VPNs for Overseas Deployment
How to Unlock Websites Blocked in Your Country
July 24, 2014 by Jake Butler
If you’ve ever been stationed overseas, odds are you’ve run into a roadblock or two when trying to access your favorite websites. A lot of streaming video and music sites like Netflix, Pandora, HBO Go, and certain YouTube videos are blocked outside of the U.S., so you have to get creative if you want access to them.
That’s where VPNs come in. With the services outlined below, you can enjoy the freedom of unrestricted, secure, and private internet access wherever you go.
What is a VPN?
VPN stands for virtual private network. Think of it as an alternative pathway to get where you’re trying to go on the internet – one that encrypts your data and boosts security at the same time. Most people use it to browse the web anonymously, but it can also help you unlock access to blocked websites.
For the purposes of this discussion, a VPN essentially changes your IP address to make it seem like you’re in the United States. Sites that normally block foreign users can’t recognize that you’re outside the country. The end result is open access to all the sites you normally visit at home.
How They Work
You should note that a VPN does not replace your normal internet service. Think of it as more of an add-on enhancement to your existing service.
Each service comes with different bells and whistles, user interfaces, and customer support options. Whichever service you choose, you’ll get easy step-by-step instructions for how to install and use it. Some of them work with a simple button click, while others require you manually toggle your network settings.
One caveat is that VPNs do sometimes slow down your internet speed. While many of them have gotten better in recent years about minimizing the lag, it’s often true that you get what you pay for. You can find some options for super cheap but they may not be as reliable.
There are tons of VPNs out there to choose from and many of them offer free trials, so be sure to try before you buy. Many of them only cost a few dollars each month, so if you’re already paying for a service like Netflix then it makes sense to pay a little extra so you can actually use it overseas. Here are a few of the more reputable options:
- Unblock-US comes with a week-long free trail and packages currently start at $4.99 per month.
- Vypr VPN by Golden Frog claims to be the world’s fastest option. Service starts at $6.67 per month.
- StrongVPN is known for its superior customer service, so if you have any issues and need support, you should be able to get the help you need. It starts at $7 per month.
- Express VPN is really focused on the user interface, making it simple and easy to understand even for people who don’t know much about computer networks. It starts at $8.32 per month.
There are a number of free browser extensions that achieve the same goal. Often times they can be added with just the click of a button. However, they have a tendency to be a little more hit-and-miss than VPNs – some sites will be open but others might remain blocked. Each of these might also affect speed and performance, depending on your computer, so you might need to do some experimenting to find the right one. Here are a few of the ones out there:
- Proxmate may help you unblock some sites like YouTube, Pandora, and Google Play, but, paid services like Netflix might not work, depending on what country you’re in.
- Hola Better Internet caught a lot of flak from users when they incorporated ads into the service, but they’ve since reversed that decision to make it ad-free once again.
- ZenMate is a similar free add-on that allows you to select a specific server to run all your traffic through.
Whatever option you go with, you should be well on your way to internet freedom once again, making your deployment overseas feel a little more like home. Have a favorite method of accessing blocked content that we missed? Tell us about it in the comments below.