Asterisk versus 3CX

Asterisk is a robust software implementation of a private branch exchange (PBX), designed for Voice over IP (VoIP) telephony.

Asterisk is distributed in several different ways. At its core, it is a developer’s tool kit which can be used to craft endlessly customized communications software. That’s the “main” open source distribution. This distribution is available for absolutely free but requires extra investments of time and expertise to assemble into a working PBX. Typically, experienced developers compile it with their preferred Linux distribution and administer it from a command line interface.

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Asterisk-based Communications Solutions

Luckily for those looking for a less ”Do-It-Yourself” phone system, there are solutions that utilize the powerful features of Asterisk in a more user-friendly package.

Some follow in the footsteps of their parent project and open source development. These projects, such as FreePBX, rely on a community of developers to use an Asterisk foundation to build a more intuitive PBX software capable of being administered via a graphical user interface (GUI). These are typically available as a free software package optimized for a Linux OS, and some like FreePBX offer commercial modules and support plans to support users and the project.

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Commercial Distributions

For many businesses, however, this level of hands-on involvement is still too resource-intensive. For them, the time involved in deployment and system administration is better spent in other critical areas of their business. That’s where more commercial distributions come in. These softwares and services form a class of their own. Built on Asterisk and utilizing its powerful functionality, these products, such as PBXact, offer fully-featured, value-added solutions, catered to organizations as small as five users up to enterprises with thousands.

The key to the success of these commercial solutions is their offering a complete solution, no tinkering required. Users can purchase their IP PBX, software licenses, and hardware from the same vendor with whom they have a support contract. These solutions provide fully-featured Unified Communications (UC) phone systems that allow access to the system GUI from standard enterprise operating systems like Microsoft Windows and Apple MacOS, as well as mobile apps for Android and iOS.

