What is a virtual telephone number - and how can you use them

What is a virtual Phone number


You may have heard about virtual phone numbers in the past but were not quite sure what they were all about. A virtual phone number is a non-geographic telephone number that doesn't get linked to a particular phone line or device. Many years ago, telephone numbers were geographically linked to physical telephone lines, and those services got provided by telecom companies to businesses via copper wires.

When it came to telephone numbers for businesses, they typically got provisioned through to multi-line PBX (private branch exchange) systems. PBX systems had specialist hardware located at the premises for each company, and they could get configured with extensions, voicemail, call routing rules, and so forth.

These days, businesses no longer worry about the expense and frustration of setting up PBX systems at their premises, thanks to virtual phone numbers.

A virtual phone number is similar to a normal phone number the difference being that it is routed over the internet rather than over a phone line. Virtual phone numbers use VoIP or voice over internet protocol they convert the signal from your voice into digital signals and send them over the internet.

You can get different kinds of virtual phone numbers depending on what you need to use them for. You can can get Toll Free virtual phone numbers that have a standard three-digit code at the beginning of the number such as 800, 833, or 888. With Toll free phone numbers the received is charged a nominal fee for the call but it is free to the customer. Local area numbers will provide you with a phone number for a specific area such as a state, city, or country so that you can target different markets inexpensively. A vanity phone number is another option where you can highlight your business to make it more memorable for instance; 1-800-COFFEE for a coffee shop.

Here's how a virtual phone number can benefit your business:

A virtual phone number offers easy routing

Arguably the most significant advantage of having a virtual phone number for your business is the ease with which you can route your calls. For example, let's say that you are a self-employed consultant, and you divide your time between working from home and traversing the country. You don't want to give your clients your home or mobile telephone numbers. And you certainly don't want to go to the expense of paying for a business line at your home.

A virtual phone number provides the perfect solution for such a problem in several ways. For a start, you can direct calls to your home landline, mobile device, or even your hotel room if you're staying away from home. Any routing changes can get made easily and quickly and is something that takes seconds to action rather than hours or even days in the case of old PBX systems.

You can unite remote workers from different areas

Do you run a business where most of your workforce operates from remote locations, such as their homes or from satellite offices? If the answer is yes, did you know that you can assign a virtual phone number to each employee?

As you now know, it's simple to route telephone calls from virtual numbers to any destination of your choosing. By offering such flexibility to your remote workforce, they can ensure that they'll never miss any potentially important telephone calls - both from head office and your clients.

Another way that you can unite remote workers is by grouping together each team. If you have sales staff that work from home but are geographically located hundreds of miles from each other and yourself, a virtual phone number can make your life easy. That's because you have the possibility of creating a “ring” group of staff so that when a customer dials the group number, each number can ring simultaneously or sequentially.

Another benefit for your business when you offer the option to work remotely is that you have a much wider pool of talent to search from so you can find the best people for the job from anywhere in the world. Having a team of salespeople working remotely means that you can rapidly expand your business without having to open expensive new offices.

You can have a virtual phone number for each city

If your business covers a vast regional area, some of your potential customers may likely be a bit hesitant about calling you. Sure, you'll have some prospective clients that might be wary of calling an out of town number due to increased call costs. But, the main reason is that people would much rather deal with who they believe is a local business.

An easy and inexpensive way of targeting future customers in areas further afield from your base is by having several “local” virtual phone numbers. The beauty of such numbers is you can direct all calls to one endpoint, such as your mobile phone if you wanted to do so.

According to BrightLocal, 64% of people surveyed said they preferred to call a local business rather than one further afield whenever they needed any products or services. Offering your customers local telephone numbers to call is going to boost the likelihood of them contacting you significantly.

It's easy to measure marketing campaign performance

Let's say that you wish to run some marketing campaigns in the future where your customers must contact you by telephone to take advantage of a special offer. Measuring the performance of a telephone call is entirely different to checking how many visitors reached a web page, for instance.

To that end, how can you determine whether one telephone marketing campaign is better than another? The answer is simple: use different virtual telephone number endpoints.

It may surprise you to learn that it's quite simple to find out how many people called each number, the times of days of those telephone calls, and even the area code of each caller. When you have virtual telephone numbers, you've got access to a set of powerful reporting features at your fingertips.

What happens when you can't answer calls?

By now, you will doubtless realize there are many features and benefits of having a virtual telephone number. You can take advantage of those features for your business quite quickly, but what happens when it isn't possible to receive any calls from your customers?

As you can appreciate, there will be times where it's not possible to take calls. For example, you might be in a meeting with one of your clients. Or you may be on the road and unable to pull over to answer your mobile phone.

Fortunately, it's simple enough to use a virtual phone number with a telephone answering service. In case you wondered, all you would need to do is divert all calls to the answering service and have them deal with any inquiries or take messages so you can call your clients back later.

The Ivy Answering Service is an ideal partner service for a virtual phone number and incredibly useful for sole traders wishing to make their business appear larger than it is. You can use it to do more than take messages from callers for you. For example, you can use the Ivy Answering Service to direct calls to other team members, or even answer basic questions about your business.


To finish off we have answered a few of the frequently asked questions regarding virtual phone numbers.

How does a virtual phone number work?

A virtual phone number is a type of phone number that doesn't have a standard telephone line. A virtual phone system can forward any incoming calls to a different phone number. A virtual phone number can also forward the call to a VOIP or SIP line almost anywhere on the planet.

Can I get a virtual phone number for free?

Yes, you can get a virtual free phone number from providers such as Google Voice that offer basic functionality such as texting and free local calls. But if you require affordable international calling, advanced call forwarding, and other advanced options you are best to use a paid phone service especially for a business phone number.

What Installation is required for a virtual phone system?

There is no installation required for a virtual phone number. Once you have signed up to a virtual phone number provider your calls will be forwarded to your landline or mobile device.

If I have a virtual phone number can I use it with a virtual answering service?

Yes! This is a cost-effective option for small businesses and also helps to give a professional image to customers. With a virtual answering service you gain more flexibility as you don't need to hire extra staff combined with the virtual phone number everything is hosted in the cloud.

Will the person I'm calling know that I am using a virtual phone number?

No, the number of the virtual phone number will appear to be just like any other number to your caller. The only way that they will discover that it is a virtual phone number is if you let them know.

How long can you keep a virtual phone number for?

There is no limit on how long you can keep the virtual phone number as long as you are paying your provider you can keep the phone number or numbers you have.

How many phone numbers can I have at once?

Usually, you can have unlimited phone numbers though certain virtual phone system providers may restrict the number of virtual phone numbers you can have.

Saves you time and money

You can save a lot of money by going virtual with your receptionist. You only pay for the calls they answer.


Easy set up - No fixed contract

It's easy to get started. And you can manage your settings on the go with your phone, tablet or laptop.



For 7 days. No obligation. No credit card required.