Are Smart DNS and VPN the kind of terms that make your eyes glaze over and make you wish we’d just speak English?
Here are SmartDNS.com we appreciate that you may have no desire to become a technical expert, so we’ve put this guide together to teach you how these technologies can help you, whilst avoiding jargon as far as possible.
What can Smart DNS and VPN Actually Do?
Let’s begin by putting the technology aside completely, and explain exactly what Smart DNS and / or VPN services can do for you. Here are some examples:
You can watch the latest episodes of your favourite TV shows, often completely free, before they’re launched in the country where you’re located. (See our Ultimate Unblocking Guide for details).
You can unblock Netflix (and Spotify, BBC iPlayer, Hulu and many more) and use it as if you were in another country – giving you a whole extra selection of TV shows and movies to watch
You can hide your online activity, and keep what you do away from the prying eyes of the security agencies.
You can experience the Internet as you would from a completely different country, bypassing all regional censorship and customization.
You can use various web services with genuine anonymity.
Hopefully we’ve got your attention now you know what these VPN and Smart DNS services can do for you? We’ll now move on to telling you what kind of service would suit you best, and do what we can to demystify how the services work, without blinding you with too much science.
IP Addresses: The Basics
The most important principle to understand is that all the time you are online, you have an IP (Internet Protocol) address.
The chances are that in the past you’ve visited websites that have detected quite accurately where you are located, and you’ve found it rather spooky? This is because your IP address is visible to the websites you visit.
The best analogy to use to explain what an IP address is to liken it to a postal code. If you’re on a typical home network, the IP address you’re showing to the world is assigned to your Internet router. In the same way that all the residents of your house share your postal code, all the computers and devices on your home network share the same external IP address.
(Please note that we a generalizing a little here, and that it would be possible to write hundreds of words about internal vs. external IP addresses, but we’re trying to keep things simple!)
How do Smart DNS and VPN Work?
The fact that websites know (at least roughly) where you’re located is the cornerstone of the ability to control what you can see and access online depending on where you are.
As an example, if you are in the USA and try to access the popular BBC iPlayer streaming TV site, you’ll be told you cannot watch any content as you’re in the “wrong” place. This is known as a “region lock.”
The core purpose of both VPN and Smart DNS services is to either make it difficult for websites to work out where you’re located, or to make it appear as if you’re somewhere else entirely.
That brings us neatly on to the difference between Smart DNS and VPN.
Smart DNS, which is the main focus of this site, is a reasonably new technology. It uses clever technical trickery to fool specific sites and services into thinking you’re in the correct place to use them. Its primary purpose is to open up the entire world’s worth of streaming video and musical content to you, regardless of where you’re located.
This means, for example, that you could be located in Portugal, where both BBC iPlayer and US Netflix are blocked, and access both of them, and many other services, with nothing but a simple change in your settings. It’s extremely inexpensive and works not just on computers, but on everything from Smart TVs to games consoles and iPads.
What Smart DNS doesn’t do is offer you any specific benefits in terms of security and privacy. Your Internet service provider still knows what sites you are visiting and there’s no encryption going on. For the general consumer of online media, this isn’t a massive problem.
VPN can fulfil the same purpose as Smart DNS, but works very differently, and can provide numerous extra security and privacy benefits.
If you use a VPN (Virtual Private Network), you connect to a server in a specific country. Once you’ve done so, websites you visit will “think” you’re connecting from that country.
So – you can connect to a US-based VPN server, and you’ll be able to access US Netflix, Hulu, CBS, ABC, and all kinds of other American content. But if you want content from the UK or another nation, you’ll need to connect to a different server in the relevant country.
Having heard this, you’re perhaps wondering why people would choose VPN over Smart DNS? It’s clearly not quite as straightforward as Smart DNS (and we’ve not yet mentioned it can be a little slower too!)
Well, it’s because of those security and privacy benefits we mentioned. When you connect using a VPN, you use a private and encrypted “tunnel” on the Internet. Nobody can see what you’re doing. And if you’re particularly privacy-conscious, you can even choose a provider who keeps no logs of your activity – or take it a step further and use a super-secure provider who’ll let you pay with an anonymous payment method like Bitcoin for complete anonymity.
In a world where people are increasingly concerned about their online privacy, VPNs can offer peace of mind, and the return to the sense of Internet freedom that the World Wide Web was initially built on.
So Which Should I Choose?
Please take a look at this handy flowchart that we’ve produced to help you make the decision between Smart DNS, VPN, or a service offering both options.
Whatever you choose, the great news is that this is a highly competitive industry. This means that prices are low and free trials are routinely offered. You can be up and running with Smart DNS or VPN in minutes, and you don’t need to be a techie to get started.
So why not try a service right now? Signing up is risk-free and will cost you nothing. We suggest UnblockUS if you’ve chosen Smart DNS or Express VPN if VPN is more of interest. Welcome to a whole new world of privacy, security, and unrestricted content.
IMAGE CREDITS: Shutterstock.com/ProfitImage, enciktepstudio