To the average person a virtual number looks and behaves no differently than a regular number. It dials just like any other number and appears on caller ID just like any other number.

Virtual Numbers – Different based on Service Carrier

Not all providers work the same way anymore. Twenty years ago everything was analog or POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service), but now with the growth of internet based phone service such as VOIP or SIP, things have gotten a lot easier. Let’s compare the two.

Regular POTS
In this case, the carrier or provider will need to actually get two numbers for you. One is where you are located because this is your land-line, the second is the number with the out of town area code. For example, if you live in MD and want a CA number, no POTS carrier can assign a CA area code to a MD physical location.

To remedy this, the carrier must get another number with a CA area code and forward it to your MD number which is tied to your physical line. Bottom line – you’ll need two phone numbers but both numbers must have physical locations, one where the CA area code and prefix is, and one where the MD area code and prefix is.

Voice over IP
If you have internet phone service, your provider will not require you to have two numbers. They have the ability to assign you any number with any area code and tie it to your location. Instead of ringing through the land line, the number will be tied to your phone’s IP address.

Hybrid Solution
If you do not have internet service for phone connectivity, but are still in love with your old analog land line phone (there are various reasons this may occur) and don’t want to migrate over to a full-fledged IP based phone system, then you can contact a provider that specializes in IP phone service and they can acquire an outside phone number and forward it to your POTS.

In this case, you still need two numbers, but do not require two physical locations and this solution will save you money.  You can keep your POTS carrier for the physical location, but the IP based provider will take care of your CA phone number by acquiring the number and forwarding it to your MD POTS number.

Who uses Virtual Numbers and Why?

Virtual numbers are typically used by businesses rather than residential entities as a way to establish a presence in targeted markets.

Companies might want to do this for a few reasons. First it might be because they are reaching out to clients or potential clients in a geographical location where they are not physically located. Perhaps they are doing some print advertising and want to feature local contact numbers rather than out of town or long distance numbers.

Local Presence
Another reason might be that some people/businesses will feel more comfortable dealing with a company or representative that has a local number.

For example, perhaps there is a sales rep whose territory covers more than one state or any area that spans multiple area codes. Let’s use DC as an example because there are a few area codes used in and around DC – such as 204, 301, 703 and 202. If you were a sales rep, you might want to offer a 703 code for all your Northern Virginia contacts, or a 202 for DC contacts.

Even though your office might only be a 35 minute drive from a client, a different area code may give the impression that you are outside of their market area.

Remote Workers
Another reason for using a virtual is if a company employs an employee or representative which is out of state or area and yet already has their own business line. Instead of installing a new line, the employing company might choose to just give a virtual number and tie it to the representative’s existing line with area codes and prefixes matching the company headquarters. If that employee leaves, the company can easily forward the virtual number to another phone.

Can a Virtual Number be a Vanity Number?

Vanity numbers are phone numbers which are specifically requested by the user. For example, (703) 321-4663 can also be advertised as (703) 321-HOME. Or perhaps the client wants a new number that is easier to remember and decides to use (703) 321-1212 but needs to keep their old number as well.

Instead of requiring a new line, they can start using their new vanity number.

Is a Toll Free Number a Virtual Number?

Since a virtual number is simply a number which is forwarded to a standard phone number, and a toll free number operates the same way, then technically yes a toll free number can be a virtual number. You would not want to tie a toll free number however to a virtual number – it would need to be forwarded to a non-virtual number.

Will the Virtual Number appear on Caller ID?

One question which is asked frequently is if the virtual number will appear on caller ID or will the non-virtual number appear? The answer is, it depends. It depends if you enable the Caller ID feature, without this feature enabled the regular phone number will appear. Some companies may or may not charge for this caller ID feature.

Are Virtual Numbers Difficult to Order?

Virtual numbers do not need to be ordered by the carrier or provider with whom you have your non-virtual number registered with. For example, if you have a need to get 5 virtual numbers forwarded to your regular number, EtherSpeak can secure those numbers for you and forward them to the numbers with your other carrier.

Time frames can vary when ordering virtual numbers anywhere from less than a week to sometimes over a month. It also depends if the number is toll free which can take longer, but most importantly is if the carrier has those numbers in stock for the area requested. If not, the length of time will be extended.

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