Once upon a time, Mr. John Doe decided the visit a small and beautiful country called Montenegro in Europe. As a frequent traveler, he was extremely excited to get his trip started. But then something unfathomable happened.
Mr. Doe suddenly found himself in a spiral of terrifying events. First, he was unable to access Netflix. This meant that he will now have to miss a daily stream of his “Sons of Anarchy”. To make matters even worse, Mr. Doe could not even load his Drake playlist on Pandora!
This is when John began questioning the true meaning of existence absent Netflix and Pandora. In a sense, his life suddenly became gray and the enthusiasm flatlined.
To summarize the problem, many websites enforce geographical blocks and censorship that prevents users from accessing their platform. For instance, Netflix users in Argentina and the United States will not have access to the same movies.
Companies do this to better target individuals based on their first language, interest, and more. For John, however, this means a long trip with absolutely no coverage from some of his favorite providers.
Another reason why specific websites may be blocked goes back to the governments. Not all nations in the world see certain issues in the same way. Therefore, there are many governments that prevent their citizens from accessing specific platforms.
China, for instance, has a powerful firewall that aims to discourage online browsing of specific content. Luckily, there are ways to get around these barricades. The most popular method for circumventing government restrictions and accessing blocked websites is by using a virtual private network, or VPN for short.
What are VPNs?
Virtual private networks are a fairly new application that permit users to browse the internet safely. They rely on increased privacy as the user’s connection is routed and bounced across different servers from all over the world.
Thus, somebody who may be trying to initiate a hack on a person using a VPN will find themselves struggling just to identify the IP address.
Are VPNs legal?
Given the circumstances that involve users accessing blocked content, there is a bit of a negative connotation that almost implies how one is doing something illegal and unethical. In fact, the vast majority of all countries in the world allow VPNs.
This is because most users simply take advantage of them to improve their privacy. Even the ones that may try to access blocked content do not represent a mind-boggling problem.
After all, agencies like the FBI, NSA, or MI6 have much more important issues to deal with that monitor the likes of John Doe who want to watch their TV shows on Netflix.
How does it work?
In order to get started with the endeavor, Mr. Doe will have to locate an appropriate VPN. Appropriate generally means reliable and not blocked by the website that he is trying to access.
Given how companies like Netflix have been battling the VPN-based loophole, a lot of the providers are now identified and their VPNs are quite useless. Also, all of the encryption that goes into enforcing privacy on these networks can take away some of the speed.
Thus, prioritizing speed should also be a concern for people who do not want to spend a long time waiting for their websites to load.
Expectedly, VPN providers will charge for the service. They do, after all, have to create entire networks that will allow people to access blocked websites through a series of back-end routing strategies.
So, one can expect to pay anywhere from $5 to $50 a month for a reliable server. The prices do go much higher, of course, as users who need advanced security will need to find superior VPN platforms.
Although the previous option is a solid start and most users will be perfectly fine with it, ExpressVPN offers a few improvements.
The primary difference is the fact that ExpressVPN operates north of 1,700 servers in 94 countries. Thus, they have a technological footprint that is more than three times bigger than that of SaferVPN.
Although encryption is the same and relies on the 256-bit system, it is upgraded to the AES version and has DNS/IPv6 leak protection. Another common point that those who favor this platform make goes back to its customer service. Not only is it available 24/7, many users have reported incredible timeliness when it comes to answering e-mails.
As far as pricing goes, the added coverage and increased speeds do carry a slightly higher cost. Users subscribed to ExpressVPN for a year will pay $8.32 every month.
SaferVPN is one of the more popular options that currently has 700 servers in 30 countries.
Thus, if John wants to access the U.S-based Netflix offering from Montenegro, the VPN will re-route him through a U.S. server. Such a high number of countries is generally enough to overcome almost any geographical restrictions.
As far as the encryption goes, the provider uses the most popular option known as the 256-bit encryption. Furthermore, the network has an OpenVPN protocol and can be downloaded on Linux, Android, Windows, and iOS. The price for those who are subscribed for an entire year is $5.49 per month.
Other Important Factors to Understand
Although accessing blocked content is as easy as signing up for one of the aforementioned platforms, one should not use VPNs for everything.
For instance, trying to download content through pirate-based websites that can only be accessed with VPNs is not covered by the positive publicity surrounding these networks. On the contrary, using VPNs for illegal activities will lead to harsh consequences.
When it comes to our good friend Mr. John Doe, however, it is highly unlikely that he will ever face legal consequences for streaming a movie from Netflix via VPN. After all, he is still paying for his subscription to Netflix and this network just allows him to load the website.
Having a VPN does not mean that a person can enter fee-for-service platforms for free. On the contrary, they will still be subjected to the same cost.
The worst thing that may happen is a potential suspension of his account. Even that scenario is somewhat unlikely since Netflix generally does not spend time looking for individual accounts that may be using a VPN.
Instead, by combating large VPN providers, companies hope to minimize the activity associated with these type of connections.
For John, this means watching as many movies as he wants, wherever he wants. Not a bad price to pay for the convenience!