What is a VPN, anyway?
A virtual private network (VPN) is a tool you can use to encrypt and hide your internet traffic from prying eyes, thus, protecting you from many cyber threats. It will give you a much higher level of anonymity, privacy, and security in many circumstances.
But, it also gives you the ability to access geo-blocked content and avoid some types of network restrictions. It’s easy to use and can be installed on all connected devices, such as smartphones, desktop computers, smart TVs, streaming devices, and even your router.
A VPN can be a great add-on when you want to enjoy movies on Disney+, watch TV shows on Star, or live sports on ESPN+. But each streaming service has its joys and challenges.
For example, if you are a Prime Video subscriber, you’ll need a VPN that works with that specific streaming service. That way, you’ll get a much better streaming experience and prevent any Amazon Prime blocking.
Why should you consider using a VPN for streaming?
Although watching or listening to streaming content may be accessible as hitting the play button, that’s not always the case. If you are a frequent user of these services, chances are you have already been through some bad experiences and frustration to a certain level.
Annoying pop-up ads, buffering, and low-resolution content are just part of the issues you have to face. Depending on your online habits, there can also be some security and privacy concerns, along with potential net neutrality and digital rights violations.
When searching for a way to watch a new release or live sports streaming, you may find yourself dealing with unknown and suspicious websites. Before you have time to realize and back off, you’ve already put yourself at risk.
Free streaming sites may seem a great way to watch videos. However, they can also expose you to many threats, such as malware, viruses, and phishing.
Streaming services and websites may also evoke privacy concerns. Whether they are free or subscription-based, they are constantly collecting data about your sessions and browsing activity.
Internet service providers usually throttle the connection down for streaming traffic. There are still a few providers out there who offer real unlimited bandwidth, but they are becoming less and less prevalent.
Streaming video over a VPN has many benefits. One of the most important is that it can help you get around ISP throttling and their “unlimited” bandwidth plans.
Poor quality audio and video
Watching videos on the internet in a convenient way can sometimes be challenging. Most of the time, having a fast internet connection on your side is not enough.
If the website you are using isn’t committed to higher service standards, you may experience below the average quality. It can ruin the whole streaming experience.
ISP data retention
Some inherent downsides of internet browsing apply to streaming, as well. Most of us don’t get acquainted with how much data trackers constantly collect about us. Your internet service provider (ISP), and other third parties involved, can see what you’re watching, for how long, from where, and when, among much other data publicly available.
Usually, ISPs keep track of your browsing habits and store this data on their servers for marketing purposes. That’s right; they sell data about your browsing activities and history and monetize on it.
Certain movies or shows are not available to customers in some countries. That happens typically because studios are unwilling to pay big money to license content in a market that probably won’t do well commercially.
On the other hand, you may be blocked out from streaming platforms you already paid for when you try to use them from abroad.
Some governments might deem specific services and content illegal due to restrictive laws and political reasons. If you live in or spend time in countries with oppressive and authoritative regimes, you may find yourself unable to access some sites like Youtube and Vimeo, for example.
In many cases, you may face blocks and restrictions on public Wi-Fi networks when accessing some web services and websites. That is especially common in schools, universities, and workplaces. They do this to control what content you’re allowed to consume or regulate network usage in terms of bandwidth.
So, depending on the venue policy, users may not access social media and entertainment sites. For instance, these particular concerns include Facebook, HBO Go, FuboTV, and similar sites.
Now that you know the most common problems and risks you have to deal with while streaming content, it’s time to talk about their causes and how a VPN can help.
What are the benefits of streaming with a VPN?
The benefits of using a VPN for streaming purposes are many. They range from avoiding network restrictions and accessing geo-restricted content to enhancing your privacy and overall streaming performance. A higher-level VPN can improve your streaming experience significantly.
That’s why using a streaming VPN use is becoming increasingly popular these days. Below, you’ll find a list of seven advantages this approach can provide you.
1. Take full advantage of your internet connection
When enjoying your favorite shows on your Amazon Fire TV or smartphone, you don’t want to be bothered by connection issues. With a stable VPN, you can get around these issues and allow your device to enjoy the full potential of your broadband.
Unstable connections and buffering can turn your streaming time into a really frustrating experience. Whether you need to watch TV series, live sports events, or attend business video meetings and online courses, these issues can cause significant problems.
Usually, these kinds of problems are related to ISP throttling. That’s a way for internet providers to regulate the network capacity by restricting connections associated with, for example, streaming traffic.
VPNs can help by providing a private tunnel between your computer and the internet, thus, hiding your traffic data from your ISP. That way, the internet provider won’t have a clue about what you are doing online. A solid VPN lets you bypass those speed penalties by making your traffic encrypted and watching your favorite videos conveniently without lag or buffering.
