When it comes to bypassing country based restrictions and the annoying media blocks used by the world’s biggest online companies – it used to be a choice between proxies and VPNs.   Basically these were servers that sat between you and the web site you wanted to visit which could hide your real location.

The way it worked was that if you wanted to watch for example the UK only BBC iPlayer from the US, then you’d need to route your connection through an intermediate server based in the UK.  That way you IP address would appear to be based in the UK, and the BBC would work.  It was the same for thousands of other sites ranging from Hulu, Pandora to ABC and NBC, however you had to change  the location of the server in the middle to match the content you wanted to watch.

Over the years, proxies have basically stopped working for most of these sites as they are too easily detected.  The only major media site that doesn’t block proxies is now probably the BBC who don’t seem that worried about restricting access to their UK only web site.  Most others like Hulu and Netflix will detect and block access if you use a simple proxy server, only an encrypted VPN will suffice.

A VPN will still work today and as long as it is configured correctly should allow you access to any site you wish.  The problem is that it routes all your connection even when you don’t need to be rerouted, meaning that there’s lots of disconnecting and reconnecting going on.  There is also a performance hit due to location and the encryption layer which is required.

So here we have a new alternative – Smart DNS (read this) which works in a slightly different way.  Your traffic is still rerouted through another server but only the traffic located for identifying your location.  Which means that all your other traffic is unaffected – watch this video for a demonstration.

The advantage is obvious, the impact on your network connection is negligible as only a small part of the network stream is redirected. This is particularly useful for rerouting high quality video over slower network connections. It can also be used to switch locales easier – like this switch American DNS for Netflix. This means that you can use you single Netflix account to access the different variants all over the world, and potentially thousands more shows and movies for the same cost.