Virtual Phone Number

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A female employee using a virtual phone number from a mobile phone
In the past, businesses had no choice but to rely on landline-based phone systems and traditional phone numbers. Those numbers, as a result, were directly tied to a specific geographic location—or, latterly, to a particular device, in the case of a business mobile number. 
With virtual phone numbers, those shackles are off, and the potential benefits for your business are almost boundless. Before we get to those, however, let’s cover the basics. 

What is a virtual phone number?

We all know what a phone number is, but what is a virtual number? 

A virtual telephone number—sometimes also known as an online phone number or internet phone number—is one that doesn’t rely on the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). That’s what most of us would call the traditional landline-based telephony network. 

Instead, virtual numbers rely on different technology entirely. They, as part of a virtual phone service like that offered by RingCentral, utilize Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Calls to and from virtual numbers are transmitted over an internet connection rather than copper wires or fiber optic cabling. 

What that means is that virtual phone numbers are not exclusively tied to a specific phone or device. As long as a user has an internet connection and their communications software or app, they can make and take calls via their virtual phone number. This gives businesses and their workforce more flexibility in how and where they make and receive calls.

Types of virtual phone numbers

Aside from the technology behind them, virtual numbers are very similar to the traditional alternative. So much so, you can get all the same types of numbers, whether they’re virtual or related to a traditional phone system. 

That means a virtual telephone number could look like a local number. For example, in the same way as a standard US landline number, it could have a three-digit area code at the start denoting a particular part of the country.

What’s different with an online phone number—and what makes it great for businesses looking to establish local presences around the country—is that you don’t have to have a physical address in that area to get and use a local number. 

Virtual phone numbers can be toll-free numbers, too, and utilize the same toll-free prefixes as traditional landlines. In the USA, the most popular is 800, closely followed by the likes of 888, 877, 866, 855, and 844. 

How to get a virtual phone number

It’s often quick and easy to get virtual phone numbers. Unlike traditional phone numbers that need new telephone wires to be installed which could take days or weeks and be very expensive. 

In fact, you’ll often get a free virtual phone number when you subscribe to a plan from virtual phone system providers.

Getting additional numbers is also typically straightforward. From the online administrator account of their software, businesses can buy a phone number online and assign it as a company phone number or to an individual user.

If you want to keep your previous phone number—if it’s been associated with your company for a long time, for instance—that’s not a problem, either. 

Most virtual phone service providers allow new subscribers to port their old business phone numbers from their traditional providers. That means you can combine the benefits of new, free phone numbers and that old contact number your customers recognize and trust.

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How does a virtual phone number work for business?

 A virtual phone system is mobile and desktop

A virtual phone number is one of the components of a virtual phone service. With VoIP as the telephony component and cloud PBX as the call routing and management component, a virtual phone service works by leveraging the flexibility of virtual phone numbers in order to be accessible to users from anywhere.

In a nutshell, VoIP is what lets you take and make phone calls over the internet. Your voice gets transformed at one end of the call into digital data packets. Those packets are then transported—in the same way as an email or other digital communication—over the internet to the call’s recipient. The packets are then reformed into audio at the other end—all essentially instantaneously.

Much like traditional phone numbers, virtual numbers determine where the calls go. With the greater technicalities handled by your virtual phone service provider, that’s really all you need to know about how virtual telephone numbers work. 

What’s more interesting is how online phone numbers could benefit your business.

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Business benefits of virtual phone numbers

If you get a virtual phone number free as part of a business communications solution, what advantages could it bring to your company? In short, it could help you:

1. Unite your distributed workforce with a single business phone number

For businesses that operate in multiple locations, it’s difficult to communicate and collaborate efficiently with a traditional phone system. 

What usually happens is that each location has its own phone system from different providers, which are typically not compatible with each other. This results in a disconnect between the different workforces of each location.

A modern business phone service with virtual phone numbers, however, is able to unite distributed staff from multiple locations. 

Using the cloud PBX component of your phone service, you can set it up so that calls reach the right destination regardless of location. Employees who are not even in the office can still be reached as long as they are connected to the business phone system via the internet.

Your business can also set up teams or departments under a single virtual phone number. By assigning a phone number to a department, you can set up a call queue where all incoming calls can be routed to all members of the department simultaneously or in chronological order. For instance, you can use the call queue features to distribute calls among available team members if you want your entire support team to handle every incoming call collectively.

There are so many options available to use virtual phone numbers for uniting your distributed workforce that are not available with traditional lines. Collaborative features like conference calling highlighted by consistent call quality, too, make a virtual system an even more efficient business calling solution.

