VPN / Smart DNS
What is a VPN?
A VPN, or virtual private network, is a service that allows you to connect to the Internet via a server run by a VPN provider. All data traveling between a VPN server and your computer, phone, or tablet is securely encrypted, so not only can you access global content from anywhere, your privacy is also protected from hackers, snoops, and your Internet service provider. This encryption also makes it safe to use otherwise vulnerable public Wi-Fi networks.
How does a VPN work?
Basically, a VPN serves as a ‘go between’ for connecting you to the Internet. Anything on your computer that connects to the Internet will do so through the VPN: games, email, music apps, whatever. It’s all encrypted and routed through the VPN. This illustration shows how a VPN works:
What is a Smart DNS proxy?
A Smart DNS proxy is a type of internet server you can connect to which fakes your location. A Smart DNS proxy allows you to access content that is restricted in the country you are actually in.
How does a Smart DNS proxy work?
Smart DNS proxies change your Domain Name System (DNS) settings so websites you visit think you’re in the right location to access their content. The DNS is the bit that translates human addresses like www.google.com into internet protocol (I.P.) addresses computers can understand, like “188.8.131.52”. It’s handled by specialized DNS servers that are usually run by your Internet Service Provider. Normally, the location of the DNS server you use helps to pick a company server (in this case Google) that is nearby so you get better speeds and relevant services — but it can also be used to stop you from accessing a service. A smart DNS gets you around that. A Smart DNS doesn’t actually change your own IP address. Instead a Smart DNS proxy will connect you to a DNS server that appears to be local and will trick a service into unlocking for you. This illustration shows how a Smart DNS works:
Smart DNS vs. VPN
Even though some of the functions of Smart DNS and VPNs (virtual private networks) overlap, they are quite different.
- Lightweight and fast as does it not use complicated encryption protocols like VPNs do;
- Usually a cheaper option than a VPN;
- Can be used to access geo-blocked content.
- Does not provide secure encryption;
- Cannot hide your IP, so you can still be tracked by your service provider;
- More complicated to set up for non-experienced users;
- Quality DNS services can cost as much as or more than a VPN but won’t provide as many benefits.
If you want a Smart DNS service, consider getting NordVPN. Our VPN comes with a Smart DNS service built-in.
- Fully protects your traffic by encrypting your data so that hackers, surveillance agencies and ISPs can’t see it;
- Grants anonymity by changing your IP so you can’t be tracked;
- Can be used to access geo-blocked content;
- Premium VPNs are very easy to set up;
- VPN providers offer lots of additional functions, including malware protection, automatic kill switches, etc.
- More expensive;
- Marginally slower as it provides full encryption and IP change.
Which should I use, a VPN or Smart DNS?
When comparing DNS and VPN services, you should consider the following:
- Online video streaming. DNS is a better option due to its lightweight nature. It does not use encryption so you can enjoy the full speed of your standard internet connection. However, keep in mind that VPNs don’t always slow down your connection;
- Working in a government-restricted environment. Only VPNs can grant you full protection and anonymity. Smart DNS also cannot bypass firewalls;
- Handling sensitive data. Unlike DNS, VPNs encrypt your traffic, making it safe from man-in-the-middle attacks.
UK TV and VPNs and Smart DNS
The UK TV Catch-up iPlayer services are indented for use in the UK only. Access to On Demand and Catch Up TV in Spain from other countries will be blocked. This blocking is “policed” by checking your internet IP address. Spanish IP addresses will be blocked from connecting to these On Demand and Catch Up TV in Spain.
The only way to connect to these UK TV Catch-up iPlayer services on a Sky Digibox or Freesat set top box in Spain, is by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) or SMART DNS service that allows you to connect to the internet using a UK internet server.
Our recommended VPN Services
Our recommended Smart DNS Services