Your Own 3CX PBX Appliance – Run 3CX on a $100 MiniPC

So you want to run a professional PBX in your office but don’t have the server for it? Well, we have a solution, a machine that runs 3CX , fits in the palm of your hand and costs less than $100. Let me introduce you to “The miniPC”.

The New Generation of miniPC’s

Run 3CX on a miniPC that costs less than $100

MiniPCs run on Intel architecture. The main benefit of using a MiniPC is that they consume 60% less power than a desktop with a total consumption of below 30 Watts. This means a yearly saving of $150 on energy compared to a laptop or a desktop. Now that’s something noteworthy, especially for small businesses! Obviously, the smaller the device the less power it consumes.

MiniPCs are available from several manufacturers such as Nexbox, Wintel etc. and have different specs. Before purchasing look out for these specs:

  • Processor Intel Example Z8300 4-core 1.84GHz
  • 64 bit
  • 2GB RAM or higher
  • For now, Windows 10
  • Minimum 64GB HDD

One of our favorites is the Nexbox – A little sleek black box which is the size of an Apple TV. It houses Intel’s Latest 14nm Quad Core Intel Cherry Trail Z8300 Processor, 64 bit architecture and includes Windows 10 Home. 4GB Ram, and 64GB flash drive with a slot where you can insert an SSD Drive at the bottom by just unscrewing 2 little screws – ideal for expansion purposes.

Optimizing Windows: Preliminary Tweaks Before Installing 3CX

The first thing to do is optimize Windows to disable unnecessary startup processes, in an effort to leave all the power available for 3CX to run on.

  • Disable Startup processes: Default Windows Home comes with a lot of functions running in the background – things that you would not normally find on a server OS, for example: Onedrive, Skype etc. Disable these completely from the Task manager. (Control+Shift+Escape > startup)
  • Disable Shadows and animations: We don’t need any eye candy here. We want performance. (Type sysdm.cpl > Advanced > Performance and enable the option “Adjust for Best Performance”)
  • Perform >report – this will give you a performance report of your system.
  • Click on system > Notifications and actions and disable notifications, news feed etc.
  • Power and sleep: Turn off screen after 1 hour and set the pc to never go to sleep.
  • Offline maps – OFF
  • Devices > Bluetooth – disable
  • Update and security: Perform all available Windows updates.

Installation of 3CX

All 3CX installation prerequisites installed like a charm. This was more time consuming than installing 3CX itself. Once Windows is updated, and .NET Framework installed together with a couple of Visual C++ redist, the main 3CX install took 2 minutes to install and show the 3CX PBX Configuration Command line tool.

After that it takes another 5 minutes to configure 3CX and the management console was displayed on the screen.

So What Can This Device Do? (Some performance data)

We have tested this device by running a series of automated tests. In this test we made normal calls, IVR Calls, Calls to queues and ring groups and also connected clients to make this more realistic.

  • 32 sim calls were initiated at random. Some direct, others to a queue, ring group and IVR.
  • Call scenarios were initiated and remained connected for a random time between 3 mins and 15 mins, dropped and automatically restarted again.
  • Clients were also logged in with different rights. The amount of rights have an impact on the amount of packets that are sent and requested. A queue manager will have more load than a normal group user.

When IDLE the NEXBOX took up 10% CPU Usage

CPU performance when using a MiniPC IDLE
During operation, CPU rose to 56%

CPU performance when using a MiniPC - During operation
A 1 hour performance test looks like this

CPU performance when using a MiniPC - 1 hour performance
As we can see the spikes are under control and there are no sudden high rises – everything is below 60 %. This means that the NEXBOX handled this load smoothly and had 40% CPU unused for Windows OS. That 40 % is important in case, for example, you want to perform an unexpected operation that consumes more CPU; such as generating a report.

MiniPC performance table when used for 3CX
Plus you can plugin in the SSD by unscrewing 2 little screws at the back. The NexBOX is perfect for a small office of 25 users that want a PBX and 1-2 VoIP Trunks and it can also be used to connect to the main HQ.

How Can I Get my Hands on One of These?

