3CX Review–The Good and Bad


3CX is a private branch exchange (PBX) provider and enterprise-grade business communications solution. You can use 3CX to run your own contact center or phone system by deploying it on your own on-premise servers or through a cloud platform. It gives you ultimate control over your new system and adds a new layer of security you won’t get with hosted solutions. However, self-hosted phone systems aren’t for everyone–they require a tremendous amount of resources to implement and manage.

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How 3CX Compares to its Closest Competitors

3CX typically appeals to larger companies that want total control over their call center and PBX system. The option to set up and deploy 3CX on your own servers as a self-hosted solution makes it unique compared to other players in this space.

That said, self-hosting is often too complex or unnecessary for most businesses—and you can get the same great features that 3CX offers from other providers without the technical hassle.

Nextiva offers the best of both worlds. You can run a cloud contact center and PBX without having to deal with the technical headaches of managing your own servers. Nextiva delivers 99.999% uptime with redundancy, which is much more reliable. If you’re managing things in-house using 3CX, you run the risk of having a single point of failure that takes your system down.

Both 3CX and Nextiva have omnichannel contact center solutions. But Nextiva definitely has the edge here. It’s so much easier to set up, run, scale, and has a much cleaner user interface for centralizing multiple contact options into a single dashboard. With built-in AI capabilities and blended communications for inbound and outbound communication, Nextiva works really well for every business size, even midsize and enterprise. Check out our full Nextiva review to learn more.

If you want a self-hosted solution, then Asterisk and FreePBX are two of 3CX’s closest competitors. 

Both of these are free and open-source platforms that translate to limitless customization options. While you have the potential to do more with Asterisk and FreePBX, it’s much more complicated going with either of these. 3CX’s features are a bit more limited, but much of the system is already built for you, so it’s less resource-intensive on the development side. 

Refer to our full list of the best call center software to learn more about 3CX alternatives. 

3CX vs. Other Business Communications Alternatives

RingCentral also has an enterprise-grade contact center that’s much easier to use and deploy than 3CX. Even if you have a large operation with your own on-site servers, it doesn’t mean you have to deploy it within your own infrastructure.

Say you’re currently using a self-hosted phone system and considering using the same provider to add contact center features. This is great if you have the resources to handle it, but you could also take a different approach–RingCentral’s cloud connector makes it easy to create more of a hybrid PBX environment so you can transition away from your on-premise or self-hosted solution if that’s your goal.

Since RingCentral offers phone systems and contact center solutions, you can still have your whole ecosystem under one roof.

If you’re reading this and realizing that 3CX, RingCentral, and Nextiva are way too advanced for what you’re looking for, CloudTalk or Aircall are far simpler alternatives. Both are cloud-based and a better fit for smaller teams or remote contact centers. They’re easier to use and a lot cheaper than most other cloud-based platforms.

3CX: The Good

The Good

Easier setup than other self-hosted phone systems: To clarify, 3CX is not easier than most contact center software. However, it’s one of the easiest options for companies that want to host their own solutions Compared to free and open-source systems that require additional development resources to customize the system, IT teams can typically deploy 3CX in a few days or a week at most. You may even be able to keep and reuse your existing hardware. There are some prerequisites of self-hosting with 3CX, like a static IP, a split DNS, and firewall ports that are configured to let VoIP pass through correctly. But if your IT stack doesn’t meet 3CX’s requirements, they have good documentation to help your team get everything configured correctly. 

No per-user licenses: One notable difference of 3CX compared to nearly every other contact center solution is its billing setup. Rather than paying per line or per user, you’re paying an annual license for the system. The rate does increase based on your team size, as the backend requirements will adjust accordingly. But this is still significantly less than paying a monthly fee per line. 

For example, the 3CX Professional plan starts at $515 per year for up to 25 users. Other contact center software may cost you $50 per month per user—which translates to $1,250 per month or $15,000 per year for 25 people. 3CX is just a fraction of that cost. 

Free live chat plugin: For omnichannel contact centers, 3CX provides a free live chat plugin that you can use to connect with your customers. It can easily be installed on your WordPress website, and it even supports WhatsApp messaging for mobile users. The live chat plugin is also set up so that users can start with a chat and then seamlessly transition into a call. 

Once installed, you can fully customize the look and feel of your 3CX live chat bubble. This ensures that it aligns with your branding. While the plugin tends to work best with WordPress, you can also use it with Drupal, Joomla, Squarespace, Wix, and Webly. 

Call recording: All hosted plans from 3CX come with call recording. This can be used for a number of different use cases, ranging from quality assurance to agent training, compliance, and more. Call recording isn’t always a standard feature with all contact center plans, so it’s nice to see that 3CX offers it. What’s interesting is that most phone systems start with on-demand call recording and then let you enable automatic call recording at higher plan tiers. 3CX does the opposite. You can set calls to record automatically, but the ability to start and stop a recording is only available at the Enterprise tier. 

Hot desking: Hot desking is a must-have feature for any large contact center with shared workstations. It’s also really useful for hybrid work scenarios, where call center agents spend some time at home and other days in the office—or potentially work in multiple locations. This also works great for 24/7 call centers in smaller spaces where you may only have 30 phones shared by 100 or more people working across different shifts. 

With hot desking, anyone on your team can go to an unoccupied phone and make it “theirs” for however long they are sitting there. Signing in and out takes just a few seconds, so the phones are ready for the next hot desk user. 

