What Is a Virtual Phone Number?

By Emma Lewis, bOnline

A virtual phone number is a telephone number that is not tied to a specific physical phone line or location. Instead, it is associated with an online or cloud-based phone service that allows you to make and receive calls over the internet. Virtual phone numbers are also sometimes called online numbers or cloud phone numbers.

Virtual phone numbers can be used for a variety of purposes, including personal communication, business operations, call centres, and customer service. They’re an important tool for managing and optimising telephone communication in an increasingly digital and interconnected world. Plus, with landlines soon to be switched off permanently, they’re becoming increasingly popular.


Virtual Phone Numbers Bring Big Advantages to Small Businesses


Virtual phone numbers can save you time and money, and give your business a professional new look. Here’s how:

No geographical ties

Virtual phone numbers are not limited to a specific geographical location. You can choose a virtual number with an area code from a different city or country, which can be useful for business owners wanting a local presence in multiple areas.


You can easily port or transfer your virtual phone number to different service providers or platforms without changing the number itself. This allows for greater flexibility and minimises disruptions to your communications.

Access on multiple devices

Virtual phone numbers can be used on various devices, such as smartphones, tablets, computers, or even dedicated hardware phones, as long as they are connected to the internet. This flexibility is useful for people who need to work remotely, like from home or even a work van.


Virtual phone services often offer competitive pricing and plans that can be more cost-effective than traditional phone services. They may also provide additional features like call forwarding, voicemail, hold music, cheaper international calls, video calling and access to call analytics.


Virtual phone numbers can help protect your personal or business phone number. You can use them for online transactions, marketing, or other situations where you want to maintain some level of anonymity.

Managing teams

Many businesses use virtual phone numbers as part of their communication strategies. They can have separate virtual numbers for sales, customer support, and other departments, all managed through a central phone system.


I’m Considering a Virtual Phone Number – What Should I Know?


When getting a virtual phone number, it’s well worth considering which customers in which geographical location you’re looking to target. As we’ve mentioned already, it’s perfectly acceptable (and legal!) to have a virtual phone number for an area where your business isn’t actually located at all. 020 numbers for London are particularly popular.

Then of course there’s cost. Different services have varying pricing structures. Some may offer free options with limited features, while others have monthly fees. You’ll also want a contract length that you’re comfortable with being tied into. For example, many digital phone providers have contracts of 18 or even 24 months, whereas others (like bOnline) offer a more flexible 12 months.


Depending on your needs, look for additional features such as call forwarding, voicemail, text messaging, and integration with other communication tools.

Privacy and security

Virtual phone numbers can offer a level of privacy, as they’re not directly tied to your physical location. However, be aware that some services may require personal information for registration. The phone system you choose should also adhere to the latest security and encryption standards. The last thing you need is a hacker or eavesdropper.


Consider whether you can easily transfer or forward calls from your virtual number to another phone if needed. You don’t want to be missing calls from potential clients or customers after all.


How Do I Get a Virtual Phone Number?


If you’re a business owner, using a digital phone system like those offered by bOnline means you get a virtual phone number as part of the service.

There are many benefits to switching to a digital phone system, not least because it protects you from the landline switch-off. We cover this in more detail in some of our recent articles, including:

Just as a final point, it’s well worth doing your homework here. Not all digital phone providers are the same, for example some (like bOnline) specialise only in small and micro businesses and start-ups. Others are more focussed on larger companies, or residential households.

A good tip is to find a provider that offers a free trial. It’s the perfect way to test out all the time and money-saving features on offer, without the commitment.

By December 2025 landlines will be gone forever. Is your business ready?