A virtual phone number is a number that’s routed through an existing landline, cell phone, or another internet-connected device. Unlike voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP) services, a virtual number doesn’t replace your current phone service. Instead, you can use one or more devices to answer or make calls using a new or established business phone number. Most virtual phone number systems come with popular features, such as a virtual receptionist and voicemail.
An example of a great virtual phone number provider is Grasshopper. This is because, in addition to features like custom greetings, the affordable service has plans for one to five phone numbers and supports several extensions. This means you can send calls to multiple devices or employees without needing a central office to host phone system equipment. Learn more by visiting their website.
How a Virtual Number Works
A virtual phone number, also called a secondary number, works by forwarding calls to an internet-connected device. While traditional landlines use a copper wire phone network and cell phones rely on cell towers, a virtual phone service sends calls through the internet. This flexible functionality means you can configure different devices to accept and make calls or send text messages.
With a virtual number, you’ll enjoy the same features and clear calling found in conventional phone services, plus many more, such as:
- Toll-free, vanity, or local phone numbers
- Automated attendant
- Custom greetings
- Simultaneous call handling
- Detailed call reports
- Call transfers and forwarding
A virtual phone number works well for small business owners requiring a capable phone system with the flexibility to switch devices and locations. Most providers offer low-cost plans and fast installation so you can set up service in minutes and start connecting with your customers. Virtual phone numbers serve as one of the most accessible ways to get a dedicated business phone number.
Virtual Phone Number Providers
Although several excellent virtual phone number providers exist, the services differ by pricing and features. Before selecting a system for your business, think about how many employees you want to connect with and your must-have features. For instance, not all solutions support video calling or audio conferencing. Others charge a per-user cost versus plans with unlimited employee extensions.
You can learn more about the top options for small business professionals by visiting our guide on the best virtual phone providers.
Virtual Phone Numbers Pros & Cons
|An inexpensive solution to connect multiple employees||You need access to the internet to receive or make virtual number calls|
|User-friendly mobile apps turn any device into a business phone||Plans may offer fewer features than VoIP packages|
|Virtual receptionist and call management features can increase your company’s credibility||Virtual calling services require an existing phone line|
Alternatives to Virtual Phone Numbers
Although a virtual phone number system is an excellent solution for small business owners, your company has several other options. Depending on your location and needs, you may want a traditional landline, business cell phone, or full-featured VoIP business phone system.
VoIP Phone System
A business VoIP phone system differs from a virtual phone number because it can replace your existing phone plan. VoIP services rely on an internet connection, give you a business phone number, and let you make and receive calls on many different devices. This solution works well for companies that want to save money by transferring from a traditional landline system to a VoIP service.
If you find your business needs are more robust than what virtual phone number can do, consider checking out our guide to the best business VoIP systems.
A landline phone system routes calls through a standard copper wire network that doesn’t require internet service. Business landline plans typically come with unlimited domestic calls, voicemail, and caller ID. However, to add features found in VoIP plans, you’ll need a private branch exchange (PBX), which can be pricey. Business landlines are a good choice for entrepreneurs without stable, high-speed internet access.
Business Cell Phone
A business cell phone plan relies on your cellular provider’s cell towers to send and receive phone calls and text messages. Many packages include a mobile hotspot, unlimited nationwide calling, and number forwarding. If your teams travel frequently and need access to data plans, a business cell phone may be a good fit for your company.
You can learn more about the best services for mobile teams in our guide on the best business cell phone plans.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How can I get a free virtual phone number?
You can get a free virtual phone number by signing up for a free trial with a provider, as all services let you choose at least one virtual phone number per plan. For freelancers or solopreneurs, Google Voice offers a free solution with voicemail and call handling features.
Are virtual phone numbers safe?
Yes, virtual phone numbers are safe because they don’t display your location, and many providers use encryption to protect your data. Security layers may include transport layer security (TLS) and secure real-time transport protocol (SRTP). Moreover, some VoIP providers are Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliant.
How do I use a virtual phone number?
Once you sign up for a virtual phone number service and choose a business phone number, then you can follow the instructions to set up your devices quickly. Most providers offer mobile and desktop apps that allow you to install and configure your service within minutes.
A virtual phone number is a great solution to establish a professional presence without tying yourself to a specific location or device. It gives you access to features customers expect, like an automated attendant and custom greetings. With low-cost plans, you can get your teams connected and start sharing your number with clients immediately.
Our favorite virtual number provider is Grasshopper because it offers top-rated mobile and desktop apps and user-friendly features. Its affordable plans let you forward calls to any smartphone, desktop computer, or tablet. Plus, you can try out the services for free without inputting your credit card information.