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There’s a whole world of content out there waiting to be watched, but not everything can be easily viewed or accessed online, especially if you’re trying to watch something from a different country. That’s where a good VPN (Virtual Private Network) comes in.
No matter which streaming service you subscribe to, a VPN lets you log in (legally) to other countries’ servers, opening up hundreds of new shows and movies for you to view and discover.
But how does a VPN work and how do you get a VPN online? Here’s everything you need to know about streaming online using a VPN and how to find the best VPN for you.
What is a VPN?
A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, guards, protects, and hides your data whenever you’re online. With a VPN, you’ll be able to use the internet anonymously, while your personal information is protected and your location is hidden.
Originally, it was mostly businesses and governments that used VPNs, as they had employees logging in from all over the globe, and needed to keep data secure and private. But nowadays, VPNs are available to anyone, and expanding streaming services are just one advantage they offer, with the biggest being a serious boost in security.
As our devices become interconnected and hackers’ tools gets better, we strongly recommend everyone with an internet connection use a VPN if you’re not already.
How Does a VPN work?
Every time you send out information online, a VPN creates a secure pathway, guarding your data so others can’t see or steal it.
Normally when you visit a website, your device communicates with their server, which then responds back with loading the site you want. But with a VPN, an extra secure step is added – first your device sends information to the VPN’s server, and then on to the website’s server. It may seem like adding an extra step is making the process more complicated, but there are a host of benefits to this, even besides the obvious one of beefed-up security.
Here’s what else to keep in mind when looking for the best VPN online.
Location: One of the perks a VPN provides is hiding your location, and this is a huge advantage when it comes to streaming sites. Most of the big ones like Netflix have limited content you can access in your country. But now, you can reroute to a VPN server in other countries, making the streaming site think you’re there. With this, you’ll be able to watch shows and movies from all over the planet, and find favorites you didn’t even know were available before.
And it’s not just for streaming either – changing your location is a major advantage when booking flights and hotels, as their rates often change depending on where they see you’re connecting from. Every connected device has an IP address, or a unique sequence of numbers, sort of like an online license plate. But using a VPN will mask that IP address, freeing you up to be anonymous in the eyes of any site you go to. Depending on if you’re connecting via a local server, or from a different country, the prices of things can be far less than with just a regular connection from your home turf. Not only can sites not see what country you’re in, but they also won’t be able to see the specific address you’re currently at, all because you went through the VPN server first.
This works in reverse too: When you’re traveling in other countries, and want to get on to a site from your home country that’s blocked, a VPN lets you effortlessly get around that blockage.
Privacy: Without a VPN, websites have full view of your information, and hackers have the chance to grab data being sent between you and the website you’re going to. Whether it’s just harmless demographic statistics or important personal info like banking account numbers and passwords, a VPN is an instant barrier from others seeing it. This won’t make it totally impossible for your data to be intercepted, but it does make it significantly more difficult. Plus thanks to the data being encrypted, even if someone does get a hold of it, they may not even be able to read it. This is vitally important for wherever you’re connecting from, but especially anywhere with public WiFi like airports, hotels and coffee shops.
What Are the Disadvantages to Using a VPN?
Overall, a VPN is a huge advantage for anyone, and is becoming more of a necessity than a luxury. It’s possible that a VPN connection, since it’s re-routed through another server and creating an extra step, can make your internet speed a bit slower. This happens way more on the free VPNs out there, whereas the ones with a monthly fee have found ways to keep the speeds fast and lag/latency barely even noticeable, only really ever occurring when streaming live events. And switching to a more local server can help to fix this if it happens.
Are VPNs Legal?
In the U.S. and most of the world, yes, VPNs are 100% legal. However this doesn’t mean illegal activity is allowed just because you’re using a VPN. Things like downloading copyrighted material, hacking, and torrenting – if they’re already illegal in your country – are still just as illegal when using a VPN.
How Much Does a VPN Cost?
The price of a VPN will vary depending on providers and plans, but on average with a yearly plan, VPNs can be as cheap as $3 per month. Some free options are available, but you’ll often be limited to one device, only a few countries, and drops in connection speeds.
VPNs are available for just about all devices and operating systems, and installation is simple no matter your tech savviness, with no extra equipment or coding knowledge needed.
