Businesses today have many options to choose from when deciding how to set up their workplace. Since traditional physical offices tend to be too expensive and may not meet all their needs, small businesses are finding alternatives.

While a virtual office comes with many benefits for small business owners, we will show you why a virtual mailbox is the better and more affordable option.

Virtual Office vs. Virtual Mailbox Services

We often get asked what is the difference between a virtual office and a virtual mailbox. Although they may seem similar there is a difference in services. We'll break down a virtual office vs. virtual mailbox in detail.

What is a Virtual Office?

A virtual office gives businesses a physical address and office-related services without the overhead of a long-term lease and administrative staff.

While you are not renting an actual office space in which to work, a virtual office allows you to interact and collaborate with employees just like you would in a traditional brick-and-mortar office.

With the introduction of fast Internet connection, laptops, and a suite of web-based office software such as videoconferencing, virtual offices allow you to run your business remotely.

Virtual Office Services

A virtual office comes with a host of services designed to provide an experience of working in an actual physical office. Virtual offices typically offer their clients:

  • A place to receive, pick up, and/or forward mail: Your business will be given a professional business address, which you can use instead of your home address.
  • Phone services such as business phone number: This number will forward calls to your personal phone or voicemail.
  • Meeting rooms and private offices: There may be instances when you’ll need a physical office-style room in which to hold meetings, give presentations, or meet clients. These rooms come with all the necessary office features, including desks, chairs, storage space, etc. However, to rent these you need to pay extra.
  • Live receptionist/virtual assistant: This is who will take your calls and provide all the necessary services of in-house receptionist or assistant.

What is a Virtual Mailbox?

A virtual mailbox offers a permanent business address for receiving all of your physical mail and packages. Once mail is received, the unopened envelopes or packages are scanned so that you can then view them from any device. Then you can simply request to have selected pieces of mail either opened and the contents scanned, forwarded, or destroyed. You perform these actions remotely.

Virtual Mailbox Services

Managing your mail is simple and easy with a virtual mailbox. There are many useful features of virtual mailbox including:

  • Permanent address: You can use this business address for years even if you change locations. You can also use this business address on government-issued documents, business licenses, and registering your LLC or corporation.
  • Mail and package forwarding: Quickly and easily forward your mail to any address in the world. You can choose the carrier and shipment method, the forwarding dates, additional insurance, and tracking options through your account.
  • Mail scanning: All your delivered mail and packages are scanned so that you can decide what to do with them.
  • Notifications, via email or a virtual mailbox app, about each piece of mail received.
  • Choose which pieces of mail you want opened.
  • Choose which pieces of mail you want digitally scanned and sent to you.
  • Choose which pieces of mail to shred so you don't have to bother with junk mail.

What is the Difference Between a Virtual Office and a Virtual Mailbox?

A virtual mailbox offers all the essential features of a virtual office such as an address for mail, business address, and a local presence in a specific city or area. The main difference is that a virtual mailbox does not provide meeting spaces and business-center services.

Virtual Office Advantages

While there are many reasons why a virtual office is popular with entrepreneurs, startups, and small businesses, the key advantage is that it provides amenities and less overhead.

A virtual office comes with a professional business address, mail-handling services, a local phone number, call-handling/receptionist services, and meeting and conference spaces that can be rented out.

The other attractive feature of a virtual office is that there’s no office lease, no utility payments, no hardware, and none of the associated costs that come with having a traditional office space.

Virtual Office Disadvantages

While virtual offices offer some useful solutions, they also come with a few disadvantages that can be serious drawbacks to many small business owners.

One of the main issues is that a virtual office is costly. While it is a good alternative for those looking to save time and money in recruiting business resources, it is more expensive than other business address services.

Another downside is the lack of flexibility. A virtual office doesn’t let you rent the services you need and you’ll end up paying for all the services the provider offers, including the ones you don’t need or use.

And finally, there’s the issue of use of space. Any time a business owner is at home, on vacation, traveling, or in meetings, the office space is empty and underutilized.

You can’t use the physical space to do work on a daily basis. Also, there is generally a maximum amount of hours of meeting time in day offices. This isn’t a cost-effective solution if you don’t need the physical space and you only need a business address.

Virtual Mailbox Advantages

In contrast to a virtual office, a virtual mailbox is a much less expensive alternative if you’re looking for the following for your business.

A permanent business address for the long term. If you move virtual offices you will have to update the address on business licenses, LLC or corporation registration, registered agent address, etc. A virtual mailbox will give a permanent address you can use for years, even if you move or change location.

You need mail handling and mail-forwarding services. Virtual offices offer mail scanning and mail forwarding at an extra and higher cost compared to a virtual mailbox.

Another advantage of using a virtual mailbox over a virtual office is versatility.

  • Check depositing - Get paid faster by customers. Use your existing bank accounts to receive and deposit checks remotely through your virtual mailbox. Virtual offices do not offer check depositing services.
  • Digital storage - Digitize all your incoming business mail for ease of record-keeping and hassle-free paperless filing: Digitally archive and manage all physical mail. Easily search mail for important documents and access all of your documents for as long as you need it. Virtual offices do not service this feature.
  • Forward packages anywhere in the world at affordable prices. Virtual offices charge an extra fee for package forwarding and the prices may not be competitive compared to a virtual mailbox service.

Ultimately, a virtual mailbox is ideal for someone running a remote or online business who doesn’t have the need for a physical meeting space or office-related services. In fact, if the need does arise, you can get separate office-related services for free or for a very low cost. For example you can use free video conferencing tools such as Zoom, GoToMeeting, Google Hangouts, UberConference, and Skype.

Virtual Mailbox Disadvantages

You should be aware of the additional costs incurred by having to forward mail compared to picking up mail.

Which Business Address Option Is Right For You?

When deciding which business address option to choose, take into account the demands of your business and industry.

Who Will Benefit Most From a Virtual Office

  • People who want a “home base” for their business locally.
  • Individuals who need the services and professionalism of a real office, such as a receptionist, without the cost of hiring one.
  • Those who need a physical conference space to meet with clients.

Who Will Benefit Most From a Virtual Mailbox

  • Those wanting to convey the appearance of having a physical office without the need to have a commercial office space.
  • Home businesses wishing to keep their personal information private.
  • International companies looking to have a presence in the United States.
  • Those who run a small business remotely.
  • People who travel often for business.

Choose The Better Business Address Option

While a virtual office provides many benefits to startups it is a costly address option.

If having a physical office space and business related services is not a priority then a virtual mailbox is the more cost-effective and superior solution over a virtual office.

A virtual mailbox is perfect for those who do not need a physical office and can run their businesses remotely. A virtual mailbox will attract more customers and establish credibility as well as protect your personal privacy and information.