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A Guide to Virtual Phone Numbers

A Guide to Virtual Phone Numbers


11 min read

Quick Summary

Virtual phone numbers are those without ties to a physical device or phone line, reducing business costs.

What Is A Virtual Phone Number?

A virtual phone number is one without ties to a physical phone line or device. As a result, virtual phone numbers are entirely location-independent. They work and appear in exactly the same way as phone numbers that are tied to a physical location, so the only differences are added ease and efficiency.

Virtual phone numbers represent a great opportunity for your business to use the right kind of phone number and to benefit from all of the associated perks, no matter where you are based. Since the line is virtual, you won't even need to wait for a physical phone line installation.

business taking remote call with virtual phone number

Virtual numbers make it possible to make and take business calls from anywhere.

How do Virtual Phone Numbers Work?

Virtual phone numbers work in conjunction with a cloud-based phone system to facilitate voice calls. Instead of being linked to a SIM or landline, virtual phone numbers are associated with a virtual phone line.

Cloud-based phone systems, sometimes known as virtual phone systems, are Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms that recreate all of the physical aspects of a traditional business phone system in code. The software takes care of the logic and transmits voice data using the physical infrastructure of the internet (copper and fibre optic cable).

Your virtual phone numbers are stored in the cloud along with all the rest of your virtual phone service, meaning you can configure call routing, call queues and more with your phone system from any computer or phone with an internet connection.

The cloud-hosted, software framework on which virtual phone numbers and their phone systems are based lends itself well to the world of Apps. Virtual phone numbers can be linked to VoIP apps for even greater flexibility. For example, you can take business calls with your business' virtual phone number from your personal mobile phone or even from your desktop computer using a VoIP app.

How are Virtual Numbers Linked with Virtual phone Lines?

A SIM card/phone never knows its own phone number.  It’s the network provider itself that establishes, and stores a record of, that link between the SIM card and the phone number.

Virtual phone numbers are much the same.  Here at Yay.com, for example, all of your phone numbers, virtual or otherwise, are linked with your account.  You can even use your regular, non-virtual phone numbers with us by either (i) porting that number over to us, or (ii) proving that you own that number by supplying us with the necessary documentation.

When a call comes through to any one of these numbers, the association with your account is recognised by our platform and the call is routed according to the call route to which that number is assigned.

hand holding phone hash key symbol

By existing in the cloud, virtual business phone numbers offer much more flexibility than traditional phone numbers.

The Difference Between Virtual and Traditional Phone Numbers

In many ways, all phone numbers are ‘virtual’. They are, after all, just numbers and not physical things. What makes a regular number ‘physical’ or ‘non-virtual’ is the inflexible link these numbers have been given by telecoms companies with physical SIM cards or physical phone lines.

The primary distinction between virtual and non-virtual phone numbers, then, really boils down to the degree of freedom you’re afforded with each.  Rather than being locked to a physical device (either a SIM card or a physical phone line), your virtual phone numbers are hosted in the cloud and you are free to link/unlink them with any number of virtual phone lines at any time.

Even these virtual phone lines themselves can be linked to any number of physical devices through the use of VoIP apps (aka softphones).  In this way, you could have a single virtual phone number routing calls through to dozens of physical devices.  Alternatively, you could have a single device receiving calls to dozens of phone numbers.  In this way, the traditional restriction of "one device, one phone line, one phone number" is completely lifted, giving you the freedom to make and take your business calls in the way that suits you

smart man with glasses dialling number in phone booth

Whilst regular phone numbers are linked to a single physical phone line, virtual numbers can be linked to multiple virtual lines.

Types of Virtual Phone Number

The same categories of phone numbers apply to virtual numbers too.  Geographic, non-geographic and national virtual phone numbers for business are all available.


Geographic phone numbers have a leading area code.  Manchester phone numbers will lead with 0161, for example.  Geographic phone numbers are great for businesses with a local presence and loyal, local customer base who want to communicate a sense of home-grown wholeness to their customers.

Geographic virtual phone numbers also hold the advantage of giving businesses a chance to ‘expand’ into an area they don’t yet have a physical presence in.  If you have a remote team of technical engineers in Bristol, but your customer support team is located centrally at a different location, you can offer those Bristol customers a firm sense of local support by providing a Bristol phone number as well.


Other businesses might not want a geographic phone number, instead preferring to communicate a sense of expansiveness to customers.  Non-geographic phone numbers can do just this.  Many of the prefixes used by non-geographic phone numbers are reserved for use by Government bodies and other official agencies.  In the UK, 0330 is the most widely available non-geographic phone number.  If your business operates nationwide and you want to communicate a sense of omnipresence and size to your customers, a non-geographic phone number could be for you.


International phone numbers are, unsurprisingly, for businesses who do business internationally and this category includes all phone numbers ‘belonging’ to countries outside of your business’ home country.

Use international phone numbers to enable French customers, for example, to be able to reach you on a French phone number.  This saves your customers overseas from being charged hefty calling costs just to reach you with an enquiry about your latest product.

