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Virtual landlines: a guide for small businesses

What are virtual landlines, and why should you get one?

In the competitive world of business, perception is everything. The smallest things can leave lasting impressions – even your telephone number. This is especially true now, with Brits receiving up to six million calls from nuisance numbers a day.

As a result, people are becoming more and more cautious about picking up the phone. It means that when you call your customers using your 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 it up. This means that businesses calling from abroad, or even from certain UK areas, could be at a disadvantage. 

This is where virtual landlines come into play. In a nutshell, virtual landlines (or virtual numbers) are landline phone numbers that you can carry around with you – even if you’re moving offices across the country.

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?

Virtual landlines are a relatively simple concept. You can find out how they work in this video:

Alternatively, here's 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:

  • Geographical numbers – A number that contains an area code
  • National UK numbers0800 (freephone) and 033 (normal rate)

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 free 0800 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 an 0800 number with a virtual landline

If you have an 0800 number, people know that they can get in touch with your business for free. Businesses that have previously invested in an 0800 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 lots 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 prices Contracts vary in price and length, so make sure you compare providers to get the best deal

Mobile virtual landline Choose 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 landlines Your provider will set up the divert to your mobile phone, tablet, landline, or fixed VoIP number.


Top virtual phone service providers UK 2019

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

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. 


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. 

X Series X2X Series X3X Series X4X Series X6
£20 user/month£25 user/month£47 user/month£90 user/month

vonage logo

Best for using a virtual landline with a VoIP phone

Top three features:

✔ Set up multiple lines 

✔ Unlimited calls to UK landlines

✔ Mobile and desktop app

Vonage offers solutions that are tailored to home and small business use. Included in these solutions is the option to choose a virtual landline. Those looking for a basic package could pay just £9 per user/month for a virtual landline and softphone software. Alternatively, they could opt to purchase a VoIP phone, then have Vonage configure it for no extra cost. 

SelectProfessional
Ultimate
£9 user/month£12 user/month£16 user/month

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.

BasicUK UnlimitedGlobal Standard0800 Freephone
£5.95 per month£7.95 per month£8.95 per month£9.95 per month

Virtual landline providers: at-a-glance summary

 Top benefitCheapest packageSuitable for
8x8Sophisticated softphone app£20 user/month SMEs
VonageCan include a VoIP phone£9 user/monthGrowing businesses
Virtual LandlineNo fixed contract£5.95 /monthSmall businesses

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 and Vonage, 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

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.


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. 

Startups has 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

Still have some questions that need answering? We answer your questions below.

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. 

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 business 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 start from £10/month per line
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
Aimee Bradshaw
Aimee Bradshaw

Writer and researcher

Aimee recently joined Startups as resident expert in business tech, products, and services. Having ran her own egg delivery business from the age of 12, she is an advocate of self starters and small businesses.

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