The best Virtual landlines in 2021: a guide for small businesses

What are virtual landlines, why should you get one, and which are the best UK providers? Find out how to set your business up with a virtual phone number.

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Startups was founded over 20 years ago by a serial entrepreneur. Today, our expert team of writers, researchers, and editors work to provide our 4 million readers with useful tips and information, as well as running award-winning campaigns. In 2020, we helped nearly 2,000 readers find the right telephone system for their business, and our aim is to continue this trend by offering reliable, accurate support and advice to startups everywhere. This article was authored by:

Virtual landlines have become increasingly prevalent in recent years, due largely to the fact the COVID pandemic has shifted the way we work. 

A recent report by Statista revealed the number of remote workers in the UK reached 5.6 million in 2020, and this figure is expected to rise throughout 2021. 

With remote work increasing, the need for setting up a virtual landline has risen, especially for those running their business from home. 

By using a virtual landline, your customers and clients have the perception you’re working from a flashy, professional office in London, when in reality you could be sat at home in your back garden, dipping your feet in your paddling pool. How handy! 

Furthermore, in the competitive world of business, perception is everything. The smallest things can leave lasting impressions – even your telephone number. 

As a result, people are becoming more and more cautious about picking up the phone. It means that if you call your customers using a withheld mobile number, they’re more likely to refuse the call.

But the psychology of phone numbers runs deeper than that. Many people will look at the country and area code of a number before picking up a call. This means that businesses calling from abroad, or even from certain UK areas, risk not having their phone call answered.

This is where virtual landlines come into play. In a nutshell, virtual landlines (or virtual numbers) are a virtual bridge between your caller and your real number.

If you already know how virtual landlines work, why not compare the best providers in the UK right now?

Use our comparison tool to get quotes and information, quickly and easily.

A caller calls your virtual line and the call is then forwarded on to your real phone number. As long as your mobile or phone system has internet connectivity, virtual landlines will work when you're in any location. They aren't a new technology, and work well as part of a wider cloud-based phone system. 

Tim Prizeman, director of PR consultancy Kelso Consulting, has been using a virtual landline for well over eight years. He says:

We’ve moved twice in that period, so one of the benefits has been being able to move around with the same number with minimal disruption. We’ve now got it linked to an app called Altos, which runs on our mobile phones, so we can easily answer calls to the mobile landline from our mobile.

If you’re a bit confused about what a virtual landline is and how it works, we don’t blame you – so we’ll go into that later. We’ll also cover how to get one, where to get one, and how much you can expect to pay.

What is a virtual landline?

A virtual landline is a cloud-based telephony service that isn’t restricted by physical infrastructure. As long as your device has an internet connection, people can reach you via the same number whether you’re at the office, at home, or even abroad. 

Think of it as a bit like Skype. As long as you’re logged in and connected to the internet, people can call you on the same number (or email Skype login), wherever you and your device happen to be.

We answer more virtual landline questions in the FAQ section at the bottom of this article.

How does a virtual landline work?

A summary:

  1. A virtual number is hosted on the internet
  2. People can call that number for the same price, wherever you are in the world
  3. A customer keys in your virtual number, then the call diverts to your chosen number (mobile number, office phone)
  4. You can also make outbound calls using your virtual number through an app (supplied by your provider)
Types of virtual number

A virtual landline number can be anything you want it to be. Types include:

  • Toll-free numbers – UK 0800 and 0808 numbers are business phone numbers that are free for customers to call. Your business is charged for calls made to these numbers, not the caller themselves
  • Geographical numbers – A number that contains a specific area code for each UK city, for example, the area code for Leeds is 0113, whilst for Coventry, it is 024 
  • National UK numbers these numbers are not divided geographically, and are charged at normal local calling rates
  • Mobile numbers – telephone numbers that are capable of receiving instant text messages (SMS)

Bear in mind that the number you choose could influence whether your customers get in touch with you or not. For example, you may receive more phone calls from your target area if the phone number you choose features that particular area’s area code. 

Conversely, people may be less inclined to call you if they are charged. So choosing a toll-free number could work in your favour.