You can also download this catalog which includes the devices that are recommended by 3CX, basic specs and contact information.
We really liked the performance of this device.

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  1. First part you state it has 2GB of ram then you talk about the box has 4GB of ram. but this box only has 2GB of ram from what i can see. do you have a recommendation on a box with 4GB of ram?

    July 28, 2016 at 5:53 pm Reply
    • There are different models available, some with 2 gig ram, some with 4 gig ram. We had both in our tests.

      July 29, 2016 at 9:09 am
  2. Matt Waechter

    I thought during the release it was stated as being available in 16 and 32 SC versions. It would also be available direct (through distributor like 888voip). Did this change or am I mistaken?

    July 29, 2016 at 5:46 pm Reply
    • I think there is a misunderstanding here. We made the test with 32 sim calls and this was successful. This implies that with 16 sim calls this device will fly. You can purchase any mini PC like this – (no need to get this one in particular – this was used as an example). The scope of this article is to show that V15’s new stripped down architecture makes it possible for you to install 3CX on Mini PC’s. You or resellers and distributors can use the link posted above to purchase them.

      August 1, 2016 at 5:23 pm
  3. Great we ordered one of these straight away and have it currently deployed as a Session border controller. We will be doing some similar testing soon as a PBX.

    July 29, 2016 at 7:15 pm Reply
    • Michael Gamache

      Steven, would like to see how your test is going with these. I would like to know where you sourced your hardware from. I am looking for an SBC for sites, and this would be ideal, given that the Pi’s are just not made to handle larger installations (most of my installs are in the 15-40 phones), self-hosted. I would not mind getting a couple and testing them out as well as SBC’s. Let me know and we can compare notes.

      August 10, 2016 at 10:09 pm
  4. How many call center agents can it comfortably handle? It states 1 or 2 Trunks for an office of 25 users. Will it only handle 2 calls at a time?

    July 29, 2016 at 8:00 pm Reply
    • @Darr – it can do 32 sim calls. You can have 1 trunk with 32 sim calls or 32 trunks with 1 sim call on each – number of trunks do not matter because trunk registration requires minimal processing power.
      However glad you mentioned the queue calls. Example: 1 call to the queue polling 5 agents (ring all) consumes processing power so from a CPU point of view, that call is like 6 simultaneous calls. This means that if you want to maximise calls you need to avoid Ring all Strategies. But to continue with this example, under this configuration, this device will be able to handle 5 external incoming queue calls.

      August 1, 2016 at 5:34 pm
  5. hi
    great tip, we were looking for a box like this for long time
    thanks Nick & Nicky

    July 30, 2016 at 1:25 am Reply
    • hello, Alejandro, do you still look for this mini PC, you can visit our website:http://www.wasson.com.hk/ for more details, we design and manufacture mini PC and motherboards and also provides solutions. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions, thank you! (email: mindy@wasson.com.hk)

      September 1, 2016 at 9:40 am
  6. Cesar Landa

    Hello, I have a question the Netbox comes with 2 32GB HDD is this OK?

    July 30, 2016 at 8:58 am Reply
  7. Christopher

    This is really good. I’ve been wanting to know what the specs of the mini pm should be and now I know what kind of performance to expect.

    Thanks.

    July 30, 2016 at 9:13 am Reply
    • We have posted CPU usage graphs on the post. If you have a pbx with that load, you will have the remaining processing power for windows or other tasks. This is how this article needs to be interpreted.

      August 1, 2016 at 9:34 am
  8. Is anyone actually running 3CX on one of these devices, with Sip phones in place? How is it working? What is the customer feedback like?

    July 30, 2016 at 4:50 pm Reply
  9. It is for 1-2 trunks. But how many sim calls? Lets say we have 8 simultanious calls in progress to external clients. And 20 phones with each 10 blf keys. Is the voice quality still perfect then?

    August 1, 2016 at 11:59 am Reply
  10. Perry

    Is there any other sites you can recommend to order just 1 of these MiniPC’s?

    August 2, 2016 at 12:35 am Reply
    • Yes we can – I am working on a document which we will upload. Getting required go ahead first.. Please wait for further instructions.

