Everybody has now heard of a proxy or VPN but which one is better for expats?
As an expat you will have specific needs relating to an online proxy. Usually expats will most likely need a proxy to unblock region restricted TV content. Although, also, increasingly people are turning to proxies to defend oneself from hackers out of fear of becoming a victim to the infamous global malware virus's that the media has been covering.
But which is better or just the minimal you should have? A HTTP proxy or one of the new powerful VPNs being advertised around the web?
Why do expats use proxies?
Everybody at some stage has seen a thumbnail to a YouTube video you want to watch only to click on the link and arrive on the page to find a message saying that this video is blocked where you are located.
Sometimes video creators will restrict their video from you being able to see it in the country you are in due to a simple privacy reason such as they don't want family seeing their silly escapades. Although, more commonly, this is done in an automated fashion by Youtube itself at the bequest of music or film studios who do not want their commercial videos being free available in that area.
Expats suffer from this with increased frequency in recent years as sites such as iPlayer are funded by the British taxpayer. Although, any taxpayer I have ever spoken to, and I have spoken to thousands of course as an owner of this website, will tell you to feel free to use iPlayer as they don't mind people abroad watching the live and catch up TV abroad.
This is when people usually look for a method to circumvent this legally and find advice online directing them to try and find a good proxy or VPN.
However, the reason to choose ether of the two programmes are not immediately obvious and we seek to explain it to you further. Starting by explaining what each of them is, what the difference between them is in simple laymen terms and also what the differences are in what you can use them for and what the benefits are of each.
What is a Proxy?
The word proxy means "to act on behalf of another," and a proxy server acts on behalf of the user. All requests from clients to the Internet go to the proxy server first. The proxy evaluates the request, and if allowed, re-establishes it on the outbound side to the Internet. Likewise, responses from the Internet go to the proxy server to be evaluated. The proxy then relays the message to the client. Both client and server think they are communicating with one another, but, in fact, are dealing only with the proxy.
Proxies in common English to expats would usually be when one votes by-proxy as they can not be in the UK during the time of a general election. As a technical computer term it is used to describe a method of connecting to a HTTP address anonymously on the internet in the form of a URL. Such as the one displayed in your browser as you view this page. Although, via a 3rd-party server acting as the proxy.
Basically, you request a URL from a middleman server and that server will fetch the content you want and pass it to you. This is a great way to bypass geographic location blocking as the page you want will think you are accessing it from the server rather than from the location you are really at.
Therefore, if you are accessing a web page via proxy with a UK IP address then the website target will think you yourself are in the UK and open its gates to you to allow you to get the British TV you wanted.
What is a VPN?
When you connect your computer (or another device, such as a smartphone or tablet) to a VPN, the computer acts as if it’s on the same local network as the VPN. All your network traffic is sent over a secure connection to the VPN. Because your computer behaves as if it’s on the network, this allows you to securely access local network resources even when you’re on the other side of the world.
In 2016 sites such as iPlayer and Youtube developed a way of detecting proxies as they were forced by copyright laws to make more effort to secure content that was supposed to be only for folks in certain countries to access. They put in their web software a simple means to do this by only allow the server requesting the data to view it.
As a way to step up their game and solve the challenge people where now having proxy developers created something called a VPN (Virtual Private Network). These VPNs are more advanced than a simple web proxy. Instead of allowing you to request the data from one server and have that server send it back to you. They allow you to view the data as if it were on the requesting server. This bypasses the proxy detection software of the video platforms and restores ones ability to view the TV they love again without being hindered by annoying content blocking.
Where a proxy will usually just be a plugin in a browser that the data is passed through, a VPN actually is different in that it is a software package you download that encrypts the data being sent to and from the entire PC. This stops any blocking as the data can not be read by any third party so there is no way for the target website to know whether you are then viewing the video streams in the UK or Cambodia, for example.
The main Reason you can't now just use a proxy but need a VPN.
Web developers for big companies are often PHD graduates from top universities with millions of Pounds at their disposal and a simple web proxy won't fool the protections they have created. There is a fatal flaw with only using a proxy when trying to watch a bit of Eastenders or a top sporting game from the UK.
