So you have decided to establish an office for your business – congratulations! One of your biggest challenges will be to determine what kind of office best suits your business needs. A traditional office will take time and money to establish. A virtual office is inexpensive and very flexible, however, it is important that you understand the benefits and limitations a virtual office provides to you.Among the biggest benefits are the low cost options which are available. You can have a prestigious address and local telephone number, projecting the image of a traditional professional office, while dramatically reducing overhead. A virtual office can be up and running in one day, which is simply not possible with a traditional office. You can establish yourself as a local presence in a particular market, thus complying with government regulations.Most virtual offices do not act as your registered agent. However, while most corporations must have a registered agent, they do not need a physical business office.For many banks, a virtual office may not considered a legitimate physical address. For international companies especially, having a US bank account simplifies payments for US and Canadian customers. Your virtual office provider may be able to help you establish a local bank account.If you are “doing business” in a state, meaning selling products or making passive investments, you may be required to occupy a physical office. To establish a real local presence may also require obtaining an EIN or business license. Your virtual office provider may offer a package which meets US Postal requirements which define a physical office. (Section 508.1.8.4.b.2 of the US Postal Regulations state the written agreement must include (a) the use of a private office within the facility for at least 16 hours per month at market price for the location, (b) full-time receptionist service and live personal telephone answering service during normal business hours and voicemail service after hours, (c) a listing in the office directory in the building, and (d) use of conference rooms and other business services on demand.A virtual office can grow with you as your business model expands or contracts. You can add or delete services as needed. Some functions are optional and can be used on an as needed basis as well such as conference room usage.There are three main elements which constitute a virtual office.MAIL FORWARDING – The first thing you will be given is a professional business address with a unique a suite number so that mail can be delivered to your virtual office provider. Your provider, in turn, will forward your mail to your physical location. This can be done via US mail or courier service (UPS, FedEx, DHL, etc). There can be limitations on packages being forwarded internationally or to certain countries. Frequently you will be required to complete Post Office form PS1583. This document may need to be notarized and you will need to provide two proofs of identification.TELEPHONE NUMBER – You may require a dedicated telephone number to allow your clients to contact you locally. This number can be answered by a receptionist. It can be call forwarded or the caller can be offered voicemail. Today’s voice messages frequently are routed to your email address. This makes retrieval and response a simple matter.PRIVATE OFFICE/ CONFERENCE ROOM USAGE – You will have the option to secure meeting space within the business center facility. This can be a private office or conference room space. It may include the option of video conferencing, high speed internet, wireless internet, copy services, and administrative support. Your package may include a set amount of time allotted per month or you may be able to reserve space on an as-needed basis.A virtual office gives any company the ability to level the playing field by projecting a big business image at an affordable cost. The flexibility offered is a tremendous asset in today’s business environment.