      August 2, 2016 at 3:29 pm
  11. How can I install this on a $100 mini pc? Doesn’t windows PRO cost over a $100 by itself? Or is windows PRO no longer required?

    August 2, 2016 at 4:45 pm Reply
  12. Hi Nick can you help with the exact product/model number of the NexBox that comes with 4GB.

    August 2, 2016 at 4:49 pm Reply
    • I will – I have some interesting information I am going to publish soon. Working on this with the Chinese manufacturing company. There will be a pdf with specs you guys can download from tomorrow. I will send you the raw pdf now. It will also contain contact information.

      August 3, 2016 at 3:41 am
  13. Rodney

    We prefer to use Zotac mini PCs as they have a lot more power. We have at least 3 sites with 16 lines and a hundred + handsets on a Zotac iD92 and they never have issues. Zotac cost more than $100 – about $400 – but frankly, if the site cannot afford $400 on a phone system, they’re probably going to be a headache, anyway.

    August 2, 2016 at 6:14 pm Reply
    • But it is $400… That is 4 times the price. however it looks good – nice one!! What is the CPU on this one? And the memory?
      Still for $400 I would buy a desktop. I would buy a mini pc only if my budget is not going to scale to a desktop – example $200 max. But when it comes to value for money, for 400 bucks, I would not have my pbx on a mini pc.

      August 3, 2016 at 3:09 am
  14. You mention the need for 64GB of flash drive space, is that necessary if your have things like recordings recorded externally? A lot of these devices are available with 4GB/32

    August 2, 2016 at 6:46 pm Reply
    • You need disk space. out of the 64, 25 is already out for the OS. You need some space. Also recording is not recommended for this device. Recording needs a lot of processing and read/write and since this is CPU Intensive, wherever you record, (be it on slow flash or on external drive) it might cause a delay on calls because when the pointer for the recording starts or stops, a file needs to be created, written, saved and stop saved..so you will have an awkward delay on audio quality. Recording on this device is a problem. We state this in the article.

      August 3, 2016 at 2:52 am
  15. David Huntley

    Win10 Home version is listed in the specs for the Nexbox miniPC that you tested, but you said nothing more about Windows, other than suggesting what to turn off. Does this imply that 3CX Phone System no longer requires the Pro version if you’re using Windows 10 desktop OS?

    August 2, 2016 at 6:47 pm Reply
    • Rich

      They all have W10 Pro now from what i can see.

      August 2, 2016 at 6:55 pm
    • The ones we had in tested had windows 10 Home pre-installed on them. But you can install what you want on them. It’s up to you. The only problem with home is that it has no RDP. ANd another annoying thing with home is that you cannot control when the OS makes windows updates. And on this device it is important to control when windows updates are performed because Updates take a lot of power. On pro you have rdp and you can control when updates are performed (you can make them in the night outside of office hours). But then again home is cheaper.. So it balances if you are on budget.

      August 3, 2016 at 2:46 am
    • Just had one delivered and it had window 10 Home installed

      September 2, 2016 at 6:33 pm
  16. Tim Schulte

    Nicky Borg – while working with the manufacturers – can you get them to implement Power ON after power loss, or at least Last State? The Wintel Pro I tested had no BIOS power options, ordering a NEXBOX to see if it’s different, but I am guessing not.

    August 3, 2016 at 4:06 am Reply
    • @Tim I sent you an email.. you can contact the guy.

      August 3, 2016 at 4:22 am
    • Rafael Chocooj

      Its anybody can configure in the wintel pro the “State after Power Loss”, in “Turn On Always”?

      August 30, 2016 at 9:50 am
    • Charalambos Eleftheriou

      @Rafael, for support questions please post in our user forums: http://www.3cx.com/forums/

      August 30, 2016 at 3:49 pm
    • Simon Klaus

      thanks a lot for the catalog, sounds good! is it possible to order just one device at once? and would be 2GB RAM and 32GB disk space really enough?

      August 3, 2016 at 4:19 pm
    • @Simonv You need to ask LEE on this. Contact information can be found in the catalog.