The benefits of virtual landlines for small businesses

Here are the top five reasons why you should invest in a virtual landline for your small business:

  • Choose your number – Virtual landlines give you the freedom to choose your own number. For example, you can opt for a London number even if your business is actually based elsewhere in the UK
  • Use your landline number on the move – Use your cloud-based number wherever you have an internet connection, even if you’re on holiday on the other side of the world
  • Save money on line rental – Because your phone number is cloud-hosted, you don’t need to think about line rental. Your number uses your office or phone internet connection, which you already pay for
  • Make your company appear bigger than it actually is – Even if your business is a one-man-band, having a landline, rather than a mobile number, will bolster your professional image
  • Set up call diverts to your mobile number or landline – Ensure your customers can always reach you (as long as your receiving device has a signal or internet connection)
  • Send voicemails to your email inbox – If you miss a call, you can have voicemails sent straight to your emails, so you can listen to them as and when you have time

Getting a toll-free (0800 or 0808) number with a virtual landline

If you have a 0800 or 0808 number, people know that they can get in touch with your business for free (which is why they are defined as toll-free numbers). Businesses that have previously invested in a toll-free number have reported: 

  • An increased number of leads for potential sales
  • Increased interaction time with customers, especially in terms of customer support

Virtual landline suppliers charge different rates depending on the number of inclusive inbound minutes you require, and the number of outbound minutes you require. Always shop around before you commit to a contract, so you know you’re getting the best deal. 

Why not shop around through Startups.co.uk? We’ve partnered with hundreds of cloud-based telephone system suppliers to provide you with great virtual landline prices. Just provide us with a few basic details about your business, and we’ll match you with the best suppliers for your needs.

Who could benefit from a virtual landline/number?

  • SMEs and sole-traders looking for a website phone number 
  • Those wanting to set up localised advertising on Google and other search engines
  • Those looking to cut the costs of a fixed BT landline 
  • Those looking for a UK landline number that doesn’t require a fixed address

How do I get a virtual landline number?

Follow these three steps to get your virtual landline number.

Virtual landline pricesContracts vary in price and length, so make sure you compare providers to get the best deal
Mobile virtual landlineChoose the type of number you need. If you’re looking at investing in a virtual phone system, decide on the features that would be useful for your business.
Get virtual landlinesYour provider will set up the divert to your mobile phone, tablet, landline, or fixed VoIP number.

Top virtual phone service providers UK 2021

When you purchase a virtual landline number, you should be able to opt to receive calls to your mobile number, landline number, or a configured VoIP phone. If you choose to divert your calls to your mobile or landline, you’ll mostly be limited to the call handling capabilities of your landline or mobile device. 

Nevertheless, advanced virtual landline packages do have some perks:

Call management – Set up your virtual landline so it tells you when someone is calling from your virtual landline number. You can then choose to reject or take that call

Call forwarding – You can choose to divert the incoming call to several numbers at the same time, meaning the call will be answered by the first person to pick up

Auto attendant – Set up limited auto-attendant functionality with a virtual landline. Give your provider up to three separate numbers, and they can set up an auto-attendant that’ll give your callers three options when they phone up

Set time of day calls – Turn your virtual landline on and off at set times. That way, you won’t receive certain calls when you don’t want them

Let's take a closer look at three of the best virtual phone service providers...
 Top benefitCheapest packageSuitable for
8x8Sophisticated softphone app£8 user/month SMEs
Number PeopleLow cost £1 user/monthEntrepreneurs
Virtual LandlineNo fixed contract£5.95 /monthSmall businesses

Pricing correct as of 20th July 2021  

Best for using a virtual landline with a softphone

Top three features:

✔ Auto-attendant

✔ HD voice calling

✔ Mobile and desktop app

8×8 is a small business VoIP provider that offers sophisticated phone system packages for reasonable prices. Its packages include a virtual phone number, plus the option to include phone system features, such as the ones in the box above. Those that opt for pricier packages could even benefit from contact centre integration – although these packages are more suited to those after a sophisticated VoIP phone system, rather than a virtual landline.

Pricing correct as of 20th July 2021  


 

Best for using a virtual landline with excellent additional features

Top three features:

✔ As little as £1 per month 

✔ No contract 

✔ Music on hold 

Number People offer an incredibly cheap service compared to other competitors. There are options to add additional features to make your business more professional, including hold music for customers, auto-attendant menu, and call recording.  You can also set up using any type of number and can even keep your existing number. Customer service and support are rated very highly on Trustpilot. 

Pricing correct as of 20th July 2021  


virtuallandline logoBest for contract free virtual landlines

Top three features:

✔ Contract free

✔ Simple

✔ Mobile app

Virtual Landline is a great option if you’re looking for a basic virtual landline service. You sign a rolling monthly contract, download the softphone app, and start using your mobile phone or tablet as a landline – simple! That being said, it doesn’t offer as many features as Vonage or 8×8 virtual landline products, which doesn’t make it as suitable for growing businesses.

