Virtual numbers for business: Choosing the best phone number
If you’ve been looking into communication solutions for your business, chances are you’ve come across virtual phone numbers. The idea of a virtual number may seem strange at first, but you’ve most likely interacted with quite a few—including some you may not have realized were there.
So if you’ve been wondering what virtual numbers are and how they work, or are thinking of getting one for your business, keep on reading.
What is a virtual phone number?
Unlike a traditional phone number, a virtual phone number isn’t tied to a specific phone line. Instead, a virtual phone number can be set up to connect to particular answer points depending on what type of virtual number it is.
Perhaps the best-known virtual numbers are inbound numbers, which include 1300 numbers, 1800 numbers and 13 numbers. Another type, which has become quite common over the past few years, are the phone numbers used for VoIP services and other IP telephony setups.
VoIP and cloud-hosted phone systems
Voice over internet protocol (VoIP) converts auditory signals into data, which it then transmits over the internet. Its low costs and versatility—especially it ability to function across a range of devices—has made it a popular alternative to traditional phone lines.
In order for VoIP to work with the switched telephone network, however, it needs to use virtual phone numbers. Many services, including Skype and Google Voice, offer virtual phone numbers along with VoIP services. These services, however, are designed for individual use. Businesses pivoting to VoIP usually use hosted PBX services.
Hosted PBX systems simulate a phone system over the internet, using hardware and equipment that is housed on the service provider’s premises rather than those of the business. Hosted PBX systems use virtual numbers to allow the business to be contacted as normal, whether by other VoIP users or by callers on landline or mobile phones.
1300, 1800 and 13 numbers are widely known as business phone numbers—they’re also a prominent example of virtual phone numbers. Rather than connecting to a specific phone line, each of these inbound numbers redirects incoming calls to other existing phone lines or services (e.g. VoIP programs).
While these types of phone numbers all have the same basic functions, there are a few important differences that set them apart:
- 1300 numbers (1300-XXXXXX): You can call a 1300 number for the cost of a local call, no matter where in the country you’re calling from. That said, mobile calls and international calls are charged differently. Call costs are therefore split between the caller and the business.
- 1800 numbers (1800-YYYYYY): 1800 numbers are free to call from any fixed line in Australia, which is why they’re called toll-free numbers. Most mobile providers offer free calls to 1800 numbers as well, but they’re not required to by the ACMA.
- 13 numbers (13-ZZZZ): These numbers work like 1300 numbers, but they have fewer digits, making them much easier to recall. This convenience comes at a cost: to maintain a 13 number, you have to pay ACMA an annual surcharge.
Less widely known, perhaps, are virtual local numbers. They have most the same functions as the previously mentioned numbers, but use the digit patterns of conventional local phone numbers. Like local numbers, they’re more expensive to call from outside their area. On the other hand, they’re not as difficult to contact from overseas.
Making the most of virtual numbers
Virtual numbers have a wide range of uses. DID numbers, for example, are an important part of live answering services—which work well with inbound number services. Other solutions, like recorded introductions, IVR menus and virtual office services, are also often used along with virtual numbers.
If you’re looking for a virtual number solution tailored to your business needs, our phone specialists are always ready to answer questions. Call us at 1300 255 835 (1300 ALLTEL) or visit www.alltel.com.au.