2. Provide your business remote work capabilities

Another benefit of using virtual phone numbers through a virtual phone service is that it allows organizations to offer their employees flexible and remote working options.

Since a virtual phone number can be accessed from anywhere, employees can do their job from anywhere—their home, a coffee shop, the beach. What’s more, they’ll be able to use call management tools such as call forward, call transfer, call blocking, and custom call rules, auto-replies, which can be set around your business hours.

This setup also allows your employees to explore opportunities for the business outside the office without worrying about missing a call or being unable to use the company phone number.

Moreover, it opens up the option of implementing BYOD (bring your own device) policies. Such policies can save your business money in terms of device provisioning while giving your employees the ability to use the company number to call, send and receive texts, and even virtually fax from their personal phones. This removes the need for them to carry multiple mobile devices for communication.

3. Give your business access to the best talent all over the world

Since your business can now offer remote work options, you can expand your talent search exponentially. You can look for the best employees around the US—and even the world—even if they cannot physically come to your office’s location.

You can simply have them work remotely, from their home. They will still have access to official business phone numbers and the company phone system as long as they’re connected to the internet. Imagine the productivity boost with the best talent from around the world contributing to your organization.

4. Allow your business to measure performance using your virtual phone numbers

You can also use your virtual phone numbers to measure the success of your sales and marketing campaigns. 

By associating specific phone numbers to campaigns, you can easily measure how many calls, inquiries, and leads the campaign is generating. 

Companies like RingCentral offer unlimited extensions to support large-scale campaigns. What’s more, you can integrate your communications platform seamlessly with RingSense for Sales, to reap all the benefits of AI-powered conversation intelligence.

You can also use virtual telephone numbers to run market tests and see patterns that can be useful to your business. 

For example, if you ran an ad in multiple cities, you may discover that your business is getting more calls from a particular city like Los Angeles compared to another city like New York. From there, you can investigate further and make the necessary changes to improve performance.

A virtual phone number can make a very real difference for your business

The above are just some of the things you can do with virtual phone numbers and are among the many reasons why virtual phone systems are considered the best business phone service for small businesses

Far more than a free phone number app,  RingCentral delivers the advanced features of enterprise-level phone systems with the flexibility and mobility of web-based tools—all for affordable prices.

By signing up for a RingCentral account, you can also benefit from its partnerships like the one it has with Snap Recordings, which allows you to request custom, professional greetings. Add a slick call menu system into the mix and you’ll make a killer first impression that results in happy customers.

Frequently Asked Questions

A virtual phone number comes with the service you purchase. Think about it—it’s just like when you set up a landline or cell phone. There are, of course, apps that allow internet phone calls, which get you a phone number without shelling out anything.

TextNow, Textfree, and Google Voice are examples of virtual phone number providers that offer calling and texting. These apps assign you a number you can use to place free local phone calls and send texts to any number.

If you need international calling (without the increased call rates), more advanced call routing, and other sophisticated features and services like AI note-taking, voicemail transcription, call analytics, rich SMS and faxing capabilities, integrations with popular business apps such as Microsoft Teams, however, that’s more than those apps can offer.

Your best virtual phone number option is to sign up with a reputable company like RingCentral. RingCentral offers a range of pricing plans, all with a free virtual number and unlimited domestic calling.

If you receive a call from an unknown virtual number, you can trace its owner by using tools available online. 

Try reverse phone number lookup sites, which can either be free or paid. You can also set up your device to display CNAM (caller ID name) and IP address, since caller ID alone is easy to fake. If you have your own virtual number, you can do a CNAM lookup with your VoIP provider.

If you suspect that a caller is faking their outgoing caller ID, you can use a CNAM lookup tool to get the CNAM data you need. As a last resort, you can try an IP address lookup, which should tell you its location, internet provider, and domain name.

Yes. You have a huge array of choices when it comes to virtual telephone numbers. 

You can, for example, choose a local area code that corresponds to a place where you don’t have an actual office but nevertheless offer products and services to. This way, you’ll establish credibility and even place a local call to that specific area. 

You can even take the customization further by requesting a vanity phone number. Companies usually get a vanity number to better represent their business and bolster their marketing efforts.

Globally-trusted virtual number providers like RingCentral offer local and toll-free virtual phone numbers in more than 100 countries, Canada included. 

Sign up now to get a Canadian business number so you can start building a local presence and earn the trust of local customers.

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