On these pages you can find many examples of how you can protect your privacy and enjoy he wonders of the BBC iPlayer site wherever you are by using a Virtual Private Network. It’s basically a way of hiding your real location so the dastardly BBC can’t redirect you just because you happen to be enjoying the sun in some foreign clime. The BBC just sees the location of the VPN server and as long as you’ve chosen one that is based in the UK everything will work ok. What’s more the VPN adds invaluable protection for you when accessing secure sites like banking, email and other important functions. Do you check your email or bank account using that free wifi in the bar across the road, I’d strongly suggest that you don’t !!!
However although the encryption layer of a VPN is important you could argue that it’s not really necessary when streaming Eastenders or Strictly. After all what can be lost from someone intercepting a generic video stream apart from possibly some loss of street credibility. The reality is that it’s probably overkill for just watching TV, after all there’s no sensitive information and that encryption layer probably reduces the speed slightly too.
Speed is obviously important and is another reason why using a VPN is probably not ideal for purely watching online movies and shows. You see a VPN routes your entire connection through the VPN server adding a whole net ‘hop’ to your internet route. It’s a little bit like getting your email redirected to a PO box for you to pick up, it’s going to be slower than getting it delivered to your front door. Unfortunately that’s how VPNs work and there’s little you could do about it until now.
Introducing the new kid on the block, Smart DNS which is the VPN’s little brother. Indeed some VPN providers offer it as a bundle with their main service but unfortunately they often don’t work that well. So what does Smart DNS do? Well basically you replace your normal DNS servers with ‘Smart’ ones and it looks out for when you try and visit a – geo-restricted site. So for example as soon as you try and visit the BBC – Smart DNS will intervene and send you first to a proxy server based in the UK. This will initiate the connection and effectively hide your location after which point you can stream directly from the BBC servers. Instead of routing everything it just does enough to hide your location.
Here’s a video with it in action, it’s called BBC DNS and you can find it on YouTube if you look directly.
It’s pretty neat don’t you think? The huge advantage is that it adds virtually no overhead to your internet connection at all, you just route the initial part of the connection through an appropriate server. Indeed the company I used above has got a separate VPN client too which you can use when you need encryption.
However there is another advantage of using Smart DNS when you’re just using streaming video and it’s related to configuration. You see because Smart DNS only needs a couple of changes to your network connection in order to work, it is much more flexible. Normally a VPN either need specialized client software or to use the capability of the OS to establish the connection. This is fine when you’re using a computer or laptop but get’s trickier when you want to use another device. After all have you ever tried setting up a VPN client connection on a media streamer or Smart TV. It’s not easy and sometimes simply impossible, where as Smart DNS is simple to set up on any device as long as you can get to the network settings.
In fact over the years there’s only a couple of devices I have found which are difficult to set Smart DNS on – such as the popular Roku. However that was simply down to sneakiness from the manufacturer who tried to lock the device into specific regions by restricting access to the network settings – boooooo!!! Now there is a way to even apply Smart DNS to a Roku but the reality is that overall Smart DNS is incredibly easy to apply to any sort of device. It really only takes a few minutes.
This is important, simply because the numbers of us using all sorts of different devices to watch online content. A few years ago 90% of us sat down at a home PC to watch these sites. Now we’re on smart phones, games consoles, tablets and a myriad of different media devices. Smart DNS works with all these, VPNs simply don’t work with many of them. So if you’re simply asking the best way to learn how to watch BBC abroad, then I’d have to answer use Smart DNS. As long as you appreciate that it doesn’t supply any security then you’ll find it faster, cheaper and easier to use than a VPN service.