch offices)
  • Firewall friendly VOIP client with included mini VPN – ideal for remote users
  • Voice mail messages via e-mail
Anyway the have a full fledged set of features, some of them are already present in Sitòfono (like Firewall friendly client, voice mail messages via e-mail, call log...)

What I would like to see in this PBX is some more... "specialization": what about a specialized version for Sales Force Automation? What if the call log could be mashed up with geolocalization and, for instance, SugarCRM? Could you imagine a direct telemarketing firm which builds a "conversion efficiency map" based on call duration, position, and customer acquisition data?

And (obviously for me) what if 3CX-powered companies could put a simple button on their websites and let their visitors call them, for free?
How do you see a synergy/a mashup between 3CX and Sitòfono?

Just one note. Since I still pretend to be a web developer, I've a running copy of Apache HTTPD server on my PC. 3CX tried to install a new one and this produced a conflict (it's the service name registration, I think). Now I need to rename the new HTTPD service in order to access the management console.

Anyway, if 3CX is going to be installed on some kind of windows server, I expect there will already be an Apache installation on it. I'd like to see an installation option like:
"Apache HTTPD detected: would you like to use this version or install a new one?"

Alternatively, I'll put some other lightweight HTTP server in the installation package.

[Update]: I am sorry it wasn't explicit about the fact that 3CX does really take into high consideration their customers. I already knew that, but I haven't written that clearly. What I wanted to write is to suggest is some more immediate, more engaging contact between customers and 3CX, like phone contact, for a company that's so keen on customer relationships.

In facts, few hours after I published this post, I've received an e-mail from the local distributor which offered help to install and to solve my issues.

Moreover, I've been contacted by 3CX PR thanking me about the suggestions given in this post. Regardless of the product's future evolutions, this means that 3CX is strongly oriented to customer feedback and does not leave out any suggestion.
That's what I consider a great customer care job!