Since international virtual numbers are hosted in the cloud too, there is no red tape to jump through and no convoluted setup process.  Just purchase an international virtual phone number, assign it to a particular call route and you’re good to go.

female entrepreneur calls virtual phone number on mobile

With a virtual phone service, customers from all of the world will be able to reach you no matter where you are.

Advantages of Virtual Phone Numbers

Appear local to callers whatever your location

If you’re an SME, startup or an expanding business, virtual numbers provide a simple and effective means of appearing local to customers. This applies if your callers are in the same town or city as you, or even if they’re in a different country or continent. Listing a local phone number on your advertising or website can also help your business attract local customers.

Present professionally when dialling out

Virtual phone numbers make small businesses appear more professional. Dialling out from a local, non-geographic or toll-free phone number makes a  more favourable impression on customers than dialling out with a mobile/cell phone number and can boost trust in your organisation.

Link teams across different locations

Virtual phone numbers also prove versatile when it comes to multi-office businesses and remote working. Without the need to physically be installed in an office, calls to a single phone number can be effortlessly distributed to multiple locations, phones and departments. So instead of incoming calls routing to one office only, our cloud-based VoIP phone system and virtual phone lines allow them to be distributed wherever you wish.

Track marketing campaigns using virtual phone numbers

Using specific phone numbers for specific advertising campaigns can also prove useful. By funnelling calls to dedicated virtual phone numbers you can monitor where calls are coming from. A quick viewing of the call logs in your Yay.com dashboard will rapidly reveal which campaigns have proved most successful.

Reduce call costs

Perhaps the most attractive benefit, virtual phone numbers can save your business money. Neither VoIP phone systems nor virtual phone numbers require hardware to work. This means you save on both the initial purchase costs and any maintenance fees you may have had to pay to keep that hardware operational. What's more, virtual numbers can scale up and down with your business. If you find you have more numbers than you need, just delete some and they'll be removed at the start of your next billing cycle. Similarly, if your business is growing and you need to purchase new phone numbers, you can do so at any time and they'll be available for you to use right away.

How Much do Virtual Phone Numbers Cost?

The price of a virtual number varies depending on:

1) Whether the number is deemed 'memorable' or not

2) Whether the number is geographic or non-geographic

3) Whether the number is domestic or international

Memorable Numbers

A phone number is considered memorable if it has many consecutive digits.  The cost of a memorable number scales with how easy it is to remember (in other words, with the number of consecutive digits it contains).

Most of our memorable numbers are priced between £9.99 and £19.99/month (exc VAT) but, depending on the number, have been priced as high as £99.99/month and as low as £1.99/month.

As an example, 020 811 1111 would cost much more than 020 827 6412.

Memorable numbers cost more than other kinds of numbers as they are in higher demand.  Since they're easier to remember, these numbers can be read out or displayed during an advertisement and the probability is high(er) that potential customers will remember the number.

Arguably the value of memorable numbers falls as other aspects of branding like your business name and domain name are more likely to be the first port of call for a customer, but a memorable number displayed on your website could still give you the edge over your closest competitors.

Prices vary only negligibly between geographic and non-geographic numbers, with the memorability of a number being the factor that drives price the most.

You can buy virtual phone numbers directly from Yay.com.  With all of our plans, one or more free virtual phone numbers are included.

How to Get a Virtual Phone Number

Yay.com users can buy virtual phone numbers with the following simple steps:

Log into your Yay.com dashboard. Navigate to ‘Voice’ and ‘My Numbers’.

  1. From the ‘My Numbers’ section, click the ‘Purchase Numbers’ button at the top right.
  2. Search for virtual phone numbers according to your needs and add those you like to your basket.
  3. Click the trolley icon at the top right of the page and check out.

Once payment is processed, your new virtual business numbers will be available in your dashboard to assign to call routes.

New Yay.com customers are asked to purchase new virtual phone numbers during the sign-up process. All new customers are offered one or more virtual phone numbers for free as a thank you from us! Just pick the plan that’s best for you and your teams, and then choose the phone number you want from our extensive range of local, non-geographic and international numbers. No installation required, no long wait times, no hassle.

Get virtual phone numbers from Yay.com now.

SMBs and MNCs alike are set to benefit from virtual business numbers. Kickstart new growth in your business by exploring overseas markets with international phone numbers. Deepen trust and existing relationships with your local customers with geographic phone numbers. Or, use new non-geographic phone numbers to show that yours is a business that can be reached anytime from anywhere.

Get in touch with our five-star support team today or search our extensive library of virtual business numbers.

A Guide to Virtual Phone Numbers

Article By

Adrian - Digital Marketing at Yay.com


Digital Marketing at Yay.com

ISO 27001 Business Continuity Accreditation ISO 22301 Business Continuity Accreditation Cyber Essentials Certificate of Assurance G-Cloud accredited by the Crown Commercial Service
ISO 27001 Business Continuity Accreditation ISO 22301 Business Continuity Accreditation Cyber Essentials Certificate of Assurance G-Cloud accredited by the Crown Commercial Service