VPN vs DNS resolver to beat geographical IP blocks


Book Reviewer
I have edited this post to expand on the DNS Proxy Server stuff at the request of a couple of posters to PM.

This post is to help people understand the pros and cons of using either a VPN or DNS Proxy Server to get around geographical blocking on such things as bbc.co.uk when abroad. It is aimed at those with a limited IT background and intended to be as easy as possible to get working.

VPN - Virtual Private Network. This is were you buy a service that in effect has a virtual pipe from your computer/device over the internet to a server somewhere else. To the outside world it looks like you have accessed the web from that server.

Example - I have a VPN with StrongVPN that allows me to access the internet in Canada but to the bbc website I am in Manchester and thus allowed to use iPlayer.

VPN's are easy to set up and are a useful tool in online security. That is a post for another day. In this exam question they allow your point of presence on the internet to be in the country you want it to be. You can use it to fool the bbc or to get US Netflicks with its much better collection

Pros -
Good online security measure
Beats geographical blocking as you are "in the country"

Cons -
A lot of dodgy companies out there
For the average consumer you will most likely need a paid service, you can set up a free(ish) VPN but life is too short and it takes some level of IT knowledge.

DNS Proxy Servers

I have changed this bit after some PMs etc to better explain what is going on and what it means for the average consumer.

In essence proxy servers are a means of masking your IP address so that the site thinks you are in one place when you are not. So if you are aboard and want to watch iPlayer you go via the proxy server and to the BBC you are in the UK. There are other types or uses of proxy servers but if you are that interested follow the link to read up more. Another use is to hide you IP address on the internet but for the average consumer that is not a big issue and if you want to do that then read up on it.

There are many different means of getting access to a proxy server from free with pop up ads to paid services. It is a matter of personal choice which to go for and hopefully people will post recommendations, and more importantly those to avoid. I go for a paid service, I get a discount for having a VPN with them, as I think it suits my needs. From playing around with the free services and some of the paid ones I tend to find the paid ones from a solid company tend to be faster, more reliable and less likely to cause me issues. That said user experiences vary.

Whats best for you?

Well I use both - the VPN for security (later post) and the DNS Proxy Server for getting around Netflixs and the BBC on the many devices I have. One thing I found is that unless I make my router at home connect to the VPN (which I don't always want to do) I can't get the Apple TV to pick up Hulu Plus and Netflixs. So I use the DNS Proxy Server for that and the XBox and leave the VPN for other devices.

Again each case is different so post questions and see what answers you get.

Personally I use StrongVPN and StrongDNS. Good service and the VPN is $88 and the DNS is $50 a year (well $40 as I get a discount for having a VPN account). StrongVPN.com - Providing high speed, unlimited bandwidth, multiple country VPN accounts for over 100,000 users. Since 1995 and StrongDNS.com. StrongVPN have different services depending on what you want to do so you can best match your requirements.

Feel free to comment or recommend other services. All I ask is that they are aimed at the average user and is not illegal (ish).

PM me for more deals.

Next post will be why everyone who uses a public WiFi point should have a VPN.


Book Reviewer
VPN and why you should consider it.

Virtual Private Networks are not new but a great way to get around geographical locks on websites and give extra security when online.

At a basic level they allow your thing to connect to a network via another bearer. So for example DII remote allows a DII laptop to use the internet to access DII. You could have a VPN set up to allow your laptop/iPad/iPhone to access your home network over the internet - loads of uses.

For this post we are going to talk about using a VPN to help protect you online, surf porn without fear of blocking in Bahrain and watch US Netfixs in the UK.

A VPN allows you to connect your device over the internet to a server somewhere else.

Imagine you are sat in Starbucks and using their free Wifi. Without a VPN you are trusting their network to protect your traffic (say a password to login to GMail) from someone either working in the store and compromising the network or someone sat near by using a app to snoop on your traffic.

With a VPN you bypass this as you tunnel through their network to a server somewhere else. VPNs protect your traffic from snooping and in some Middle East countries it is the only way to bypass network monitoring systems if you travel.

It has the added benefit of allowing you to have your internet out in a country of your choosing. So I use it to convince people I am in Manchester (or another UK server based on best speeds). It does mean that anyone trying to track you would need to either hack your VPN company to trace or get lots of legal orders (for various countries) to find you. An added Brucy Bonus.

A quick run through VPNs. Will help you stay safe online, worry free porn hunting and getting decent US Netflixs in the UK.

Obviously I recommend StrongVPN but there is others.

How Do I Know If My VPN Is Trustworthy?

Why You Should Start Using a VPN (and How to Choose the Best One for Your Needs)
Thanks for this. :)
Guns. I use StrongVPN too. I've had a private VPN connection for 5 years and moved to Strong a year ago (subscription renewed couple of months ago). Prior to that, I was with vpnaccounts.com, who were good too.