      August 3, 2016 at 5:56 pm
    • Simon Klaus

      @Nicky: ok :) and what’s about the specs? are 2GB/32GB enough?

      August 4, 2016 at 10:21 am
    • @Simon Depends for what load you want to use it. I don’t know if it is enough or not because you did not specify what load, number of extensions and sim calls you want to use it for.
      Your question is vague. It’s like you asked me “Is a bicycle enough to go from A to B?” How should I know if it is enough? A to B can be just a block away or they can be different countries.

      August 4, 2016 at 12:19 pm
  17. Michael Gamache

    Is this recommended as an SBC for a Hosted system? I cannot seem to find a hardware SBC for remote locations of 15-40 phones. Would prefer to not have a windows pc at each, and Pi is not recommended for over 5 phones. This would be a perfect solution! Where can hardware be purchased from?

    August 10, 2016 at 10:03 pm Reply
    • Yes of course – But just so you know, we are also working on an improved scaleable version of the 3CX SBC for RPI. Raspberry PI II and III support multi threading so all the improvements we made for the Windows version will be inherited also.
      Basically the SBC we will release next will be able to meet your needs on Latest RPI so you can stock also on RPI 3 units as well and you will be able to ship both versions.

      August 11, 2016 at 11:47 am
    • Justin King

      we are running the micro PC “wintel pro z8300” as a SBC for one customer who’s raspberry pi died suddenly. it runs the SBC just fine and the system sits basically at idle the entire day. Windows 10 home was installed on this and we set the “in-use” hours from 6 am to 6 pm so it will reboot after hours. seems to run just fine, we use team viewer for remote access since it’s home OS, it’s great having control of a “PC” onsite now to do phone updates, reboot stuck phones that won’t via the 3cx hosted instance, etc.

      August 23, 2016 at 4:45 am
  18. Matt Waechter

    I know we shouldn’t run anything on the server or appliance that isn’t 3CX but have you tested with Team Viewer or the like?

    August 15, 2016 at 3:36 pm Reply
  19. Hi Nick,

    I was looking around at the MiniPC stuff today at lunchtime. 3CX seem to suggest the 64GB NexBox is a good option. Now this has EEC memory drive, it’s not a HDD.

    I was previously under the impressions that, due to the sheer volume of log file updates (we’re talking GB’s per day), then 3CX can very quickly kill an SSD or memory based disk. Have 3CX changed this problem limitation?

    Thanks Jerry

    August 20, 2016 at 5:25 pm Reply
  20. Ed Chin

    Great article, except my T9 Nexbox came with Win 10 HOME (via Amazon). 3cx v15 says Win 10 Home is NOT supported. I’m having some issues with getting 403 forbidden on the web console using http and port 5000. https and 5001 needs a cert of course. Do I need to upgrade this PRO? Please clarify.

    August 29, 2016 at 8:39 am Reply
    • Charalambos Eleftheriou

      @Ed, See the section ‘Optimizing Windows’ in this article that explains the tweeks to be done to Windows home. A certificate is required and if you have installed with your own FQDN then you need to import a certificate also. You can though choose let 3CX create an FQDN for you for which you will only have to choose a hostname and one of 15 top level 3cx domains. With this option we will also create and manage a certificate for you and configure the DNS to point to your external IP. I suggest you uninstall and reinstall using a 3CX created FQDN: See this guide for more details: http://www.3cx.com/docs/manual/installation/

      August 29, 2016 at 2:42 pm
  21. Great article, Also i recommend u about RDP Mini PC which are based on Intel i7, i5, i3, Pentium or Celeron processors with 4GB RAM, 500GB HDD storage with ports at front panel and back panel. For more details try to check rdp.online/Mini-PCs

    September 22, 2016 at 10:12 am Reply
  22. Chris

    3cx requires win10 64 bit, but I can only find the nexvortex t11 in 32 bit. Will this be an issue?

    September 22, 2016 at 10:22 am Reply
    • Yes it will be an issue because the installation will not proceed.

      September 22, 2016 at 12:00 pm
  23. Chris

    Sorry, typo, I meant nexbox t11

    September 22, 2016 at 10:23 am Reply