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What is a virtual phone service?

A virtual phone service or virtual phone system refers to the modern business communications solution that combines the best features of enterprise-level phone systems and the flexibility and mobility of web-based tools like VoIP, virtual phone numbers, and cloud PBX to provide businesses with a communications solution that can be accessed from anywhere via the internet.

These telephony solutions are hosted in the cloud and delivered via the internet, which lets you make calls from any laptop or mobile device. This modern virtual phone service combines the best of landline technology with the flexibility of web-based services. 

As a result, you don’t just get a solution for making voice calls—you get a complete virtual phone service that manages your incoming calls and lets you send internet fax and SMS as well as host and join conferences from anywhere.

Employees calling each other using VoIP

Why go virtual with your telephone service?

Voice over Internet Protocol refers to the technology that allows us to make and receive phone calls over the Internet in real-time. It is a set of protocols working together to deliver internet telephony functions similar to regular phone lines or PSTN (public switched telephone network). 

The difference is that VoIP phone service provides flexibility and mobility that is not possible with traditional telephony. By delivering voice calling functions over internet connections, it allows anyone to use Voice over IP from anywhere via their laptops, desktops, or smart devices.

Unified communication platform on different devices

Why a virtual phone service is popular among businesses

The modern business technology landscape is so different from what it was a couple of decades ago. In the past, enterprises had a huge advantage over smaller businesses because most of the advanced business technology required huge capital investment. This was because the technology needed to be hosted within the premises of the company and required its own network or infrastructure.

The same goes for business communications. For the longest time, on-premise phone systems were considered enterprise-level only because, well, only large enterprises are able to afford them.

That all changed with the arrival of the cloud. Instead of businesses hosting the service within their premises, providers host their service on their own cloud data centers and deliver the service through the internet.

This setup has given this business communications solution a distinct edge over on-premise systems and gave organizations more reason to go virtual with their business phone service.

Now, most business tools are delivered via the internet–and that includes how a business communicates.

How does a virtual phone service work?

A virtual phone service works by combining different communications tools into one solution, which leverages the cloud. This makes it accessible from anywhere around the world.

To understand how a virtual phone service works, you have to understand each of its basic components

Virtual phone numbers that build presence for your business

Unlike regular phone numbers that are tethered to single landlines, virtual phone services feature phone numbers that can be accessed from anywhere as long as there is an internet connection.

Virtual phone numbers vs traditional phone numbers

Traditional phone numbers are directly connected to a specific place through telephone cables. Virtual phone numbers are the exact opposite. The physical limitations that apply to traditional phone numbers do not apply. They are not tethered to a single line or device and can be accessed from anywhere.

In addition, businesses can get phone numbers for different area codes without having to have a physical presence there precisely because they are virtual. It gives companies another level of flexibility that they can’t get with traditional telephone numbers.

How does a virtual phone number work?

Through a cell phone, laptop, or another web-connected device, your virtual phone number works by leveraging VoIP technology (more on that later) so users can make or receive calls using their business phone numbers instead of their personal numbers. This adds an air of professionalism as the calls are made from an official business number.

In addition, users can also distinguish calls coming to their personal cell phone number versus calls coming into their virtual business phone numbers. This way, they can ignore unknown calls going to their personal number but still be able to pick up calls from unknown phone numbers to their business phone number, which could be potential customers.

Similar to regular telecoms, your business also has different options for telephone numbers based on your needs, including:

  • Toll-free numbers
    If you are looking to create a national presence, then a toll-free number, especially an 800 number, is right up your alley. This allows your business to be more accessible to people around the US (and not just one city or state). 
  • Local phone numbers
    If you are looking to establish a presence in a specific community, then getting a local phone service that features its area code is a better option. The difference between a regular local number and a virtual local number, however, is that you do not need an actual physical presence in the community to get a local number when you take the virtual option. With this phone number, you can create a virtual local presence in the community.
  • International phone numbers
    If the plan is to establish your presence in another country, then most modern virtual phone service providers also provide local numbers for countries outside the US. Like US local numbers, you can also establish a virtual presence in that country through a local international number without setting up an office there.
  • Vanity phone numbers
    If you plan to use your business phone number as part of your branding, you can also ask your virtual phone service provider about vanity phone numbers. These are customized phone numbers that are easy to remember and can help you market your organization.

VoIP as a replacement for traditional business phone service


A public switched telephone network (PSTN) is the traditional method of connecting phone calls. It uses circuit-switched phone technology to transmit voice. PSTN uses the telephone carrier’s infrastructure, so every call made is charged based on the use of this resource.

