Choosing a VPN Service

When I first looked for a VPN (virtual private network) service online about 8 or 9 years ago, there wasn’t much to choose from. There were only a couple of services available, and to be honest they weren’t very good. In fact I never really used either for very long, they were slow, always breaking and not really worth the bother. As was usual in those days it was easier to set something up for yourself either using a rented server or through your home PC. VPNs were common enough but normally linked to a company or academic server, if you worked for a large company and travelled to any extent you’d almost certainly use a VPN to download documents or access the company email account.

These days both the demand and the choice available have grown exponentially. Over the years, those one or two providers have multiplied and now there are literally thousands of companies providing VPN/Proxy services usually on a subscription basis. Unfortunately the quality has not increased, the vast majority of these VPN providers are little more than an IT guy with a website and a dedicated server hosted somewhere obscure. This is fine if the only users are him and a dozen customers, but if you start taking in lots of new customers – you need some serious infrastructure and knowledge to cope with it – which normally doesn’t happen!

This is the sad reality, that the vast majority of these services are hopeless – something you’ll probably be aware of if you’ve tried any number of them. There’s normally two real issues with these servers – firstly they are badly set up and configured, the other is they’re overloaded. Both are serious issues for variety of reasons.

It’s important to remember that when you use a VPN or a proxy, you are in fact trusting the provider with all your web traffic. Your connection consists of an encrypted tunnel (well hopefully) back to the VPN server down which all your web and application traffic will flow. It’s therefore essential that this server is secure and well configured in order to protect your data there’s more to this than just something to change your ip address – read this.

The other issue is of course – speed, it wasn’t such a problem years ago but nowadays most of our online activity consists of video, multimedia and hi resolution images – browsing the web on a slow connection is a painful experience. It is of course why many people use VPNs in order to access content on sites like BBC iPlayer, ITV player or Hulu which are normally restricted to their home countries. This is a useful demonstration of how a high speed VPN should work.

The video demonstrates that the VPN connection has virtually no effect on the speed of the internet connection. It should be noted that in that video the user is based in the UK and using a UK VPN but it’s still a worthwhile check. The speed will almost certainly diminish slightly when routed through a US, Australian or German proxy server for example, but should still be reasonably fast. As alawyas the only true test is the one you run your self, so if you subscribe to Identity Cloaker or another VPN solution then make sure you test it using a short term trial/subscription first.

How to Get a British IP Address

Lot’s of people arrive at this site asking this question, how can they change their IP address to a British one.   Mostly it’s Ex-Pats or people who just have some connection with the UK, or simply want to do something like watching the BBC Iplayer abroad.

The reason is that although the internet used to be pretty much open and standard for everyone, that is changing all the time.  Wherever you are based I am sure you’ve been presented somewhere with a message saying ‘sorry you can’t watch’  or ‘not available in your country’  – it happens to all of us wherever we are based.  Of course it happens a lot more if you’re in a country like China or Thailand who heavily censor the internet, but you’ll still get blocked by companies even if you’re based in Britain, France or the USA.

Anyway  this post is specifically about how people can  get a British IP address so I’ll focus on that.  The IP address is the number assigned to you when you connect to the internet,  it’s unique to you and can be used to identify you and your location.  This is what a site like Hulu, or the BBC do when you first connect to their sites – check the location of your IP address.

Here’s what happens if I try and watch the new Stargazing programme on BBC Iplayer –

 You’ll just get this message, whether you’re in the US, Spain, Japan or Canada it doesn’t matter.  If you’re not in the UK you won’t have been assigned a British address when you connected.  This is the same thing that happens when you get a message from YouTube about the content not being available in your country – it’s checking your location and deciding what you can see.

But now a small confession, at the moment I am actually in the UK and I’ve tricked the BBC Iplayer application to believing I’m in France.  It’s just for demonstration to show that it is perfectly possible to control your IP address and surf completely unrestricted.

Here’s how – fortunately it’s perfectly possible to cloak your real IP address and show the site your visiting a completely different one.  You basically connect to the web through an intermediary, or specifically a proxy server – when you connect to a site, the IP address presented is that of the server.  So if you use a French proxy you’ll have a French IP address, a US proxy will give you an American address, a German proxy a German address  and of course a British proxies will give you a British IP address.

Because this opens up so many different web sites a mini-industry has been created with applications that allow you to connect to a network of private proxies which allow you to control your IP address.  Here’s the very best of them – a program called Identity Cloaker.

Hopefully you can see from this screen shot, that the software allows you to connect to any number of proxy servers based all over the world – From Australia, USA, Canada, France and of course the United Kingdom and many, many more.

You simply click and select the country you wish to appear from, a huge list of fake identities to hide your real location.  It’s all perfectly safe and legal you’re merely hiding details of your connection from the website you are visiting.  In the screenshot here – I’ve got a German IP address to watch a site that streams some great films but is only available in Germany.

To watch  the BBC Iplayer, if you’re not in the UK then you’d simply select one of the British proxies, it’s actually one of the most popular uses of Identity Cloaker and why they have a huge number of British servers !  Even crossing the border makes a difference, which is why lots of people use it to watch BBC iPlayer In Ireland too.

If you’ve ever been frustrated by some online blocks then this is your solution.  It’s the most sophisticated  yet utterly simple to use and has by far the fastest proxies available.

The trial version lasts ten days and doesn’t automatically rebill like many such applications.   Best to test it out first  – believe me it opens up a huge number of websites that you may have been blocked from previously and doesn’t just include a British IP address there’s lots more countries watch US Netflix, Hulu and ABC for instance  – here’s the link for the  10 day trial of Identity Cloaker.

Additional Reading
http://www.uktv-online.com/