3CX Phone System

Back in the day, when I first started with VOIP, I really wanted to go with some form of asterisk like Trixbox or Elastix but after months and months of trying, I just couldn’t get it stable enough for companies to be able to rely on. Then a buddy of mine suggested that I look at a system called 3CX. At that time they were just on version 10 and it only ran on Windows but I tried it out anyway and it seemed pretty stable so we went ahead and bought a license for it (I believe it was $1,200 at that time).

Fast forward to today, about a month ago I had to rebuild a phone server for a non-profit in Bakersfield. Beforehand, I did a bit of research and found that 3CX was not only now on version 15, but they now supported Linux as a platform! Moreover, since this non-profit only had a handful of employees, I could get them on the free tier! Some of the more advanced features aren’t included in the free tier such as the fax server and it limits the number of simultaneous calls to eight but for this particular project, it was perfect!

Within an afternoon, I had wiped one of their old servers, installed Debian 9.0 on it, installed 3cx on it and was provisioning phones. I built it on a Friday but waited until the weekend to change over their SIP trunk provider (Nexvortex) just in case something went wrong.

That following Monday morning, I made sure to wake up extra early and clung to my phone all day knowing that there had to be something that was overlooked or left un-configured. 8:00? Nothing. 12:00? Nothing. 3:00? Nothing. I finally sent the director a text and asked how the phones were today? She just said, “Good, no problems.” Trust me, that’s a miracle!

It’s been up and running solid for a good month and a half except for one issue: if you’re running 3CX on a server with two NICs, be sure to only have one interface hooked to the network.

For the past few years, I had been using RingCentral for most of clients just because it was pretty much friction free but I’m thinking that for now on, I’ll use 3CX on top of Debian.

Disk Imaging

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I'm beginning to feel old here but I remember my first IT job at my high school. At that time, Windows XP had just came out and all the computers on campus were running Windows ME. My first year working there, we spent the whole winter break manually formatting the existing computer lab computers, installing Windows XP, installing all of the Windows Updates, installing Microsoft Office, Adobe Reader, Flash, installing all of the network printers, etc. Over and over and over, again all by hand (I still have that damned Windows XP product key memorized). This was before I discovered imaging. Fast forward 15 years, I very rarely ever rebuild a system from scratch because I developed a new habit. Whether it be for my personal computers or computers for clients, I get the system setup perfectly the first time, create an image for that system and store it. This way, if that computer ever crashes or it becomes time for a client to buy new systems, I just pop start the image restore, come back half an hour to an hour later and vola! A perfect, clean system already configured.

When I started working at California State University, Bakersfield I started in the “installs” department. Our job was whenever departments would order new computers, we were tasked with getting them configured with the necessary software both for the departments standards as well as the campus standards. At that time, we used Symantec’s Ghost to create an image for each particular model of a system that the campus would buy so when we would get that model again, we would already have an image for it. However, by the time my tenure of working there completed, we had signed a contract with Dell where every six months or so, we would send a master image off to them and Dell would do the imaging for us prior to shipping. Because the campus was constantly buying new computers, we could do that.

For small businesses, however, they only upgrade their hardware once every few years, if that. So I highly recommend that when you do purchase new computers for your small business, create an image and try your best to have everybody on the same model and vendor of computer (even though there are utilities to create universal images to be able to create and restore images to and from different hardware).

My go to imaging software for both personal practice and for my IT clients has always been Acronis True Image because of its simplicity and price, it starts at just $50.

So, start using imaging! Your future self will thank you!