November 13, 2013 Leave a comment
Don’t worry. I’ll keep this short.
The 3 primary reasons for wanting a VPN are access to region-limited content, information security, and obscurity. Depending on which combination brings you to read this, there are a few good options which I can recommend. It doesn’t matter if you choose any of these options, but by understanding why I like them, hopefully you can decide what factors are important to you and find the solution that’s the best fit for you.
Region-limited Content- Cost: free. MediaHint extension for Chrome or Firefox (mediahint.com). Works great for accessing region-limited content like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Videos, Pandora and Youtube. If you’re traveling outside the U.S. and just want to use your memberships, then this is a great option that requires very little configuration. You just download and install the extension (with developer mode enabled for Chrome). The downside is this only works for browser-based services and won’t help on any devices (ie iPad).
Region-limited Content- Cost: $5/Mo: unblock-us.com. This is another very good service to access region-limited content that works pretty simply. You replace your computer (or device!) dns provider to their server and Voila, internet magic happens and you can see all your stuff. Compared to installing a full-blown VPN solution, this is really simple and powerful. Works for all your devices, assuming they share a single network connection (ie home or hotel router).
Region-Limited Content/Obscurity/Security $35/Yr: Private Internet Access (privateinternetaccess.com). This will also get you access to Netflix (most of the time, anyway), but the other strength of this service is their commitment to preserving your privacy. If you occasionally use torrent services to find backups for your legally purchased movies, then this is the kind of service that can help you avoid unwanted attention by zealous copyright enforcers. They are a ‘zero-log’ VPN, which means they have no idea who downloaded Season 3 of The Game of Thrones last week. *grain of salt (you’re never truly invisible, but this probably avoids casual discovery) This is also a good solution if you use public internet connections, like Starbucks or Airport Wifi. (Fun Fact: The only place I’ve ever had my online passwords pinched was the LAX international terminal).
Once you find the right solution for you, then you need to figure out what level of your network to deploy it. The extension, obviously only works directly on your WIN/OSX system, but the DNS re-direct and VPN solutions can both be deployed on a compatible router to provide coverage to all your household devices. Look for DDWRT or Tomato-compatible devices, if you’re interested in that.
Other options? Literally thousands, though most of them would be variations on these themes. Have a favorite I missed, let me know. There’s always something better out there.