How Do I Sign Up for a VPN?
Signing up for a VPN online is easy and generally doesn’t require any additional hardware for home and mobile use. The more important part is picking the right VPN for you and your needs. We found two of the best VPNs online that you can sign up for easily and securely from home.
ExpressVPN vs. Nord VPN Reviews
Two of the best VPN services online are ExpressVPN and Nord VPN. Both are available to purchase securely online, boast strong reviews, and are suitable for even VPN beginners to set up and understand. Here’s what else to know when comparing ExpressVPN vs. Nord VPN.
ExpressVPN is one of the best VPN services online, period. Their service keeps up with the latest in security, and they are always updating their design to be clear and clean for anyone to use. Their download and installation process takes just minutes, you’ll be able to use five devices simultaneously. Their apps also make using a VPN with your router especially easy – a huge advantage over configuring it manually, which can be a frustrating and time consuming process.
A subscription to ExpressVPN starts at just $9.99 a month with a 30-day money-back guarantee. All plans include all ExpressVPN apps, 24/7 customer support, and high-speed unlimited bandwidth.
Nord VPN also proved to be trustworthy and user-friendly, with up to six devices on one account no matter the operating system being used, and even more if installing it on your router. Pricing to Nord VPN is cheaper if you break it down by month, averaging out to just over $4 a month (a savings of 65% versus paying month to month). However, you’ll have to sign-up for a two-year plan to get the $4 a month deal. Like ExpressVPN, your Nord VPN subscription also comes with great customer service, fast connection speeds and a money-back guarantee.
ExpressVPN vs. Nord VPN: Features, Speed, Compatibility
You’ll get Split Tunneling on both ExpressVPN and Nord VPN, giving you the ability to label which sites you want to use with your local IP address, while using a foreign server for others. You can do this all at the same time, and both VPNs will remember your settings every time you’re online.
When it comes to speed, we like ExpressVPN. The Lightway tunneling protocol, unique to ExpressVPN, can connect up to 2.5 times faster than standard, older protocols used by other services, like IKEV2 and OpenVPN. Lightway’s connection is strong and reliable, with way fewer drops, with the ability to automatically reconnect in case of a network error.
This is endlessly helpful on mobile devices, and when the network comes back, ExpressVPN is already on, ready to go. It makes connecting to servers lightning-fast, and switching between them can be done in less than a second. Plus if you ever run into an issue with a server, ExpressVPN has more than 3,000 to choose from, so you’ll always be able to switch.
NordVPN, by comparison, has more than 5,200 servers worldwide, making it easy to get on the network, but both are great when it comes to watching content. NordVPN’s SmartPlay is ideal for safely streaming while on public or unrestricted WiFi, while ExpressVPN’s Media Streamer feature lets you use your VPN on devices that don’t normally support them, such as TV-based services like AppleTV.
ExpressVPN vs. Nord VPN: Which One Is More Secure?
But what matters most is security and privacy. ExpressVPN’s AES 256 encryption is outstanding, and the company has passed multiple independent audits – their Android app was even ioXt certified (the Global Standard for IoT Security) for things like password protection, cryptography strength, encryption of network traffic, and default security features – an honor reserved for only the best.
They were the first to use trusted RAM-only servers instead of hard drive servers, all privately owned by the company, which can only store data for short periods (and are wiped clean every time they’re reset), adding another level to protecting your personal info. There’s even have a “Bug Bounty” program, encouraging users to identify and report errors and weaknesses in the software so they can be patched up quickly.
NordVPN brings its A-game with security too. They have a strict “No-Logs” rule that promises not to collect, keep or share your data, as well as masking your IP address (and having a dedicated IP address specifically for you and your account), multi-factor authentication, buffering-free live-streaming, and layers upon layers of included protection.
Both are available for customer support 24/7, always there to answer your questions, help you troubleshoot, and solve any issues. A VPN is a service that we seriously suggest everyone get, as the line between all our online and IRL existences becomes increasingly blurred, and hackers are always looking for an opportunity. For the amount of time we spend connected to the internet, it’s an affordable way to instantly increase access to a world of content, staying safe and worry-free while enjoying endless new streaming options from around the planet.