Telephone Terminology: Virtual Phone System Terms

Many of the terms associated with telephony are self-explanatory and familiar, but occasionally you’ll hear one that you’re not quite sure of, which is why we’ve compiled a short list of commonly used phone system terms.

If you’re already a Talkroute user, this will also help you understand your system. Please feel free to leave a comment below if you’re wondering about a term that isn’t listed here.

Forwarding Phone Number

As part of a virtual phone system such as Talkroute, your forwarding numbers are all the phones to which calls are routed. When calls come into the main line, they are routed to the forwarding numbers—these are the phones that will actually ring.

Virtual Phone Number or Talkroute Phone Number

Your main business line with a Talkroute account is your virtual number, otherwise referred to as your Talkroute number. You may have multiple Talkroute numbers on a single account, and these are the main numbers that your customers will dial.

Here’s a helpful article about what makes a virtual phone number different:


This is the term used to describe the transfer of a phone number from one service provider to another. For example, when you switch from AT&T to Verizon and take your number with you, that’s a port. Transferring your existing number from another provider to Talkroute is also a port, and so on.

Call Routing

To route a call means to send it along a certain path to reach a specific destination, such as a cell phone. When a call comes into a phone system, it can be routed in a variety of ways. The call may be sent to forwarding phones, to voicemail, or to an auto attendant.

Incoming, Outgoing Caller ID

As everyone knows, caller ID allows you to see the number of a caller before it is answered. The distinction between incoming & outgoing caller ID is important, though, because as a Talkroute user, you can set both of these to display either the caller’s number, or your Talkroute number.

Here’s a better explanation of that:

CNAM Record

When it comes to caller ID, you also must consider the CNAM record. An easy way to remember it is “C-NAME” because this is the feature that allows the company or individual’s name, associated with a number, to also show up in caller ID. This is not automatically enabled and has to be manually set by your service provider.

Outbound Dialing

This just means to place a call, right? Yes and no. Outbound Dialing is a unique feature of the Talkroute system that allows you to make outbound calls from your forwarding phones, while still displaying your Talkroute number.

Phone Tree, IVR, Call Menu, Auto Attendant

These all mean the same thing—take your pick. This is the automated menu that callers hear when they call into a business, and they can “press 1 for sales, 2 for technical support, etc.”. This can be enabled on a Talkroute account, or calls can be sent directly to forwarding phones.

Mobile, Landline, and VoIP

Here are your basic phone number types—the Big 3. Mobile refers to wireless phones working on the cellular network; landlines are of course conventional phones that connect calls over the old-school telephone wired network (PSTN network); and VoIP phones (Voiceover Internet Protocol) connect calls over an internet connection, such as Skype.


This feature is familiar to us because almost every office utilizes extensions. Whether it’s a traditional business phone system, or virtual, extensions work the same way. This is direct line to a specific phone within a local system, or PBX, through which a caller can be connected by dialing a code (usually 3 or 4 digits) during an automated menu.
Talkroute lets you add unlimited Extensions, which you can read about here:

Call Stacking

To “stack” calls in a hold queue means to keep multiple calls on hold at the same time. Multiple calls coming into a Talkroute number can be stacked on hold until an agent is able to answer them.


Stephanie is the Marketing Director at Talkroute and has been featured in Forbes, Inc, and Entrepreneur as a leading authority on business and telecommunications.

Stephanie is also the chief editor and contributing author for the Talkroute blog helping more than 100k entrepreneurs to start, run, and grow their businesses.

StephanieTelephone Terminology: Virtual Phone System Terms