Pricing correct as of 20th July 2021  


Top tip!

When it comes to choosing your virtual phone service provider, you should consider which of the above features you need, and whether the provider offers them as part of its service.

It’s always best to conduct thorough background research on your chosen provider. Look up its TrustPilot and/or Which? ratings, and read reviews to see what it does and doesn’t do well. 

However, if you want to save time researching, our custom-built comparison tool can help pair you with the right service provider for your business needs. It only takes a few minutes to receive quotes and further information, and the best thing is that there's zero obligation on your part.

Virtual landline costs and payment

The cost of a virtual landline depends on two things: the type of number you’re after, and the type of package you’re after. 

For VoIP providers such as 8×8, the cost of your virtual landline is included in your VoIP package. This means you pay for it on a monthly basis, alongside the other features that you opted for.

If you’re solely after a virtual landline, you can pay for your number on a rolling monthly contract. 

Cost of a virtual landline with sophisticated VoIP features

£9 – £90 user/month depending on the extent of the features required

Cost of a virtual landline without sophisticated VoIP features

£5.95 – £9.95 /month depending on the type of number you require

Pricing correct as of 20th July 2021  

Do I need a contract for a virtual landline number?

It’s possible to pay for a virtual landline number on a pay-as-you-go basis. However, this is only cost-effective if you know exactly how many incoming calls you’re going to receive, and how many outgoing calls you’re going to make each month.


Setting up your business? Learn more about business telephone system costs. 

Compare business telephone system providers

You should always compare business telephone system providers before you sign on the dotted line. Even the three providers that we picked out for this article have different products, services, and prices.

Ensuring you get the best virtual landline package for your needs – and your wallet – isn’t the easiest of tasks, which is why getting a third party to do it for you can ease some of the pressure. 

We've partnered with a number of telephone system suppliers to help readers get the best price for their pockets. Simply provide us with a few basic details, and suppliers will be in touch with prices for you to compare, plus more information about why their product will work for you.


Virtual landlines FAQs

Why should I use a virtual number?

Using a virtual landline number has a whole host of benefits. These include:

  • Use the same number on any device, wherever you are in the world
  • Improve your business’ professional image
  • Avoid the monthly costs of a traditional landline
  • Appeal to customers in a target location (using a local virtual landline number)
  • Benefit from VoIP features, including an auto-attendant, and call forwarding
  • Send voicemails to your email inbox

How do I set up a virtual landline voicemail?

You’ll need to do this through your provider. It’s relatively simple, and should include accessing your voicemail, entering your account details, and creating a voicemail password. 

Once this is done, your voicemail will be linked to the account you have with your virtual landline provider. You’ll then receive voicemails to your email address via this account. 

What is a VoIP phone system?

A VoIP phone system uses the internet to make and receive calls, rather than the traditional landline. Because it’s a digital phone system, it also offers lots of smart call management features that allow companies to create sophisticated communication systems. 

What is the difference between VoIP and virtual landline systems?

The two are very much interlinked. This is because both services use a virtual number. But what are the differences?

A VoIP phone system is far more sophisticated. While it does use a virtual number, this number is fixed, and linked to software that offers businesses things like an auto-attendant and call management. Essentially, customers use the same number throughout the entire call journey. 

A virtual landline number is a call forwarding number. It is linked to your mobile, or your current office number, and automatically forwards calls to your mobile or office phone system for a small charge. This means customers start the journey on your virtual number, and end it on your fixed number. 

To learn more about VoIP, take a look at our in-depth review of the best VoIP providers in the UK.

Can I get a London number for my business when I sign up for a virtual number?

Yes, you can. In fact, you can get a number for any location within the UK, or even anywhere in the world. 

How much is a landline?

The cost of a business landline depends on the type of phone system you require. There are four options:

A traditional landline phone systemBT business packages vary depending on the size of your business.
A mobile phone with a virtual landline number attached to it Your mobile phone contract, plus the cost of a virtual landline (from £5.95/month)
A traditional landline with virtual landline number attached to itYour landline package, plus your virtual landline costs – i.e £10 + £5.95 = £15.95
A VoIP phone systemPricing starts at just £9 user/month

Pricing correct as of 20th July 2021  

Do you already have a telephone system?

Ross has been writing for Startups since May 2021, covering everything from merchant accounts to hybrid working, office telephone systems to takeaway and delivery apps.

He's also written for travel magazine Conde Nast and the NME and is passionate about music, travelling, and crisps (a definite crisp addict). Follow him on Twitter @startupsross for helpful business tips.

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