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Chances are you’ve attempted to watch videos online on websites such as Netflix or YouTube, but were met with messages notifying you that the content is blocked to viewers in your country. This is a common occurrence on the internet and can quickly become frustrating, especially affecting those who travel often. For those living in the United States, these geo-restrictions can also lead to you wasting your money on services that simply won’t work when you travel overseas.
Fortunately, there is a way to unblock these sorts of restrictions. Here’s how to do just that so you can begin watching anything, anywhere.
One Simple Solution
There are many different options, but really only one that works reliably and effectively. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is by far the easiest and safest way to bypass geo-restrictions, and it works in a way that most anyone can get on board with quickly.
The first thing you should know is what a VPN actually does and how it works. In simple terms, a VPN makes you anonymous online because rather than connecting directly to websites or other users, you first go through the VPN’s remote server, which connects and channels data to you.
That means anything you’re connecting to will identify the VPN rather than you. For watching videos, that means you can appear to be, for instance, within the US. That means services such as Hulu or Netflix will not flag you for blocking because your IP address matches the locations they allow.
However, not all VPNs have servers in the desired location (and of course not all videos or sites allow US users, so just a US server is not necessarily enough). Before subscribing to a service, make sure the list of servers includes all the locations you’ll wish to connect from.
Bandwidth and Security
Aside of access to your shows, a VPN also grants you a certain degree of security beyond just choosing your location and remaining anonymous. Sometimes websites are blocked by authority and they may be keeping an eye on who is trying to access what.
A VPN fixes that because data you send and receive gets encrypted on the way. Nearly all paid VPNs use the same level of encryption, so that isn’t something you’ll need to worry about. Just know that no reasonable person has the time to break the encryption on a VPN, as doing so could take decades, if not longer.
What you will need to concern yourself is whether your service provides enough speed and data usage for what you plan to be doing. Considering the amount of data movies and the like tend to use, you shouldn’t settle for anything less than a service with unlimited bandwidth.
Consider the speed as well, because nothing puts the brakes on watching faster than a buffering symbol in the middle of a video. Even if your normal internet is fast, bad VPNs can seriously slow things down and make your viewing experience poor.
Though most VPNs are fairly easy to set and forget, any type of service is bound to have problems here and there. To solve those problems, you’ll likely need to contact someone in support to aid you, whether it’s to solve a technical issue or help set something up.
Because VPNs are offered around the world, their service might not match with your time zone if they don’t offer 24/7 support. Some even offer exclusively support through email, so you’ll be out of luck if you’re looking for a quick response. Chat services and over the phone support are much quicker to resolve your problems.
When you’re first starting out with a service, having a guarantee can go a long way too. Even if a service comes with good reviews, it’s still good to be able to cancel and get your money back if your experience varies from the norm. While trial periods vary, a good service will give you as much as a month to reconsider before diving into fully paid service. Speaking of which…
Price of Freedom
Although VPNs are very useful, they aren’t free (and please do stay away from any that purport to be, as their service tends to be very spotty and highly limited). Prices will range anywhere from a few dollars a month to as much as fifteen dollars. You usually get what you pay for, but you can save yourself some money if you subscribe for a long time.
This is why having more time to test the service is important. Monthly fees can easily be cut in half if you sign up for a whole year, but that’s a big commitment to make if you haven’t had time to really test the service.
As there are many different VPNs to choose from, I’ve tested and researched a few to help suggest a few possibilities. By no means is this an exhaustive list, but these at least are a few that have been doing well and seem to be generally liked as a whole:
As a personal favorite, ExpressVPN offers a lot of the services that help customers really get into using their VPN because they have unlimited bandwidth, good speed, the three types of customer service available 24/7, and a 30-day guarantee. They do come with a higher price tag, but if you can afford their service, it’s easily a top contender.
IPVanish doesn’t offer quite as extensive of a guarantee, but their service is a tad bit cheaper and they share many of the same other features. Their support relies more on email service, but it’s at least available any time of day. Overall it’s still a solid choice.
Relatively obscure until recently, PureVPN has begun offering comparable service to their competitors. They also offer relatively good support (complete with live chat), lots of different servers to choose from and a guarantee similar to the one offered by IPVanish (seven days). One of their main perks is allowing several different devices to connect simultaneously.
Whether you’re planning to plop down on your couch for a few movies or just want to watch something while you’re waiting somewhere, a VPN will give you the ability to do so. Other methods certainly exist, but none are as reliable and simple as using a VPN.
If you goal is unlimited access to entertainment, consider what additional perks you’ll be needing and grab yourself a VPN. It’s a decision you won’t soon regret, especially when the next season of your favorite show starts up.
Have you ever used a VPN before? What kinds of things do you hope to watch with one? Tell us about it in the comments.