One of the main ways that customers reach out to businesses is through a phone call. It can be reassuring to have a direct conversation with someone without the need to wait for a reply via email or through the post. However, the way that we use phones is changing in the modern digital age.

Virtual phone numbers have grown in popularity in recent years, with around a third of businesses in North America using them. The UK looks set to follow, considering the upcoming cancellation of the landline system in 2025.

In this article, we'll look at what a virtual phone number is and how it may be able to benefit your business, as well as the digit options that are available to you.

Virtual phone numbers can be accessed through Voice over Internet Protocol or VoIP service providers. These services are cloud-based and allow individuals to make calls over the internet from anywhere in the world. When someone calls a virtual phone number, they aren't contacting a landline or mobile phone. Instead, their call will be redirected to a preexisting phone line through the cloud.

As virtual phone numbers solely rely on the internet, the service will stop working if it is not connected to a network. It may also be slow if there is low bandwidth. However, many businesses like using them because they can be linked to chosen devices that employers and employees use. They also enable customers to contact businesses from all over the world without sky-high fees.

Continue reading to find out where you can buy a virtual phone number, the benefits and disadvantages and how much a virtual system could cost you.

There are different types of numbers that are offered with virtual phones. They can be chosen depending on the type of customer or business that you hope contacts you. You can keep your existing telephone number or change it as your company changes and expands.

Below are three types of virtual phone numbers that you may want to use for your business:

Local/geographic numbers

Local numbers are based on the geographical area that your business is in. Customers may appreciate contacting a local number because it gives the impression that your business is part of their community and, therefore will understand their situation more.

Alternatively, you may want to choose a different regional number from where you are based. For example, a London number might make customers think that you are a large company and have a national presence as it will seem that your company is located in England's capital city. You will usually be charged at the local rate for the geographic location of your phone number.

Toll-free numbers

This type of number means that your company foots the bill for any calls that a customer makes. Whilst this can encourage customers to contact you as the call is free from their end, it can prove costly for your business. Toll-free numbers usually begin with 0800 and 0808.

Vanity numbers

These are catchy numbers that are designed to be memorable. For example, they may be repetitive, mirrored or spell out a word when they are typed out with numbers that correspond with the keypad letters.

You may want to use a vanity number if you hope to encourage a high volume of calls because customers will be more likely to remember which number to contact you on.

It's important for businesses to keep on top of changes so that they are aware of them before they happen. This is why many businesses are swapping from landlines to virtual phone services ahead of the upcoming UK landline shutdown.

The UK's telephone network will be going completely digital in 2025, which will affect individuals who still use a landline. The new system is designed, so that phone lines use a broadband connection instead of going through the old copper network. From 2025, you will have to use digital voice services as traditional phone services will be shut down completely. You may need to purchase a new phone, although you should be able to keep the same phone number.

As this major change to the UK phone network is getting closer, you may want to consider migrating to a virtual phone number sooner rather than later. It will give you plenty of time to make the necessary arrangements before your business is forced to make the swap.

Virtual phone numbers allow you flexibility, which is beneficial if you are likely to move office or expand your company in the near future. You can connect more devices to the system so that customers can quickly contact a member of your team.

Getting a virtual phone number has both advantages and disadvantages. Below is a summary of some of the most common pros and cons that you may find.