How Asterisk-based Solutions Compare to 3CX


PBXact FreePBX 3CX
PBXact is a fully-featured IP PBX designed with Unified Communication features for organizations needing mobility, productivity and collaboration capabilities. FreePBX is a web-based open source GUI (graphical user interface) that controls and manages Asterisk (PBX), an open source communication server. 3CX is a software-based IP PBX that offers some Unified Communications features installed on either on-premise 3rd party hardware or cloud hosting.
PBXact is deployed on Sangoma appliances, ensuring world-class performance. Phone system licensing includes premium technical support from Sangoma’s PBXact experts. FreePBX is offered on Sangoma certified appliances which means guaranteed performance, while eliminating the hassle of researching the correct server specifications. Sangoma technical support makes troubleshooting and maintenance easy. 3CX software is installed on third party hardware which means you are responsible for performance. Any issues will be regarded by 3CX as ‘not their issue’.
PBXact Cloud is a full-featured UC solution operated and maintained by Sangoma that offers easy scalability and robust mobility features for small-to-medium businesses. FreePBX Hosting is fully operated and maintained by Sangoma. Includes everything from 24/7 online signup to configuration and continued maintenance. No installation required, just sign into the online store and get started immediately. 3CX’s cloud PBX offering is just their software hosted on a cloud service provider that the customer has to research, choose, and monitor in the course of maintaining their own PBX software.
Key Features
Simultaneous Calls
PBXact is offered in a wide range of call support configurations for 25-5000 users making from 30-1500 simultaneous calls. FreePBX offers configurations from 30-350 simultaneous calls. Calls are treated as inbound/outbound calls to/from the FreePBX system. Limited to 1024 calls, including internal calls, such as between extensions or an extension to voicemail. This is a license limit and cannot be increased.
DID Trunk Failover
DIDs can be assigned to any trunk which is useful for failover routing. So, if a trunk goes down, phone call can still be processed if that DID is also assigned to another active trunk. As with PBXact, FreePBX DIDs can be assigned to any trunk allowing practical failover routing. 3CX DIDs can only be bound to 1 trunk. So, cannot failover since the DID is only available for 1 trunk and if that trunk goes down the DID is no longer available for failover scenario.
PBXact’s Endpoint Manager (EPM), automatically maps phones with extensions upon new installation, sending full configuration to the phone. The EPM supports over 300 device vendors so no need to worry about buying new hardware. When combining with Sangoma IP phones, PBXact will automatically pair and auto-provision your phones simply by plugging them into the internet. As with PBXact, the commercially available Endpoint Manager (EPM), automatically maps phones with extensions upon new installation, sending full configuration to the phone. Includes support for over 300 device vendors Also, when combining FreePBX with Sangoma IP phones, Sangoma’s redirection service will automatically pair and auto-provision your phones simply by plugging them into the internet. 3CX requires the IT admin to manually map new phones with PBX extensions before configuration can be pushed to phones. Also, 3CX supports a limited set of IP phones, which may require customer to purchase new hardware. 3CX does not have a redirection service, requiring more software and configuration attention for provisioning, especially remote users (i.e. 3CX SBC software installation at remote user site and IT admin configuration in PBX).
Phone Apps
A suite of applications designed for most IP phone vendors allowing users to control complex features using the phone’s display and programmable buttons, eliminating the need to remember feature codes. These features can be fully customized from the user’s own User Control Panel (UCP) or from the Endpoint Manager (EPM) by the IT admin. Phone apps are pre-built into Sangoma IP phones and offered as an add-on for non-Sangoma phones. Similar to PBXact, a suite of applications designed for most IP phone vendors is available. These features can be fully customized from the user’s own User Control Panel (UCP) or from Endpoint Manager (EPM) by the IT admin with licenses available as a commercial module. The phone apps are available for free and pre-built into Sangoma and Digium IP phones, and available as an add-on module for those using other IP phones. 3CX does not have advanced phone apps that can be pushed, configured, and controlled from their PBX. Users must remember feature codes to access features, and some features are not accessible from the user’s phone.
Call Center Features
PBXact offers a robust set of call center features. Call queueing handles calls with priority weighting and intelligent parameters, like time of day and custom call rules. Additional features include enhanced IVR, automated appointment reminders, and automated outbound campaign dialing. FreePBX’s Call Center module provides advanced features. Call Queuing is intelligent with priority weighting within the queue, making it simple to escalate waiting customers through the queues and bring in more agents automatically. VIP calling is also included, which uses priority weighting within the same queue, getting special callers answered first. 3CX Pro/Enterprise has call-center features but requires you to build multiple queues to achieve priority weighting and VIP caller experience. Creating more queues, rather than priority weighting within an individual queue, creates more complex routing configuration and processing.
Sangoma offers a complete line of PBXact appliances, certified from 25-5000 users, removing the burden of building the solution yourself and risking performance issues. Hardware is covered by Sangoma warranty. Sangoma offers a complete line of appliances for FreePBX installations, certified from 40-1200 users, and covered by manufacturer warranty. 3CX offers no proprietary hardware and recommends only one third party hardware platform. If customer requires a more robust hardware solution, they are responsible for sourcing and testing with no 3CX warranty.


Everything Connects, Connect with Sangoma

For over thirty years, we’ve helped businesses grow through scalable, flexible, reliable communications solutions.

Sangoma Technologies is the primary developer and sponsor of the Asterisk project, the world’s most widely used open source communications software, and the FreePBX project, the world’s most widely used open source PBX software.

A trusted leader in value-based Unified Communications (UC) and UC as a Service (UCaaS) solutions, Sangoma has the products, the people, and the proven track record to help your business shine with the latest communications and collaboration technology. We offer a complete portfolio of next-generation Unified Communications solutions, including IP-based PBXs, cloud-based communications, fax solutions, SIP trunking services, session border controllers, and much more.

Sangoma products and services are backed by the best engineers in the business and a world-class professional services team with the systems expertise to handle everything from initial consultation to completely managed solutions, including maintenance, upgrades, security patches, and much more.

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