What is a Virtual Phone Number?

To a caller, a phone number is a phone number — it’s an “address” you use to reach a specific person for a voice call or SMS messaging. But today, phone numbers are less like postal addresses and more like email addresses — you can access them anywhere.

When telephones were introduced, phone numbers designated a particular physical location. Analog switches in phone company central offices routed calls along copper wires, connecting an originating number and a terminating number.

With the advent of digital telephony, that’s no longer the case. With VoIP, a telephone number is a network address that’s not bound to a single location. That means you can designate any device with a microphone and speaker — a computer, a cell phone, a VoIP phone — as the endpoint for a virtual phone number.

Virtual phone numbers provide flexibility. Employees can take calls made to a virtual number wherever they are — at work, at home, or out and about on their cell phone. And a virtual number can ring for different people at different times, so businesses can provide 24-hour coverage with a single number.

Virtual phone numbers can be provisioned instantly from a number of providers (including, of course, Plivo) and are also, as a rule, less expensive than traditional phone numbers. Both long code and toll-free numbers can be virtual phone numbers.