The issue with only being able to use a VPN account on a single machine is relatively new; my vpnaccounts.com account worked on multiple machines as did my original Strong account. But the price is now a quarter of what it was when I first got a VPN back in 2008, which probably explains why. Next time, I might shop around again and see if I can find someone with multiple access.

The other issue to consider when selecting a VPN account is to look for a supplier with multiple server locations in the country you want to host your VPN. Strong has servers sites in a number of UK cities and you can move around to optimise your VPN speed and bandwidth. Strong have been very helpful in optimising mine, which costs just $47 a year.

I use my VPN to watch the BBC iPlayer and for Sky Sports. My parents have Sky at home, but only ever watch it on their TV. The associated SkyGo account is set up for me and I log into it from Sydney. F1, cricket and England rugby free....

I also have a UK Napster account which I play through a Sonos system at home. Due to licensing issues, Aussie on line music services have nowhere near the content of UK ones. Both the Napster and Sonos setup has to be done through the VPN, but, once done, the Sonos will accesses UK music streaming services without it. Also, once you have a Napster account, you can play Napster through any device without the VPN, although you have to go to the UK iTunes store to download the app for an iPhone etc.
I'm very dubious about the DNS server claims. DNS is your own business, a website has know way of knowing which DNS server you use, nor does it care. I think you've thrown in a red herring there (it looks to me as if StrongDNS is just a proxy service with a slightly misleading name).

The alternative means to hide your genuine location is via a proxy. This is what you are achieving with the VPN, but that's not it's intended use.
And to be more constructive, I have used hidemynet a few times to virtually move country. Documentation and setup is good with support for various different proxy techniques, and speed is excellent so video no problem. You pay a little but do get what pay for.

Also very easy setup from an Android device.
I use BTguard as a VPN server, they dont keep logs so even if asked they have nothing to hand over. The main reason is anno downloads and security. I dont worry about DNS as my speed is a bit hit and miss so streaming is not a great option, rather downlaod the program to watch it.
Joe, is that the free service they offer? I started with that a few years ago, but it was only any good for downloading. Even that was a bit hit and miss; often it would take several sessions to download a program. Not that I mind 50 bucks a year; cheaper than a TV licence back in the UK!
don't mind recommending it*.

* - as always the experiences could vary from person to person so don't hold me to it :)
You're not a H&S geezer are you? ;)
Thanks for the assist.


Book Reviewer
in chrome I've been modifying the headers which strips out the location so you don't get blocked from foreign sites seems to work okay.

expat shield is free and does similar.


Book Reviewer
I agree with Good CO over the DNS services and would have gone in t more detail on how the work, just didn't want to make it too tech geek.

I would go with a VPN service as the extra cost is made up with the extra layer of security.
I've just worked out what the DNS business is about. StrongDNS et al don't fool the BBC with some sort of fake DNS entry (spoofing). They are proxies (men-in-the-middle), but with the benefit that they can decide which traffic to become a proxy for (BBC, Netflix etc). For a normal proxy you specify the proxy address. With the ...DNS version you tell your machine to use the DNS server controlled by the proxy. The owned-by-proxy-service DNS can then instruct your machine to use the proxy for specific outbound traffic.

Returning to hidemynet - a really simple cure-all.


Will any of this work if you are going through a company server as thats the only way i can connect when i am offshore, and as its based in France i get a lot of headaches with it as well as being unable to access Iplayer etc
What is does is allows you to change the DNS server that your computer uses to look up a web address. This means that when your electrons arrive at the bbc.co.uk website it thinks you are in the UK because the DNS server tells them you are. IT witchcraft.
It certainly is whichcraft if this is how it works, as DNS is the method that hosts are found by translating a host name to an IP address that can be understood by routing tables when requesting a reaource and have nothing to do with originating IP addresses geographic location.
I've just worked out what the DNS business is about. StrongDNS et al don't fool the BBC with some sort of fake DNS entry (spoofing).
Because DNS is name resolution - "the internet phone directory" is the easiest analogy I've come across
Will any of this work if you are going through a company server as thats the only way i can connect when i am offshore, and as its based in France i get a lot of headaches with it as well as being unable to access Iplayer etc
It depends on the set up and what traffic they will allow to pass. If you can get PPTP traffic to pass to a UK host, then you will appear to be in the UK. It's more than likely though that France are proxying and you will therefore probably appear to be in france as they will capture the traffic, extract the request and forward it. If the request is wrapped up god knows what, the request will probably fail.

That's how I set up proxies - allow selected deny all, it makes things much easier when controlling questionable content
I use expat shield. It's free and I'm a tightarrse. Lots of annoying pop ups but not when you are actually accessing I player etc. Turn it off when not actually using I Player, 4OD etc.

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