Free for up to ten users: 3CX has one of the most powerful free plans on the market. While it’s not really a viable option for call center purposes, it’s a great way to test the platform with up to ten users. It only supports three desk phones, but it comes with additional features like live chat, team messaging, mobile and desktop apps, and WhatsApp—and you can even bring your own SIP trunk. 

Automated call handling features: For high-volume inbound call centers, 3CX offers a call flow designer that lets you create routing rules based on who is calling, the time of day, your business hours, the caller’s location, and dozens of other metrics. 

You can also use it to automatically authenticate users based on their customer ID number or some other custom input. For payments, you can set up a voice payment gateway via IVR so callers can provide their billing details without having to speak to a live agent. 

Highly customizable: One main benefit of self-hosting your contact center is having full control. You can do nearly anything you want with 3CX no matter what type of call center you’re running, assuming you have the technical resources to accomplish it. 3CX lets you host on a range of servers, including Amazon, Amazon Lightsail, Digital Ocean, Google, and Azure. You can also customize things like admin and supervisor dashboards to see your most important metrics in real-time.

Free video conferencing software: Every 3CX plan comes with free video conferencing software. While this is something we typically see in business phone systems, it’s not always a standard offering for call centers. 

In addition to basic video calls, the software supports screen sharing, polls, file sharing, and whiteboarding. The two entry-level plans limit you to just 25 participants per video call. But this jumps to 100 or 250 if you’re self-hosting. 

Built to scale: Your call center won’t outgrow 3CX. While it’s not the most feature-packed platform on the planet, it’s designed to support the needs of large companies and call centers. It’s trusted by big names like Pepsi, Wilson, Best Western, Hugo Boss, Mercedes Benz, and Toyota. If it can handle the needs of multinational enterprises, then it can likely grow with your business, too. 

CRM and help desk integrations: Having fast access to your customer information is crucial for modern call centers. Fortunately, 3CX integrates with many popular CRMs and help desk software, including HubSpot, Salesforce, Zoho, Zendesk, and more. So you can centralize your data and provide a better customer experience without having to switch back and forth between multiple platforms while you’re on a call.

If you’re using a business tool or custom application that isn’t currently supported by 3CX, you can always set up a custom integration yourself through the 3CX API. 

Potential 3CX Drawbacks

Requires IT resources: The biggest drawback of 3CX is that it’s only for companies that have experienced IT teams capable of setting up and managing the system on a day-to-day basis. While you can let 3CX host the system for you, there’s zero reason to go this route because there are dozens of better options to consider for that scenario. If you don’t have the proper IT requirements in-house, you either need to hire them or look elsewhere.

Lots of ongoing maintenance and updates: Beyond the initial setup, you’re fully responsible for maintaining 3CX—not to mention your servers and entire IT infrastructure. This is too complicated and costly for most businesses. 3CX isn’t very expensive compared to other solutions on the market, but all of the other costs associated with self-hosting add up quickly. Be prepared to handle security patches, server outages, and anything else thrown your way. 

No phone number included: 3CX is one of the few contact center solutions out there that does not provide you with a business phone number. Instead, you need to sign up and apply for a phone number with one of 3CX’s SIP trunk partners. Cost aside, it just adds to the overall mess and headache of self-hosting. It’s not a deal breaker, but it’s a pain. 

Purchases go through a third-party partner: If you want to purchase 3CX, you don’t get the software directly from them. You’ll need to find a third-party distributor to handle the licensing for you—regardless of whether you’re deploying it on-premise or in the cloud. Adding a middleman here just complicates things and your overall buying experience varies significantly depending on who you find in your area. 3CX is aware of this, as they rate different providers as Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum. However, you may not even have a Gold or Platinum provider to choose from depending on your location,

Rigid user interface: Everything about using 3CX just feels outdated compared to modern contact center software. It’s not always easy to find what you’re looking for, and it can actually hinder the productivity of your team. If you get a free trial or demo version of other call center solutions, you’ll quickly realize that 3CX is definitely falling behind the crowd here. 

Limited support: As expected with anything self-hosted, you’re not going to have much help from 3CX with any technical issues. Even providers in the 3CX partner network have limited access to support. For example, phone support is only available to Silver partners and higher, and ticket support costs extra. There’s also a list of nearly 20 things that are not included by 3CX for support, and that assumes that you even qualify for anything to begin with. Meanwhile, many other great call center solutions offer 24/7 support via phone and live chat for everyone.

3CX’s Plans and Pricing

Three 3CX has a business phone system that’s free for up to ten users. There’s also a small business plan that starts at $175 per year for up to ten users, and $275 for up to 20 users. But we don’t recommend either of these (or 3CX at all) for small teams. 

Most businesses using 3CX should go with the Pro or Enterprise plan. These start at $145 and $180 per year, respectively—and the price varies based on your team size and whether you’re installing it on-premise or self-hosting. 

In terms of the software alone, 3CX is notably cheaper than most contact center solutions, and you don’t pay per user.

In comparison, Nextiva’s omnichannel contact center starts at $99 per user per month, and RingCentral’s entry-level contact center starts at $65 per user per month. So you’ll likely pay more for these in a single month than you will with 3CX in an entire year.

But with Nextiva and RingCentral, you don’t have to worry about server costs or labor for maintaining the system. These two costs alone can easily add tens of thousands to your total cost of using 3CX. 

We encourage you to look beyond the sticker price to truly assess whether 3CX is affordable for your organization.

It costs more than it seems, and for many, self-hosting isn’t worth it. 

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