VoIP, on the other hand, harnesses the flexibility of the internet to connect phone calls from any web-connected device. VoIP works through packet switching, where the voice data is broken up into multiple small packets that are transmitted over the internet, which are then reassembled and played on the receiver’s end in real-time. This is possible through a set of protocols working together to mimic the telephony function of PSTN. But because it does not use the regular carrier’s networks for transmitting voice calls, it greatly reduces your call costs, especially on long-distance calls, while getting more flexibility by being accessible from anywhere there is an internet connection.

What is a virtual landline?

The problem with traditional phone services is that they are usually tied to one telephone. If someone wants to work outside the premises of the office or needs to do some field work, they would have to use their own cellular minutes and personal phone numbers.

With a virtual phone service, that’s no longer a problem. Due to VoIP serving as its telephony component, it can act as a virtual landline that allows users to make and receive calls using their virtual phone number from anywhere.

VoIP is designed to transmit multimedia content, like voice calls, over IP networks, in real-time. It replicates the functionality of a regular telephone service but incorporates the flexibility of online services.

There used to be criticism that VoIP call quality is inferior from regular phone calls. That is now just a myth. It might have been true at one point, especially in the early years of VoIP, but the technology has come a long way from what it has been a decade ago.

In fact, a lot of the top VoIP providers, like RingCentral, offer HD VoIP, which provides HD quality voice calls (even on desktop computers and cell phones).

Flexibility, mobility, and HD quality voice calls—VoIP has really established itself as the best telephony option, especially for businesses.

Cloud PBX handles the virtual phone service call routing and management capabilities

Cloud-hosted PBX vs on-premise PBX

On-premise PBX, as the name implies, is the on-premise call routing component of traditional office phone systems. The main infrastructure consists of a number of servers housed within the building it serves. What it does is that it receives all incoming calls and routes them to the right extensions. Cloud-hosted PBX, on the other hand, is housed remotely in the provider’s data center and is delivered and accessed via the internet. 

Getting a virtual phone number and VoIP to make and receive calls does not give you complete virtual phone service. It just takes care of the telephony component of the whole communications solution. There is still the call routing and call management part of the system. After all, what is the use of virtual phone numbers and VoIP for a business if it can only take one call at a time? This is where cloud PBX comes in.

Through a group of servers hosted in their data centers, virtual phone service providers are able to provide call routing capabilities, auto-attendant capabilities, virtual extensions for departments or users, and other call management features to businesses.

This allows businesses to automatically answer all incoming calls and route each call to the right department or individual within the company.

And, like VoIP and virtual phone numbers, the service can also be accessed from anywhere there is an internet connection.

If you can see a pattern, each component of a virtual phone service leverages the reach of the internet to give businesses and their users a more flexible and mobile communications solution compared to its traditional counterparts.

A mobile user was able to call someone on her desktop though virtual phone service

What is the best virtual phone service?

Each business has different business communications needs so the best virtual phone service for each one can also be different.

RingCentral, however, is highly rated by small businesses, as well as enterprises, because they take virtual phone service to another level with their industry-leading unified communications solution. Aside from getting the above main communication components, RingCentral provides businesses with other communication tools—including an advanced online meetings solution with screen sharing as well as team collaboration and messaging feature.

The best part is that all these features are unified and can be accessed through a single platform.

Why move to the RingCentral virtual phone system

Built to support businesses

The basic capabilities include unlimited VoIP and conference calling, virtual toll-free numbers, and caller IDs you can personalize. You can access more features like texting, faxing, and even HD video online meetings without switching to other systems.

Communications with mobility and flexibility

Use your business phone number to make calls, send text messages, and fax from any mobile device. You can receive business calls through the same automatic call routing flow you've set up for work.

Simple and easy setup

Start using your business phone numbers in 24 hours or less. Customize the system to align with changes to your organization - scale up, scale back, and update processes and preferences.

No need for hardware

Sign up and start making calls over the internet. You can configure the virtual phone service to work with your office's network through your account dashboard--you don't need cables or any other hardware to add extensions. You can remove lines with just a few clicks.

Reliable customer support

Our award-winning support resources are available 24/7, and include staff that can set up your phone system for you. Reach out to us for recommendations, consultations, and technical support.

Robust phone service plans

You get just one itemized bill each month covering everything you can ever need for your business communications--voice, chat, text, fax, meetings, and more.

Business phone numbers with no boundaries

Mobile phone and tablet with VoIP solution platform

Build a national or local presence with virtual phone numbers

Whether you want to build a national presence or establish your business in a local community, RingCentral has the right business numbers for you.