2. Access local content from abroad
It happens all the time. People travel to foreign counties for business, leisure, or whatever reason. But when they try to watch that anticipated sports match or binge on the series they started watching back home, they get a message telling them that content is restricted to their country.
That sucks, especially when you have already paid for that streaming service.
A VPN can quickly help you with that, as long as it has servers within your country. All you’ll have to do is to turn the VPN on and choose the correct location. This way, it’ll look like you were browsing from your home country, thus, getting around the issue.
3. Unblock geo-restricted content
VPNs allow you to access geo-restricted content only available for foreign customers. And there are lots of content out there. Endless streaming libraries with exclusive content and even free services, like BBC iPlayer for UK users, could also be available to you.
Even if you turn off your device’s GPS, streaming platforms can tell where you are browsing from based on your current IP address. A good VPN can help you hide your IP, switching it for another one. Depending on the locations your VPN provider has to offer, you can get an IP from wherever you want.
With IPs from different locations at hand, you can access content from other countries and regions instantly. Actually, you can use a VPN to access online content from anywhere worldwide, as long as it has a server there.
4. Bypass censored content and web services
A VPN offers a secure encrypted tunnel between your devices and the internet. It encrypts your traffic, thus, making it indistinguishable for people trying to read through data. You can use it to bypass content restrictions and service blocks imposed by authoritarian governments.
Simply put, censors typically block traffic coming from specific websites, like a social media site and a news portal. So, if they cannot tell what is in your traffic data, they won’t block you only based on that type of criteria.
One crucial piece of advice: if you are in a country with strict laws, it is vital to get familiar with local policies and regulations before performing any activity that could put you in trouble.
5. Avoid blocks on school and corporate networks
Similarly, if you get blocked on your school or workplace, VPNs can offer work around it. It will allow you to both change your current blocked IP and encrypt your data from now on.
So, the next time you try to access streaming services at work or school, their network restriction system won’t be able to identify you or your online activity.
6. Hide your streaming activities from your ISP
VPN’s are great for many reasons. The main reason is to keep your internet activity private and secure. You can be sure that your browsing habits are being tracked online. And much likely, your traffic data is being collected by your internet service provider (ISP). Using a VPN can help you avoid this level of exposure.
VPN is a great tool to protect your privacy and limit the amount of information you give away when streaming or engaged in other online activities.
7. Get better subscription deals on paid streaming services
For commercial and corporate reasons, companies use to deploy a tactic called price discrimination. It means they charge different prices from their customers based on some pre-defined criteria. So, if customers access an e-commerce site from a particular country, for instance, with a higher average wage, they can be charged higher prices.
If you fall under that rule, you can use a VPN to change your apparent location for another one, where lower charges apply.
What to look for when choosing a VPN to use with streaming?
There are so many different VPN providers out there that it’s hard to choose which one you should use with your favorite streaming service. Unfortunately, most of them have the same problem: they can sometimes be slow or choppy during streaming sessions. That’s why it is essential to know where to look for it.
In general, suitable streaming VPN providers have a common ground in terms of the features they offer. A minimum requirements package usually include:
- unlimited bandwidth;
- fast connection speeds;
- a well-spread server network worldwide;
- above the average unblocking capabilities;
- broad OS support (Windows, macOS, Android, iOS).
That is an excellent way to find the best VPN to work with your streaming services.
Beyond that general set of features for streaming VPNs, some companies are more focused on streaming users than others. Some will offer a broader array of services and countries they work in. Some will develop additional features or deploy dedicated servers for streaming purposes.
If you can find a VPN that goes this extra mile, chances are you’ll feel even better with your choice at the end of the day.
A matter of time and subscription plans
If you want to use a VPN continuously, you should go for at least a 12-month plan. Choosing long-term subscriptions is a good approach as you can get huge discounts of up to 80%. Furthermore, a VPN service can bring many other benefits to your digital life.
If you don’t know yet if you are ready to commit to a VPN provider for an extended period, don’t worry. Many VPNs offer money-back guarantee trials, so you can test the service to see if it works as expected before sticking to it. Those usually range from just a few to 45 days.
But if you need a quick solution to watch a show premiere or tonight’s sports match, you can pick one of these great streaming VPN options. They are not just big names. These tools work with a broad spectrum of streaming services and TV channels. They have plenty of servers around the world and deliver fast speeds.
On top of that, you can take advantage of an up to 30-day money-back guarantee trial period with each one of them, which is basically a free trial. It’s a no-brainer even if you need a solution in a hurry.
They will also do great at most VPN tasks you may need them for in daily life.