A virtual phone number provides you with the opportunity to communicate with anyone in the world at any time, using almost any internet-connected device. It is, therefore, understandable that online phone numbers are increasing in popularity. Virtual phone numbers offer flexible communication options and a layer of privacy, something many professionals worry a great deal about.
In this article, we break down what a virtual phone number is, its numerous advantages, and how to get one for your business—including the possibility of a free virtual phone number.
Advantages of Virtual Phone Numbers
The use of a virtual telephone number comes with various benefits, from more accessible contact options to added privacy. These advantages will be explored in greater detail in the upcoming sections.
Synced Communication Across Multiple Devices
A significant upside to virtual phone numbers is that they let you remain easy to reach, no matter where you happen to be. Virtual service providers like RingCentral and Google Voice provide seamless communication between yourself, co-workers, employees, or clients. You can freely communicate through smartphones, tablets, laptops, and other internet-capable devices. All within the same building or across multiple continents.
At a time when more people than ever are working outside the office, businesses need not worry about seeing a drop in reliable communication. Virtual phone number usage helps avoid missing calls thanks to alerts sent out across all connected devices within the network. If you have your laptop but forgot your phone, you are still easy to reach.
How a Virtual Phone Number Works
Virtual phone numbers shouldn’t be thought of in the same way as telephone numbers connected to a landline or smartphone. These numbers originate in the cloud and get linked to a preexisting telephone number that you already own. For this reason, virtual phone use also gets referred to as cloud telephony.
Traditionally, telephone numbers are tied to a specific device, be it a landline or cell phone. Landline phones require you to sit and wait in one spot for a crucial call. Smartphones are much better, but you still need to have them on hand to ensure that you’re reachable. Virtual phone numbers help you stay connected whether you’re working from home or travelling across the globe; you don’t have to feel tied down to a physical location or any particular device.
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)
One of the common ways to access virtual phone numbers is through a voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP) service provider. These cloud-based service providers let you make and receive calls from anywhere via the internet. One caveat with this service is that it is dependent on your device staying online. Should the internet go down or be otherwise available, it would be impossible to use your virtual phone service.
Access to robust integrations and services
Although it’s possible to use a virtual phone service for free, upgrade options often provide some beneficial perks to businesses. Some standard service features include virtual receptionists, calendar integrations, voicemail (and voicemail transcription), online faxing, and team messaging capabilities.
It might also be possible to integrate popular services, including Microsoft 365, Canvas, Salesforce, and Zendesk. Some subscription plans also include teleconferencing features. These integrations and add-ons can be especially helpful in allowing businesses to communicate more efficiently and operate more seamlessly.
How to Get a Virtual Phone Number
You’ll be glad to know that getting an online number is a relatively simple process. Getting a number usually requires signing up for service through a Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, service provider. For instance, Google Voice offers a free local number to anyone with a Google account. The brand also provides a series of valuable upgrades for Voice if you sign up through Workspace.
After selecting a service and creating your account, you will be asked to port to an existing phone line or choose a brand new national number. From there, your service plan might include a series of toll-free numbers for your business or even vanity numbers.
The availability of add-ons and perks varies from provider to provider, so you’ll want to shop around for service plans that are closest to what you need and can afford. For more information, check out our guide to the best VoIP services.
Affordable Options for Smaller Businesses Looking to Save Money
A small business that needs a few lines per month might not spend more than a hundred dollars per month with the right service. However, as companies scale up in size, employing hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people, communication costs tend to skyrocket. Then factor in multiple locations, possibly across a few different countries. Suddenly, telephone costs could run into the thousands per month.
Regardless of the size of the business, opting for a virtual phone number could severely cut telephone costs. With online numbers, there’s no need to invest in expensive, multiline corded hardware. Depending on your service plan, you could get at least one free virtual phone number. Additionally, it’s often free to receive calls domestically and affordable to take calls globally.
For any business, large or small, a virtual phone number could be a much-needed budget solution.
Maintain a Level of Privacy
Not everyone is comfortable using personal numbers as a means of keeping in contact with employers or business partners. The fact that virtual phone numbers can be linked to a private telephone number without compromising privacy is a desirable feature. This setup can work exceptionally well for sole proprietors who want to run a business while keeping their home numbers private.
Remote work and travel
According to the KPMG 2021 CEO Outlook, which featured a survey of 1,300 CEOs, about 69% of respondents are shifting towards a virtual workforce. As remote work will feature in the strategies of many businesses moving forward, access to virtual communication tools like online phone numbers makes perfect sense.
As previously stated, virtual phone numbers can release you from the obligation of waiting in one location for phone calls or having to hang on to a single device to ensure you don’t miss an important call. Additionally, the virtual nature of the service makes it great for both remote companies and professionals who are frequently travelling.
Landline Phone System
You don’t get much more traditional than the landline. Major carriers such as Verizon and AT&T are usually the ones to turn to if you want a corded, multiline setup connecting everyone within the office. Though some might find them old-fashioned, there are a few perks associated with high-quality landline service:
- Pristine call quality
- Never worry about calls getting dropped
- The ability to continue calls even during a power outage
- No concern about having to charge your battery
- Will work with or without an internet connection
For well-established businesses used to traditional calling options, landlines can feel like a familiar, comfortable, and more reliable option.
Web Conferencing Software
In addition to rising virtual phone usage, many organisations are turning to teleconference software to stay connected. You can have one-on-one meetings or schedule webinars featuring hundreds or thousands of team members through web conferencing software.
Considerations When Getting a Virtual Phone Service
As you can see, obtaining a virtual phone number is relatively easy. Still, there are some key factors to take into account when preparing to buy one or more for professional use.
- Access and usage Keeping tabs on business virtual phone number usage and access is often necessary for ensuring that business numbers are used appropriately and by the correct personnel. Service providers usually offer add-ons that help you better monitor phone line usage and ensure everything runs smoothly.
- Pricing and value for the money There are plenty of affordable options for getting an online number. That said, you want to go with the service that will provide the most bang for your buck. Although a free service could work for a very small business, a larger company will want to shop around for services that provide the best integrations and supportive features.
- Free phone numbers Some service providers, like Google Voice Outright, offer members a free virtual phone number. In addition, you can obtain multiple free numbers as part of an upgrade or add-on.
Alternatives to Virtual Phone Service
Although virtual phone numbers are a flexible and often low-cost solution for business owners, some organisations might want an alternative that better suits their needs. After all, not everyone has access to seamless internet or wants to rely entirely on cloud-based telephone service.
If you are not keen on virtual phone service, perhaps you’ll be more comfortable with virtual mail. After all, email is a decades-old instantaneous communication tool through which you can easily exchange information, and it’s generally free to use.
Should you decide to upgrade your company’s email service through Google Workspace, you can also get handy chat-related services.