Although the use of the buzzword, unified communications (UC), has dwindled somewhat of late, the UC concept seems to be flourishing. As a result, 3CX, an international telecommunications software company, has continued to improve its IP PBX software and just released a new version of 3CX Phone System for Windows. Big new features of the 7.0 release include support for running as a virtual instance in Microsoft Hyper-V, advanced call-handling rules for end users, and optimized system performance that can handle more than 50,000 calls per day.

As its name implies, 3CX Phone System for Windows is aimed at Microsoft shops. To that end, the new release features better integration with Windows systems by using Microsoft IIS and Microsoft .NET technologies. The system can resolve inbound calls to Microsoft Outlook contact lists, and the redesigned web-based UI mimics Microsoft Management Console, which should make learning to manage the system a fairly simple process. Take a look at the new UI in the screenshot below; click the image for a larger view.

According to 3CX CEO Nick Galea, ease of use and management are key goals for the product. New features such as end-user call-handling rules are a direct result of listening to the company's customers. "By allowing call rules to be configured based on caller ID, time received, and type of call, users can break free from the office and have more mobility. For example, after-hour calls from important customers can be routed to a mobile phone, whereas all other calls can go to voice mail," Galea said.

3CX was awarded Silver in the messaging category in the 2008 Windows IT Pro Editors' Best Awards. In April 2008, a Windows IT Pro reader, Michael R. Faster, wrote about his experience using the 3CX Phone System. Faster's company chose 3CX after examining other options such as Asterisk. "Based on my research the other Windows based PBXs cost more money and weren’t as accessible from a trial standpoint," Faster said. If you've used 3CX or another IP PBX, we'd love for you to leave a comment below to tell us how it worked for you.

The 3CX Phone System for Windows provides UC technology that isn't tied to a particular hardware vendor: Any SIP-compatible hardware works. If you're interested in investigating a UC solution, 3CX offers a limited-feature free edition that you can download from its website to get you started. The free edition supports up to four concurrent calls; the company's commercial editions, of course, can handle many more calls as well as including other advanced features. For more information, email info@3cx.com or visit the company's website. You can also watch the video below for a presentation on 3CX Phone System for Windows 7.0.