I am often surprised that many expats have never heard of a Virtual Private Network (VPN). I have managed to watch television channels, which I am not supposed to watch as I am living outside the UK, for many years without a satellite dish or expensive television retransmission service, just by hooking up my TV to a second computer and watching by courtesy of the Internet.
Yes, the quality of reception has been very variable and I have been plagued by ‘low bandwidth issues’ for many years, although please don't ask me what this is, because I really don't have a clue, technically speaking. All I know is that the Internet signal is a bit like a running stream, and if you are at the end of the line or with a service provider who restricts your flow, you end up with little more than a dribble. This is the problem that I had for a number of years in Spain, until I changed Internet service providers. Magic, the flow became a torrent and I now rarely suffer from the curse of ‘buffering’.
Watching television programmes from the UK, bypassing all forms of geographical restrictions, accessing blocked sites, just because you happen to be an expat living in another country, bypassing Internet ‘security’ monitors, unblocking access to BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Love Film, Skype and television channels, as well as the encryption of all of your Internet traffic, suddenly becomes possible with a Virtual Private Network.
So, what is a Virtual Private Network? If you look up the subject on Google, Wikipedia or similar, you will find very complicated explanations. In simple terms, it is basically a system that uses the Internet to connect to remote sites in another country. VPN uses ‘virtual’ connections that are routed through the Internet to connect to remote sites, which immediately enables access to services provided only in that country.
A Virtual Private Network suddenly provides open communication across countries and political barriers, just as the Internet was originally meant to be by its founder. Many countries and companies are constantly trying to restrict what can be seen by the general public, and based purely upon where you are. With VPN you can unblock streaming services, such as favourite television stations and gaming and lottery sites, by accessing servers in their broadcast areas, such as from your country of origin.
Internet security is also a troubling issue nowadays. I make a point that whenever I access my online bank accounts, both in Spain and in the UK, I divert my Internet access though VPN, which makes financial transactions private and more secure with encryption. Having a VPN is just another small way that you can help to defeat the all watching eyes of ‘Big Brother’, and open up greater enjoyment from the Internet as an expat.
If you enjoyed this article, take a look at Barrie’s websites: http://barriemahoney.com and http://thecanaryislander.com or read his latest book, ‘Footprints in the Sand’ (ISBN: 9780995602717). Available in paperback, as well as Kindle editions.