  • Toll-free numbers: Establish a nationwide presence with 888, 877, 866, 855, 844, or 800 numbers. Make your business accessible all over the country.
  • Local numbers: Build a virtual presence in another location, even without a physical presence there. Choose from more than 200 available area codes in different regions across the US.
  • International numbers: You can build your global presence in foreign cities around the world. You can set up a local or toll-free number for over 80 countries.
Setting up your mobile phone in the RingCentral dashboard

Use your business telephone numbers anywhere and on any device

Your business phone numbers are not tied to a specific phone or location. You can bring and use them wherever you go. As a result, you can keep personal and business calls separate by using your RingCentral phone number to not only make voice calls, but also send internet fax, SMS, or MMS when you’re out of the office. So instead of using cellular minutes, you are using your RingCentral phone service instead. Just download the RingCentral unified app for your PC or Mac® or for your Android™ or iOS® device to turn your computer or smartphone into a business line.

Complete feature-rich virtual phone service

VoIP usage across countries

An HD VoIP-enabled phone system

RingCentral leverages VoIP as its main inbound and outbound calling component, but takes it to a whole new level by supporting HD VoIP across all plans and pricing. It provides subscribers a best-in-class call experience that is at least twice the sound quality of typical voice calls made on an analog landline.

The best part is that it is not limited to just the HD-enabled IP desk phones. HD voice is enabled by default on RingCentral unified apps for both desktops/laptops and mobile devices.

Auto attendant with advance routing capabilities accross countries

A virtual PBX system with auto attendant and advanced routing capabilities

RingCentral also expertly forwards all incoming calls to your virtual business phone numbers. The auto attendant feature answers all calls with a customizable greeting before routing it to the right department or individual extension. You can further customize the way your company handles calls by configuring your company’s answering rules using conditions based on time of day, date range, incoming caller ID, and more.

Phone integrations for your business apps

VoIP platform on different devices

Integrate virtual phone service with the most used business applications

RingCentral has integrations with top business applications such as Salesforce®, Box, Google for Work, and Microsoft Office 365. While each integration is different, the main idea is to add communication components from the RingCentral virtual phone service to the applications used by companies. It improves efficiency and productivity by removing the need to switch from one app (or device) to another.

VoIP services integration on custom apps

Integrate telephony and other communications functions into your custom apps

If you have custom applications and the existing integrations do not fit your workflows, you can use RingCentral open APIs to integrate communication options to your own custom apps instead. Aside from voice, you can also add SMS, messaging, and conferencing functions into your business applications. You can even add data and analytics components to gain insights on how you can better use your app together with your virtual phone service.

More business communication tools in one virtual phone system

More than just a virtual telephone service

So you have learned that the basic virtual phone service leverages virtual phone numbers, VoIP, and cloud PBX as its main components.

RingCentral, however, is more than just your basic virtual phone service. It is a complete, industry-leading communications solution that solves most, if not all, business communications needs.

Aside from the basic functions, RingCentral also provides:

A business SMS and internet faxing service

Aside from voice calls, RingCentral also provides other communication avenues for business and their users. The internet faxing feature lets you and your team send and receive faxes without the need for a fax machine. You can access your faxes through your online account or through the RingCentral app.

The same goes for business SMS. Instead of using your personal phone number to send SMS or MMS to clients and customers, you can instead use your business phone number. This adds credibility to your text message, as it uses a telephone number associated with your company.

An online meetings solution

RingCentral MVP® subscribers will also get an online meetings solution that should solve your business’s need for face-to-face meetings without increasing your travel expenses. Impress your customers and your team with HD-quality video and voice.

The online meetings feature also lets you share your screen with all participants, ensuring that you are all on the same page. If people have no access to their computers, you can also host a teleconference or audio conference that people can join using any phone available to them.

A team collaboration suite

Get more done by improving collaboration within your team. The RingCentral app provides businesses a real-time team messaging app that also allows for quick file sharing and task management. Your team can also instantly set up a video meeting from the app if there is a need for face-to-face conversation.

A unified communications platform

The best part is that all these features can be accessed from a unified platform. RingCentral removes the need to shuffle from one app to another to access all their features. This allows you to seamlessly transition from calls to video meetings and to team messaging without losing track of what you are working on.

Sign up for a RingCentral account now and equip your business with the best virtual phone service and unified communications solution.

RingCentral Business Communications plans for your small business

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More resources about VoIP and Internet Phone services

VoIP Main (Software)

What Is VoIP and How It Works

Internet Phone Service

VoIP Phone Systems

VoIP Provider

VoIP Network

Small Business Phone Service

How Virtual Phone Call Works

Important details and disclaimers