What is VPN?
The letters V P N stand for Virtual Private Network which is a computer networking term for creating a private network to secure your internet activity and data. It is extremely useful for it’s main purpose of hiding and securing your internet activity.
Did you know – your internet service provider (ISP) can see everything that you do on the internet. Websites and online services that you use know exactly who and where you are and can track what you do. Using a VPN in Spain will encrypt all your internet activity. Your ISP will not have a clue what you are doing, and the sites you visit do not know where you are located.
In simple terms this is achieved by activating an VPN application on your device (laptop, phone, firestick, router etc.). Once activated and running (switched on) all your internet activity and data transmissions are encrypted and routed to the VPN server that you are connected to. This VPN server then processes all your traffic and dialogue with the sites and services that you use on the internet.
Many of us use our laptops, phones and tablets in public places, connecting to public WiFi or hotspots in bars and restaurants. This is all well and good and generally there is no security threat, however, when on these networks there are likely many other people connected on the same network. The data travelling between your device and the hotspot/bar/restaurant router can be intercepted and viewed by anyone else that is connected on the network, with limited computing knowledge. Connecting through a VPN when in these locations will mean that all your internet activity is encrypted and secure. Nobody can access or view anything.
Depending on the VPN service you subscribe to there will options of servers that you can connect to. This brings me to the second use for VPN, but the reason most people use a VPN. If you choose to connect your internet traffic to a UK located VPN server then all your internet traffic will appear as though it comes from the UK. If you connect to a Norwegian located VPN server all your internet traffic appears to come from Norway, and so on.. This is extremely useful for accessing geo-restricted websites and apps. Especially television content that is only allowed in the service country (e.g. BBC iPlayer), or gives different content based on your location (e.g. Netflix).
Using a VPN
As mentioned, the main use for a VPN, where we are in Spain, with such a large expat community, is to access the TV streaming and catch-up apps from other countries, expecially UK, Norway and Germany. Most VPN companies provide you with an app that allows you to turn the VPN on and off. There are apps available for PC (Windows), Mac, Android (Phones and Tablets) and iOS (iPhone/iPad). These apps allow access only from the device that has the VPN running, But what if you want the VPN to be active on your Smart TV or all devices connected on your home network.
Some smart TV’s run an Android based operating system and thankfully this is becoming more common. These TV’s are great because they allow you download and install the VPN app from the Play Store. But what if you have a Samsung TV, or an LG TV. These TV’s do not use android and there is no app for the VPN. In essence a VPN cannot be run on a Samsung or LG TV.
Some VPN providers allow you to enter your VPN credentials on your router. This means that every device you have connected on that network will pass through VPN encryption. This is possibly the best method of connecting a VPN. Devices such as Smart TV that cannot have a VPN installed locally will be covered. Installing VPN on your router is not that simple. Your ISP provided router will not have capability to install VPN. You will need to purchase a second VPN router that will fit between your devices and your ISP router. But, you cannot just buy any router. You must check what router setup your VPN provider supports.
Most VPN providers only support VPN on specialist “flashed” routers that use a DD-WRT or OpenVPN firmware. These are not “off the shelf” routers and can often be purchased through your VPN supplier for around 250€. A select few VPN providers will allow use of the VPN protocol PPTP/SSTP/LT2P. If this is allowed from your VPN you can purchase an off the shelf router that also supports this VPN function. These can be purchased for around 70€. They need to be configured to work with your VPN but once configured you can connect all your devices to the router to benefit from the security and location advantages.
Another option for people with Samsung or LG TV’s is the use of Smart DNS. Some of the main VPN providers also offer a Smart DNS service alongside their VPN. You can check this in your customer area. Smart DNS works by setting your compatible device to connect to the internet using a DNS server IP address. This IP address will be provided by your VPN provider and you will need to enter this into your device. This works with both LG and Samsung TV’s. You will need to whitelist your ISP provided IP Address with your VPN provider. Using this method will provide access to most online streaming services from the UK allowing you to watch UK TV in Spain, such as BBC iPlayer, ITV X, Channel 4 and Channel 5. It can be a bit “hit and miss” but generally works well.
OUR VPN SUMMARY
We have tried and tested many VPN’s in Spain that provide great security and allow access to geo-restricted content from UK, USA, Norway, Sweden, Netherlands and Germany. Some gave us better results than others. Of course use of a VPN is not a guarantee that you will get access to that content you want. But choosing a VPN provider that offers several VPN servers in each country will be a benefit. As mentioned, we have tried several different VPN providers, they all seem to work in their own way, but some had difficulty working with certain TV streaming services, or they do not offer Smart DNS, or they cannot offer VPN router setup using L2TP IPSec protocol. Our two recommended suppliers are as follows:
If you need assistance in deciding which VPN you should purchase, if you need help setting it up on your devices or installing your TV to receive regional content then we can help. Get in touch and we will find you the perfect solution.