Keep the same telephone number: You are able to keep the same telephone number with a virtual system, even if you move offices. A traditional phone line can incur various expenses if you are trying to install a new line, whereas a virtual phone number is solely digital, so it can be accessed anywhere that you have an internet connection.
Toll-free: Virtual phone numbers can be toll-free, which means that they are outside geographical restrictions. The charge for each call will be paid by your company instead of the customer. International customers and companies can therefore contact you without worrying about the cost. Your virtual phone number could also feature a local dialling feature, which will help your business appeal to the local community.
Dashboard: Another benefit of virtual phone numbers is that they are accompanied by a dashboard that shows the various incoming and outgoing calls and voicemail for easy access. You should also be able to use call screening, which allows you to direct calls to voicemail if you are unable to answer. You can also receive calls when you are away from the office, which is beneficial for remote work.
Access via app: This means that you can be on call wherever you are and provide your customers with service outside of normal office hours.
Choose an area code: Unlike a landline, a virtual phone system allows you to choose an area code. This means that you could select a London number, which could give your business more credibility and make customers think that your company is larger than it is. However, you can also make the most of the trust that many people put in landlines. Landline numbers can seem more trustworthy than mobile phones, as they will make individuals think that you have a brick-and-mortar business and are therefore easier to trace, even if you work from home.
Add a virtual assistant: You can add a virtual assistant to your virtual number, which means that your customers can have a professional greeting, no matter what time of day they call. You can customise this greeting and give your customers instructions and guidance, such as when to phone back if they phone outside of business hours.
Link to personal number: Some business owners may not want to link their personal numbers with business use. A virtual phone number solves this problem as it can be linked to your personal number without sharing home number digits with the public. This helps to enable an extra layer of security and privacy without missing out on phone calls.


Luckily, there aren't many disadvantages to virtual business phone numbers, but the few problems there are can cause some major issues.

Relies on a good internet connection: A virtual phone service is only as good as the internet connection that it uses. A poor connection could lead to calls sounding glitchy or cutting out. You may experience some issues using the service if the network bandwidth is low. It's a good idea to modify your business' network if you are likely to experience a high volume of calls on a regular basis so that you don't miss out on phone calls.
Always available: Having a virtual phone number also means that you are available outside of normal office hours to take incoming calls. You might give in to the temptation and make calls yourself, which means that you may not have much of a break from work. This could lead to burnout unless you are strict with yourself and limit your call interaction to certain hours in the day.
Cost: It's important to remember that calls made using your mobile phone data can be costly. If your mobile phone doesn't include unlimited minutes and data, you may exceed your limit by making and taking too many calls. The calls that you receive may not even be relevant to your business, which means that you could waste data on spam calls.

Although the features will vary between different service providers, the usual features offered with a virtual phone are as follows:

  • call forwarding
  • call diversion
  • call queue
  • customised greetings
  • video calls
  • voicemail to email
  • call recording

You can buy different packages which will offer various elements. For example, you may be able to purchase additional numbers that are connected to the plan, as well as multiple user accounts, so that employees at your company can access the call system at the same time.

Virtual phone services don't have to cost a lot of money – some systems are free to use on a basic plan, such as Google Voice. However, whilst a free system can work for a small business, larger businesses would benefit more from a proper business phone plan that offers additional features.

The amount you pay each month will vary depending on the system and items that you use. You could end up paying anywhere from £1 per month to over £10 to use an eReceptionist and business phone number. Some systems may also charge you a certain amount for every call that is made, such as 1.5p per forwarded call.

The cost per phone call can be far less when your business uses a virtual phone versus a traditional landline. The low cost of data in recent years means that it is often more affordable to make a phone call using an internet network than it is through a landline system.

You may even be able to save more money by using a mobile app, as some systems allow you to make unlimited calls if you pay a fixed amount each month. This could be a good option if your business makes a high volume of calls each month. On the other hand, your business may want a system that charges per call if you don't make or receive many calls.

A virtual phone number is a system that uses the internet rather than a standard phone line. The numbers tend to forward incoming calls to external phones, which means that you can divert calls to yourself and your colleagues. You can choose which number the system uses, which means that you don't have to change it if your business relocates.

There are different types of phone numbers that you can use for your virtual phone number. It could be a local number if you want to appeal to customers in the local community or a national number if you want people from further afield to contact you. You can also keep your old number (from a mobile phone or landline) if you want consistency. You can ask the provider to change the number at a later date.

The cost of virtual phone numbers can vary. Some systems, such as Google Voice, are free if you use the basic version. You may also be able to add on extra features or external phones for an extra fee. Other companies will charge you per phone call that is made or received by the number. Alternatively, you may pay a fixed rate per month to use the virtual phone number and have unlimited minutes on your plan.