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Expats and establishing a VPN
It sounds a little strange, but we recommend that every expatriate and traveller who is going to use the internet extensively while travelling or living overseas should obtain a VPN service. VPN stands for "Virtual Private Network" and we describe below what it is and why we think it is a necessity.
What is a VPN
A VPN provides an individual with access to a secure network within the Internet - effectively encrypting all data you effectively establish a "tunnel" through the Internet to your designated server - with data within the tunnel unable to be accessed. Designated servers will often be located in a variety of countries, outside your country of residence, and you will have the flexibility to choose the most appropriate server.
What are the advantages of VPN?
In practice, your ISP has access to details regarding all your Internet browsing. This is not so problematic in developed countries but in many developing countries people would be stunned at the lack of privacy and how easy it can be to access records of any type - whether it be banking or your ISP. VPN encrypts all your data traffic and provides additional privacy, with your local ISP un able to track your web browsing. Note that your browsing history may be retained on your designated VPN server and you should consider the privacy laws of the country in which it is located when determining what server to use.
Many countries block certain websites and activities. Examples include access to Skype in a number of countries in the Middle East and a range of websites if you are travelling or based in China. Using a VPN can often avoid these restrictions, although you need to be mindful of local laws and regulations.
3. Wireless security
Expatriates and travelers often use wireless broadband in public places, such as hotels and airports. Using VPN increases your security in these situations by encrypting your data and greatly reducing the chances of interception.
4. Watching TV/Geographically Blocked services
It is quite common for a variety of services to only be available in certain geographical areas - for example, you may not be able to access certain UK or US television programs unless the server, looking at your incoming server address (IP number), believes you are resident in the UK or US. Effectively, by choosing one of a number of a servers located around the world, you can appear to be in these countries for the purposes of these services.
Choosing a VPN Providing
We do not claim to be an expert in VPN technology, but the factors we think are important in selecting a VPN provider are:
1. Supporting your platform - ensure that the provider supports your operating system, for example Windows/Mac/Linux
2. Durability - ensure the provider as a solid history, remembering that VPN's are a relatively new offering
3. Geographical scope - that the provider offers a range of available servers in different countries
4. Service - provides prompt and knowledgeable response to chat or e-mail inquiries, and
In our situation, we have opted for PureVPN, who have servers located in 15 countries including Australia. Like all technologies there is a learning curve, but we found the access quite simple and at times invaluable.