Whilst a proxy may be good when it comes to unblocking text on a page it fails hard when it comes to video such as the BBC One live channel and here is why. Why you may have given yourself access to a page you could have access to at all before that contains text and why even though you can now access the page and the text you still can't get the video to play.
Since, the web players that will be on video sites often have a big library of code that could hide other programs, that code itself may contain location detection. So it is important to make sure your whole PC has changed its IP address and not just the browser. That is where a VPN comes in. Because A video player with location detection will know the IP address of your machine and not just the IP address your browser is passing data through.
See, video plays on your PC itself and not just in the browser even though it looks like it is in the browser. This is because it is using code installed on your machine, usually FLASH, and not just the code that is in the browser. Because of this it knows both your general local device IP and not just your proxied browser IP.
This is how the pesky "VIDEO BLOCKED WHERE YOU LIVE" message is blocking you watching that performance from your favorite British actor or presenter you so desperately wanted to experience. Even though you managed to install something already in your Chrome or Firefox.
Why a VPN is better than a proxy?
Of course, just with any solution, especially as it gets more advanced, there are pros and cons to using a VPN over a proxy.
Proxies quickly became the norm and were snapped up by Brits travelling or living abroad as they were an easy to install and often free browser plugin advertised in all app stores. Whether it was for PC or smartphones.
This ease of use and common availability led to most expats using a VPN to access TV abroad on a routine basses. In fact, most people stayed connected via the plugin even when they were not watching programmes as they would change from site to site so often and simply leaving it connected saved time rather than having to go to it and switching it on/off all the time.
VPNs can take a bit more time to make ready as one has to download them and install them locally on the device being used to transmit and decode internet data but once installed they work seamlessly and don't usually require switching on or off. This is because where a proxy is free so often oversubscribed and public a VPN is a private network where only paying customers can use. This makes them more exclusive and therefore you get a better speed with VPNS.
Since VPNs actually use military grade strength encryption they also stop anybody else spying on the data you are sending or receiving and that adds value to the software as people increasingly become aware from the news of danger with all the reports of people stealing credit card info by snooping or even criminals embedding malware on your machine by implanting it in the data stream or shows you may download as torrents.
The recent high profile news reports have been particularly concerning as they attack a person's machine and lock it so that they can only use it again if they pay the hijacker money. Even targeting essential emergency services thus showing how ruthlessly discriminating they can be.
The ruthless high-profile nature of the attacks has increased demand for proxing technology and of course people's the interest in what they are and how to use them effectively. Some things we certainly seek to help you with on this website.
Since an attacker can't know your real IP address they can't single-out your machine and therefore even if they did manage to install something on your device they would never be able to instruct the malware to execute its deadly payload.
So we have seen that a proxy server is a computer we can pass data through usually from a browser plugin and a VPN is normally software that we can download and install in order to connect to a network that is fetching the shows we love.
Similar concept of course but the important thing to know and understand for expats is that a VPN does a similar thing to a proxy but the difference is that the VPN solution is more modern and advanced despite doing something technically similar.
Similar in basic concept but proxifying all data you send and receive in the browser or otherwise, encrypting it so it can't be intercepted by nefarious agents or scripts and also giving you access to it in a manner that will allow it to play even as video on your own computer.
Which should I use
We recommend using a VPN rather to start watching British TV abroad than a free proxied browser extension as the solution for your TV watching abroad challenges simply as it is there is more features and it will get all of the TV you like.
Since there is such demand for this there are of course several providers you can get one from. If you would like to know which one we use and has the best feedback from our thousands of expat friends then please see the link below.
Aa it is otherwise a complicated process to create such software and execute a good intuitive graphical user interface we chose the one mentioned as it has the easiest front-end to use, works with the most sites and also has a free monthly allowance for lite use. For you to try before you buy or if you just want to watch a few shows before coming back to the UK.
Is it Legal to Access TV Abroad with a Proxified Connection.
The things to consider here are; You are not in that jurisdiction. You are not breaking any copyright laws by viewing something out of the original country it was intended for and millions of people do this every day with no recourse. IE, it is fine. In fact, it even saves lives by protecting people from both draconian states and also creepy stalkers.