Before I moved to China, I didn’t know much about using a VPN to change my IP address. I didn’t know about anonymous surfing, side jacking, packet sniffing, or unblocking sites. Being in China kind of forced me to learn about these things.
In case you didn’t know, the internet here is totally messed up. Nothing works right. Though most people know that the government blocks sites about democracy and “Free Tibet” type stuff, it’s hard to imagine just how much the internet is crippled here. Software download sites, personal blogs, Gmail, YouTube, Facebook, and tons of other stuff has just been wiped off the board all in the name of “national security”. But that’s another story.
I own a couple websites, and I soon found out that much of the online tools I was used to having access to were blocked. Google Analytics, WordPress, Facebook and YouTube being blocked meant that making a decent blog post and tracking traffic to the site was impossible.
So I looked into it. Lots of people recommended proxies, but so far, the Chinese government has been pretty successful at blocking proxy sites here. So I looked into changing my IP with a VPN.
Virtual private networks are like a step up from proxies. They actually work very differently, but the point is that they change your IP. The difference that matters is that a VPN has better security and a more reliable connection.
You might not be in China, but the point is that if you want to change your IP address, a VPN is the way to go. With a VPN, you can choose from different countries around the world. From wherever you are, you can get a US IP address and access Hulu. You can get a Canadian IP address and watch Hockey Night in Canada. You can’t do that with web based proxies. And open proxies? Forget about it – do you really want to trust you private information to a server admin who bears no responsibility to you whatsoever?
If the security features of a VPN can outwit Big Brother in China, you can be that it’s going to keep you hidden as you share music and movies over P2P. It’ll get you access to Netflix from anywhere in The World. It’ll keep you safe from identity theft on public networks, and prevent local government/private organizations from spying on your online activity, whatever it may be.
Ok, so there are tons of VPN services out there. What I’ve learned over the years is that there are a few main players that you can stick with – bigger VPN companies that can provide you with anything that a smaller VPN service can. The only advantage of a smaller VPN service would perhaps be price, but that’s not always true.
Top VPN services have better customer support, more features, more discounts, more servers, more bandwidth, and happier customers. Here are some popular services to get you started – I’ve tried them all, and they’re all pretty good.
This is one of the most popular VPN services in the world. It’s been blocked in quite a few countries because of its popularity, so if you’re in The Middle East or Asia you might not be able to access it. If you can, GET THIS ONE! Really. In just the last couple months they’ve added 4 counties and over a thousand IP addresses, and they’re still growing. As of Dec 2011 they have servers in 37 countries and over 22,000 IP addresses. Ten times more than other services.
Ok, so maybe you don’t care about having a Peruvian IP address. Most of their IPs are in The US anyway, and they have quite a few in The UK as well. These two locations are the most popular because these countries have very few restrictions.
In addition to a VPN service, they also have free stuff.
Even if you don’t know what all this stuff is, its worth checking out, seeing as it’s FREE. They have PPTP, L2TP, and OpenVPN for Mac, Linux, Windows, Android, and iOS.
>>> Go To Hide My Ass
This is another big VPN site. There’s lots of flashing lights and moving parts to their website, so it takes a bit of exploration to find what you need, but believe me, it’s there. The cool thing is that they can recommend a VPN package based on your current location, and what kind of IP address you’re looking for. They also have super cheap plans for users who are just looking for basic VPN services (starting at $55 per year – the cheapest around)
The thing I don’t like about StrongVPN is that they only let you switch servers two or three times a month, unless you pay more, but maybe that just says something about the reliability of their servers! Their basic plans have American and UK servers, and you can upgrade for more server choices. Live support is a major plus, and they’re always around (24 hour live support)
>>> Go to StrongVPN
This is a smaller VPN service, but the cool thing about 12VPN is that they have great customer service. They’re really on the ball, and work hard to help you through any problems you may have. Another important thing about 12VPN is that they offer options that many other VPN services simply can’t. I’ll be the first to admit, that I don’t understand all of them, but there’s stuff like port forwarding, military grade encryption, and various lesser used VPN protocols for black sheep who just aren’t into your standard Android/iOS Mac/Windows operating systems. $79 dollars per year for VPN servers in 10 US cities is a great price too.