When Think IT initially evaluated software-based PBX 3CX Phone System as a potential option for resale, little did they expect to implement the solution theirselves in the near future.The Auckland-based information and communication technology services provider has subsequently installed 3CX and is using it to drive office communications, including its helpdesk and contact centre. As a result of replacing its legacy hardware PBX, Think IT says communication costs have dramatically declined, while features, performance and scalability have substantially increased.
Think IT’s computer network engineers and systems integrators consult on, design, install, maintain and troubleshoot computer networks and telephone systems. With a particular focus on enterprises with 5 to 100 computers (and some much bigger clients), the proudly 100% New Zealand-owned company was founded in 1994 and has a wide range of business, education, health-related professional practices and non-profit clients.
Simon Walkden, Technical Delivery Supervisor at Think IT, says the company was spurred into seeking a replacement for its Ericsson LG PABX for reasons familiar to the operators of almost any hardware-based device. “There was a hard limit of extensions on the existing device which meant it couldn’t be expanded any further than the specification provided for. Add to that, any additional feature which might be added required an additional license – and those additional licenses are expensive,” he explains.
For example, Think IT wanted to record incoming and outgoing calls from its contact centre to provide the raw material for improving service delivery. Adding this simple feature was anything but easy; nor was it affordable.
The limitations didn’t end there. “With hardware based systems, a failure in any one component typically cascades into failures in other parts. As the hardware gets older, those failures were occurring more frequently, potentially impacting on our ability to deliver in line with our Service Level Agreements.”
It was, Walkden agrees, a classic case of an update necessitated by the inexorable march of technology. “Our hardware PABX was obsolete and software-based solutions have demonstrated their suitability.”
“The platform comes in at a very attractive price with all the features we required to enhance our helpdesk to meet service level agreements with our clients.”
3CX Phone System is a full-featured software PBX for Windows. It is distributed and supported in New Zealand by Soft Solutions. Auckland-based Information Engineers, Think I.T. were so impressed with 3CX, they now sell it to their own clients.
When Think IT first encountered 3CX, it was more or less brand new to the market. “We met with [3CX distributor] Soft Solutions to evaluate the product to resell it as a hosted platform, but didn’t proceed at the time,” recalls Walkden.
Some time later, however, with the mounting problems being experienced with its ageing PABX, Think IT revisited 3CX, but this time as a potential customer rather than reseller. “We discovered that it was a very good fit for our own use. We also discovered that the channel through Soft Solutions and onwards to 3CX itself was very well established; the vendor was very quick to respond to queries. On top of all that, the platform comes in at a very attractive price with all the features we required to enhance our helpdesk to meet service level agreements with our clients,” Walkden explains.
3CX Phone System for Windows is a software-based Internet Protocol PBX that replaces proprietary hardware PBX systems. Developed for Microsoft Windows and based on the SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) standard, the solution is easy to manage and operates with any SIP phone, whether software or hardware.
As a software-based solution, Walkden says the reliability of 3CX is somewhat predictable; he explains why: “We implemented it on our existing High Availability platform and so could expect the same level of performance which comes with that platform for any hosted application.”
Probably most impressive, at least in terms of the implementation, is the very short space of time required to get it installed and working. “It took perhaps two days of planning and configuration; then, on a Saturday morning, we removed the legacy endpoints and replaced them with SIP handsets. It really was as simple as that,” Walkden notes.
“The most difficult aspect was user training, conducted in the planning period, and even that presented no particular challenge beyond familiarising staff members with the use of a softphone rather than a desk-based hardware device. “It took a few training sessions with our team [of 35], but now they’re used to softphones, they love it.”
While some of the results of moving to a software-based solution were predictable, others weren’t. The predictable aspects include cost reductions, which can be calculated in black and white; Walkden says a move to SIP trunks away from ISDN services meant an immediate and ‘drastic’ reduction in communication bills. “It is also far less costly to grow our team; adding a new user is a matter of installing a softphone on their PC and providing a headset. It’s simple and easy and the previous price of around $1000 to provision a new staff member all but disappears,” he explains.
The ability to record calls, which would have incurred cost as an additional feature on a ‘hard’ PABX, comes as a matter of course. Other features, such as presence and the ability to automate compliance with SLAs (as 3CX Phone System escalates unanswered calls to designated team members, means Think IT gets more while paying less. “This solution has completely changed how telephony is delivered in our organisation. At a lower cost, it delivers far more features – including the removal of a third party service for our on-call roster, which equips us to manage the entire system internally,” affirms Walkden.
The unpredictable benefits include a far quieter contact centre; no more are affairs dominated by ringing telephones, as calls are automatically routed to agents. Firmware updates, which would routinely ‘break’ the old PABX, are a thing of the past. And, says Walkden, the company has experienced an increase in professionalism, supported by a better implementation of the telephony infrastructure. “People can see when calls aren’t answered; we also have solid data to track busy times and schedule resources appropriately. The visibility which comes with the system spurs commitment to service improvement,” he comments.
That’s not all. Having implemented 3CX and discovered just how well it works, Think IT revisited its moves to resell the solution to its clients. “We’ve become a partner and are working towards Premium partner status,” relates Walkden. “The solution fits well with our target market and already, we’ve completed several implementations in the medical, manufacturing and other industries. Those clients are rapt, particularly when they discover features which are immediately available and which were until recently the preserve of big companies”.
“In fact, 3CX has become our preferred platform over some better-known names as it delivers more value, ease-of-use and functionality than those vendors,” he concludes.
“This solution has completely changed how telephony is delivered in our organisation.” Simon Walkden, Technical Delivery Supervisor, Think I.T.
Think I.T.’s existing hardware based Ericsson LG PABX was proving too limited for their requirements and failures were occurring with increasing regularity as the system aged.
3CX Phone System was 100% suitable and came with an attractive price. The implementation and training process was very simple and a drastic reduction in communication bills was noticed immediately.