Most of us have heard of virtual reality, but what about virtual phone numbers? Believe it or not, phone numbers aren’t just for sitting in your contact list or Rolodex anymore (remember those?). Now, thanks to the technology of voice over IPs (VoIP), virtual phone numbers can give you or your organization multiple phone numbers or methods of contact that all ring to the same device.
What Is A VoIP Number?
Think of it like a regular telephone number. But instead of being allocated to a specific device, like your cellphone, it’s allocated to a person, or user, instead. It’s like connecting your landline to the internet and opening up an entirely new world of possibility when it comes to things like charge-free long distance calls, or sophisticated call-forwarding services.
Through the power of VoIP, someone in San Fransisco could call another person in Boston, an entirely different area code, and to the person in Massachusetts it would appear as if it were any other local call!
But boiling down the definition of VoIP to simply an area-code magic trick doesn’t do the service justice. There are several layers to the abilities of virtual phone numbers that make it a huge asset to businesses and individuals with specific telecommunication needs.
In order to give you a more complete understanding of VoIP and its related services, we’ll need to break it down a bit. We’ll begin by exploring how it works.
How Does VoIP Work?
The short answer is, VoIP works by using the internet kind of like a cell phone carrier. The more complex answer is, your voice signals are converted into digital signals that are sent as bits of data across a broadband line.
To understand how VoIP works, begin by thinking of it as its own category of technology entirely. And thanks to this technology, you or your business is able to place a call to anywhere using a cell phone, a tablet, or a VoIP specific phone. VoIP technology, in essence, turns any data-driven device into a phone. But how does it do this?
How exactly it does this depends on the method you’re using to call from your virtual number. The simplest way is by using a VoIP adapter and a landline. These devices can be purchased at a variety of places, including Amazon. You simply plug the adapter into a phone socket or computer router (depending on the device) and begin calling!
If you opt to utilize VoIP over a computer or smartphone, you’ll need the help of apps such as Skype, Google Talk, BT SmartTalk, Talk2Go, or Viber.
It’s important to note that being connected to WiFi is crucial if you’re using your smartphone or tablet to communicate with your VoIP number.
The instructions on how to get started with your device, with either a VoIP adapter or an app, will vary depending on what you choose. But each provider should be able to walk you through the steps in greater detail.
The one thing that will be up to you however is securing your virtual phone number.
How Do You Get a VoIP Number?
Similar to getting started with something like text marketing, getting set up with a VoIP number requires the help of a provider. Examples of some popular providers are Nextiva and Ooma.
Whichever provider you choose will then help you get your VoIP number and accompanying service plan. These plans are similar to a traditional cell phone plan, and the price is generally related to anticipated usage. Once you’ve completed those preliminary steps, secured your VoIP equipment, and selected your subscription, you’re ready to get to calling!
Should I Switch to a VoIP Number?
Now that you understanding how VoIP numbers work, it’s time to break down why, for some, they’re a worthwhile investment. We’ll do this by examining both the pros and cons.
Pros of Having a VoIP Number
- Device versatility. As demonstrated above, VoIP phone numbers can be utilized on multiple internet-reliant devices (cell phones, tablets, laptops,
tamagotchis etc.) This capability can mean a lot for organizations looking to get rid of clunky desk phones (and the phone bills that go with them). VoIP numbers also ensure that, despite what device you’re calling from, the experience appears to the user as seamless as if you were on a traditional phone.
- Avoid long-distance charges. Since VoIP numbers are virtual, they aren’t specific to one location. This gives the user the ability to choose a number with virtually any area code so that calls that are made from or come into that number will result in only local charges. This means that calls down the street and halfway around the world can wind up costing you one low price. With traditional phone lines, your choice of area code was limited to exactly where your phone line is set up.
- Increased mobility. Remote work and heavy travel are fairly common these days. VoIP numbers can go with you wherever in the world you find yourself. Additionally, you have mobility when it comes to how many connections you add to your network. Traditional phones can only add so many devices to one network. But with a VoIP network, there are thousands of possible connections.
- You decide where it rings to. Again, since a virtual number is specific to a person vs. a physical device, you can decide where a call is directed to. For example, if someone were to dial your virtual number, you could program it to ring on multiple devices, one after the other…any combination of solutions. It could even be programmed to trigger certain actions. For example, if your business has a gate, you could program the call button in front of it to ring to a device that, when answered, opens the gate at your discretion! These abilities also make it easier for customers to get in touch with someone as opposed to heading directly to voicemail after one person fails to answer.
- Lower costs. Your business is most likely already paying for internet services. Since VoIP utilizes the internet primarily, you wind up slashing your phone bill entirely by making the switch. This reduction almost always makes it more cost efficient to take on a VoIP phone system.
Cons of Having a VoIP Number
- Call quality. Unlike a traditional phone, everything about your call with VoIP is contingent on how strong your internet connection is. If your network is strong, the fact that you’re calling from a device other than a landline will be virtually undetectable. However, if you’re in an area with poor connectivity, the quality of your call will suffer.
- Risk of fraud. Being internet based, VoIP numbers are exposed to the same perils of hacking that any other internet related activity is. Things including but not limited to…
- Hosted: when hackers break into a poorly protected service provider network.
- Whitelist: When hackers get into your VoIP account and put their IP address on your whitelist. This gives them the ability to make calls on your dime.
- Vishing (or VoIP phishing): A kind of phone scam specific to VoIP numbers. In this case a user would get a call from what appears to be a valid, local phone number only to be met with a scammer who attempts to get you to disclose personal information under the guise of being from your organization or another “trusted” source like a bank, insurance, or collection agency. Because VoIP can call from a local area code, some folks are more susceptible to the scam than normal phishing attempts.
VoIP in Review
So, we’ve covered the operational definition of VoIP numbers as well as run through the process of getting set up with one. We’ve also explored some of the possible pros and cons to switching from a traditional phone line to a VoIP system.
We hope in reading this you’re left with a few key takeaways:
- VoIP is great if you’re looking for a system that allows you to customize your phone number to a specific area and travel between different devices/users.
- Just like any other internet based service, VoIP requires security measures to keep your data safe.
- VoIP numbers are available to anyone! Just work with a VoIP provider to find a plan that fits your volume and needs.
And finally, because it wouldn’t be a SimpleTexting piece without it, it’s important to note that VoIP isn’t just for calling. There’s also such a thing as VoIP texting! But more on that for another day 😊.