In theory, the internet was an innovation that could bring the world into new levels of interconnectedness by transcending the borders of nations and states. In practice, it’s not quite there yet. May websites and online services still restrict access based on geographical regions.
Luckily, with a virtual private network (VPN) let you get around this. A VPN creates a secure tunnel between your computer and a server, which encrypts all data sent through it and in effect conceals your IP address by assigning you a new one. VPN services typically operate several servers in countries across the world. When you connect to one of these, it assigns you an IP address from the region it’s in—making you virtually present in that part of the world.
Switching servers and regions is relatively easy, so this feature lends itself to a number of uses. These are some of the more common ones:
Accessing Blocked Sites
If you run into a website that’s blocked for reasons other than “network administrators blocked it,” chances are it’s because you’ve run into a geoIP ban. This sort of ban, also called geo-blocking, screens users based on the region their IP address is associated with. Accessing a VPN server in a region where the site isn’t banned is a quick way to gain access.
On the other hand, a VPN could also get you around a restricted network, like those in the office. Of course, there may be other things to worry about then.
Access to Media
Many video streaming services use a slightly different form of filtering. Rather than blocking off the entire site, they screen a user’s IP address and selectively allow access. That said, bypassing this restriction works the same way: choose a server in an appropriate region and stream to your heart’s content.
Of course, since these sites are aware of this method, they take steps to curb it. Netflix, for example, looks out for IP addresses that register unusual activity. So if your main purpose with a VPN is to get through Netflix’s region restrictions, opt for one with dedicated IP addresses. But take note that this provides somewhat less anonymity.
You may have noticed that online stores don’t always offer their products to everyone at the same price. This practice, called differential pricing, can have various reasons, such as differing average prices across regions or extra expenses incurred for operating in certain areas. You can use a VPN to try and get a better deal, though that might be contingent on how the product or service will be delivered—if they catch on to your actual address, a VPN won’t hide you then.
That said, the encryption VPNs provide makes for more secure online shopping in general. Any info you send, such as shipping addresses or payment details, will be protected from unwanted surveillance.
When accessing the net overseas, you’re typically restricted to whatever’s offered online to your host country. With a VPN, however, you can be virtually at home anywhere in the world. Using a VPN server, you can keep your IP address and region stable, whether it’s a server where you live or one that you’ve chosen in another location, elsewhere in the world. And with mobile VPNs becoming more popular and accessible, it’s truly easy to do all the online activities you want to, no matter where you are.