Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are a great multipurpose tool that every internet user should know about. Their purpose is to promote privacy when surfing the web, protecting your personal information when connecting to the internet via public hotspots, for example, at local coffee shops. In addition to this, the way they achieve this privacy protection also makes them handy for accessing geo-blocked content.
How does a VPN Work?
All devices that access the internet are assigned an IP address upon connection. When you go directly to the internet from your router, you are broadcasting your location and many details about your device.
When you use a VPN your location is obscured. The VPN becomes the internet-facing element of your connection rather than your router. This means that the location of the VPN now appears to be your location.
Your data to and from the VPN is encrypted and often referred to as a tunnel into which no one can see. This obscures your online identity, regardless of whether your initial connection is on a private or public network, so you can browse safely, securely, and anonymously.
Essentially, a VPN creates a private route, or tunnel, through the internet that prevents your ISP or anyone else on the VPN server from being able to see your activity.
VPNs for general privacy
Using a VPN provides you with a masked IP address. As far as any website you connect to is concerned, your location is the VPN, not your current location. This prevents any website from knowing who you are, if you are casually browsing, thus giving you privacy. Of course, as soon as you log in, that anonymity will be given up.
Many VPN users are concerned with privacy and therefore are happy to use a relatively local server to ensure that high speed and reliable connections are maintained. Therefore, it will be common for a British user to use a UK-based VPN server, while an American user might connect to a US-based VPN server. It’s best to pick a VPN, such as Surfshark that has more than 3200 fast servers all around the world. If you’re keen to get started, check out the user reviews of Surfshark VPN.
There is an alternative way to use VPNs, of course, and that is for accessing geo-blocked websites.
What is a geo-blocked website?
Geo-blocking is technology that restricts or alters access to internet content based upon the user’s geographical location. Therefore, a geo-blocked website is either entirely inaccessible for users in the wrong location or offers different content to users in other regions.
In addition, some countries, such as China, take complete control of where their residents can and cannot browse.
By connecting to a VPN outside of your country, your web traffic now appears to be from that country. In other words, a British user could access an American-based VPN server, and therefore they will appear to be an American browser.
Which geo-blocked websites are better with VPN?
Netflix offers a fantastic array of shows to enjoy at any time. But they do not offer everyone the same listings at the same time. According to Statista, Netflix users in Ireland can enjoy the biggest number of movies and TV shows combined. By using a VPN, American users can get all the best British shows by using a VPN to connect as a UK-based user, while British audiences can get hold of the latest and greatest films sooner by pretending to be based in the US.
Another online video streaming company, Hulu, can only be accessed by US and Japanese audiences. Or people with the savvy know how to connect to a VPN.
If you prefer streaming music rather than video, Spotify is the place to go. However, just like Netflix, the offerings differ from region to region.
4. Amazon Video
Of course, Amazon is global, and users in every region have access to streaming video with their Prime subscription, but just like with Netflix, you’ll get different films depending on your area. This is usually down to licensing deals. Hop on a VPN and enjoy a diverse library of shows.
We’ll stop with the show-streaming options there because, frankly, you should get the idea by now. If you want to change up your TV offerings, check out Crackle, VH1, HBO, CNN Go, BBC iPlayer, NFL, and many more.
Facebook is available almost globally, but some countries, North Korea and China being notable among them, have banned the social media platform. Whether you’re a resident in those two countries, or a tourist looking to check for the latest updates, a secure VPN will allow you to check-in.
6. International Banking
Many banks do not allow international connections to your bank account simply for your security. Because of this, it may be necessary to use a VPN in your home country to connect to your bank while traveling abroad.
One final thought. There are many free VPNs out there. You may be tempted to try these out yourself, but being free, these services are often flooded by bots, spammers, and cheapskates. This results in huge traffic volumes. This results in slow internet traffic and an increased likelihood that websites will notice them and block traffic from that source.
If you are a serious user that needs privacy or wants to have the freedom to safely falsify your location, spend out on a subscription to a reliable, high-quality VPN.