Yes I know. You’ve probably heard about it already, and read about it everywhere.
But for me, Netflix going global, is actually very personal.
Just in case you left Earth for a little while, Netflix, the American multinational provider of on-demand Internet streaming media has announced on Jan. 6th, 2016, that it is now available on a global scale.
As you can probably tell by looking at my resume page, I live and work in Israel, so Netflix going global, and even dedicating a special tweet about Israel made me very happy.
I don’t own a cable TV subscription (too expensive for my taste), and Netflix pricing ($7.99-$11.99 per month) is very reasonable IMHO.
I became a subscriber as soon as the option was available, looking forward to enjoy Netflix library.
Unfortunately for me, due to licensing agreements with local content providers the content library available in Israel, is limited compared to Netflix global catalog. Very Limited.
If you are living in the US, this is probably not a big issue for you. But if you live outside the US than it is important to know that this is also the case in many other countries where the full Netflix catalog is simply not available.
This limitation has triggered a “loud” on-line discussion about ways to work around Netflix Geo-restriction.
unfortunately by mixing the wrong buzz words and tech-terms in the process, specifically VPN and SmartDNS.
So while I do not encourage an unlawful behavior and content stealing, I do find it important to put things in proper context, explain what VPN and SmartDNS really are, and outline the pros and cons of both VPN and SmartDNS.
To make it easier, let’s begin with the following comparison table, followed by a detailed explanation on each product.
VPNFor online anonimity and security
- Slower than SmartDNS
- Less easy to setup
- Online Anonymity
- Encryption and Security
- Affects all your Internet usage
- Can be used for buying cheaper flight tickets and show tickets
- Feel like home even when you travel – Similar Internet browsing experience on the road
SmartDNSFor Geo-location services such as Netflix and Hulu
- Faster than VPN
- Easier to setup
- Doesn’t require an additional hardware
- Not anonymous
- No encryption nor security*
- Affects only Geo-location based services
* Read “A word about Netflix proxy crackdown” further in this post for more information.
By using a VPN, we basically create a secure tunnel that changes or masks your IP to make it appear you are accessing the site from another location.
In addition, most VPN providers also uses some level of encryption like L2TP or OpenVPN that adds a level of anonymity.
So by using a VPN service even at home we can enjoy ad additional level of security and privacy to our Internet browsing experience that we cannot get from our ISP (Internet service provider).
All VPN providers allows us to choose a location. WE can choose to simulate a region close to us (usually will have the best result in terms of speed), or a remote location (like different state, or country).
Since VPN affects all our Internet traffic, not just geo-based content, we can use the “simulation” engine to save money on on-line shopping.
All you have to do is simulate a different location to enjoy a region-specific offers.
Unfortunately, secure channel, encryption and anonymity comes with a cost of lower speed.
This is because all you traffic goes through your VPN provider network, which makes it slower.
Depending on the VPN provider and the location you choose to simulate, you may experience any from a “minor” to a “disastrous” effect on your browsing speed.
Word of caution: Yes, that means that in some cases you will feel like you’ve been thrown back to the dial-up modem age!
SmartDNS is a way to unblock Geo-based content (usually media) without compromising on speed.
While the SmartDNS service provide will mask your location, the traffic itself will still go through your ISP without encryption.
SmartDNS is also supported on a wider range of devices, and it is usually much easier to setup.
However, SmartDNS does not provide any level of encryption or anonymity, all your traffic is visible and can be logged by your ISP.
A word about Netflix proxy crackdown
Shortly after making their Netflix Everywhere announcement, Netflix has made another one, saying that she will now block Internet proxies, making SmartDNS and VPN services useless in regards of Netflix library access. I’m sure you’ve heard about it, and I’m sure you’re asking if this is the case why I’m still writing about SmartDNS in the context of Netflix. First of all, as I’ve already written before I do not encourage anyone to make unlawful use in any service, Netflix and Hulu are listed here in the sense of an example to a Geo-restricted based media streaming service. Second, this is a cat and mouse game, just as any other attempt to block access in the past. There are so many providers that when some are blocked, the others are not, and vice versa. Third, and the most important IMO, is the added layer of security and privacy added to your Internet experience even without taking media streaming service into account. And while SmartDNS in not anonymous, encrypted or secured as VPN, it does add a level of protection from you ISP by hiding your browsing data and cookies from it.
Update 11/9/2016 – To put things beyond all doubt, Blockless has announced that Neflix is no longer supported by Blockless SmartDNS service.
While this changes nothing about this current review, as I do not encourage illegal use of services, I want to make it very clear that you should not use Blockless services to bypass Netflix geo-location restrictions, it will not work.
Illustration of a typical home network layout.
Ideal for a router setup.
Illustration of a a single computer, or public locations layout.
Ideal for a computer setup.
and other mobile devices and you can’t, or don’t want to set them all up one-by-one.
Leading VPN and SmartDNS Service Providers
With better understanding of VPN and SmartDNS we can now discuss market, competition and major players.
The market for VPN and SmartDNS is big and competitive, so choosing the “best” provider is not an easy task.
Personally, I think it is very difficult to determine which provider is the best, or if “best” provider even exist.
The definition of “best” is usually a best fit for the client requirements, and while a provider may provide the best result for one client,
the result may be different for another, depending on speed, ISP, connection settings, and so on.
Best known for their smartDNS service Blockless provides a friendly, super easy service to setup and use.
Early in 2016 Blockless has also launched a VPN service that provides the same user interface, and experience.
A major added value of Blockless is the “Safe Guard” feature that blocks ads and popups without the need to install any browser add-ons.
Say bye bye to adult entertainment ads in shopping sites (or any other place for that matter).
When I needed help setting up Blockless on my home betwork I got an excellent service, both on the technical level and on the time it took the find a solution.
Blockless is the service I use myself and I highly recommend it (as you know already I do not recommend services I don’t know firsthand).
I found it to be the easiest to setup, and the one that had the smallest footprint on my Internet connection in terms of slowing down my browsing speed.
For a detailed review on Blockless service, FAQ’s and video guides check out “Spotlight on Blockless“, at the Spotlight section.
However, if you remember what I said earlier about the “best” provider I recognize that so many good recommendations on the Internet for this provider must be based on solid grounds.
While I will leave it to you to decide which service better fit your needs, I do hope that by now you have better understanding of what VPN and SmartDNS really are, and what are your options for setting them up.
Both VPN and SmartDNS have the ability to unlock Geo-restricted content by simulating your location.
SmartDNS will affect only Geo-restricted content (mostly media-streaming). It will not slow down your Internet speed, but will not provide additional level of security either.
VPN will affect all of your Internet usage, allowing you to enjoy region specific offers also on online shopping sites (including flight tickets and show tickets) in addition to unlocking Geo-restricted content and providing an extra layer of security and anonymity.
But keep in mind that all these perks come with a cost of a slower Internet connection. How much slower? That depends on your location and VPN provider.
For a detailed review on my own personal favorite service “Blockless” please visit the Spotlight on Blockless page.
Legal note: Links in this post are affiliate links.
If you choose to buy or subscribe to a paid service from them after clicking on a link in this post, I share some revenue.