Globetrotting isn’t easy, especially if you’re not living on the team’s salary. Between the homesickness, jet lag, awful airplane “food,” rude fellow travelers and hectic schedule, it’s the little things that come to be appreciated. After a long day getting from point A to point B or C, maybe even D, there’s nothing quite like being able to plop down in a hotel room, flip open the trusty lappy, and pick your favorite show off the Instant Queue.
That is until you find you’ve been blocked. Then follows the torment of browsing through whatever low end cable has been advertised for your room and hoping, praying, that there’s something on to distract you from the fact that you won’t be able to sleep tonight because you napped too much on the plane. Restricted access to sites like Hulu, Netflix, Pandora and many others occur mainly due to copyright issues.
Because consumers, especially paying ones, have little patience for such limitations, over time many services and techniques have popped up to circumvent the blocks put in place by these sites. The saying, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” has come to beautiful fruition here. Said blocks can be circumvented multiple ways, but two methods are likely the most common: DNS (Domain Name System) modification and VPN (Virtual Private Network) creation.
Your internet service provider’s domain name system service is used to check the particular location of an internet domain every time you visit a website. Replacing your DNS with another for sites to look up fools them into thinking you’re located somewhere you’re not. Alternatively, creating a virtual private network reroutes your web traffic through another server in order to provide you with a different IP address than your own.
The two methods are different in many ways and the pros and cons of each are just as varied, but in the end they have the same outcome. In addition, because DNS and VPN mean very little to the average user, a myriad of companies have risen to the task of providing easy to use, cheap software to allow people to utilize these methods in whatever way they see fit. Before researching for this article, I was totally unfamiliar with these two services and how they operated.
UnoDNS by UnoTelly is a DNS service of particular advantage to those traveling extensively outside of the United States as those traveling only temporarily may struggle with its limitations. UnoDNS may be blocked if you are using a 3G or 4G network, public wi-fi (Think airports, cafes, etc.), a network that is restricted (In the case of a hotel) or an internet provider that utilizes DNS censoring. So unless you’re able to use your own network, UnoDNS may end up being useless.
UnoDNS can be used to access specific subscription based services based on the tier to which you subscribe given that you are subscribed to those services i.e. you must already be a paying customer of Netflix to use Netflix whether through this service or not, but when viewing free services, you need only pay for UnoDNS. There are two tiers you can subscribe to after a free 8-day trial: Premium for $4.95 a month and Gold for $7.95 a month.
Gold tier provides access to more channels than Premium and both are limited to the specific websites listed on UnoTelly’s site. The site touts this feature as an advantage rather than the opposite as the VPN alternative is more of a “catch-all” while UnoDNS sacrifices capability for speed. In addition, UnoDNS requires logging into UnoTelly each time your IP changes in order to update your DNS.
Hotspot Shield by AnchorFree is one of the cost free VPN alternatives to UnoDNS and others like it. Available for iOS, tablets and computers, Hotspot Shield is specifically catered to those looking for secure connections at wifi hotspots, hotels, airports and corporate offices with features like detecting and blocking malware as well as making all sites HTTPS safe. This software comes in both free and paid Elite versions, the paid boasting faster speeds and no ads.
Hotspot Shield must be downloaded onto the computer in order to do its job and it’s rumored that VPN methods are much slower than their DNS counterparts because they must work through a middle man: rerouting traffic through a server to get to content. This service is also more of a catch all, providing anonymous browsing to all sites, not just specifically listed ones as is the case with UnoDNS.
Out of curiosity, we decided to do some speed tests with each of the products and some without using either to measure how well they compared.
- Baseline: Ping-48ms Download-2.29mbps Upload-0.39mbps
- UnoDNS: Ping-42ms Download-1.89mbps Upload-0.40mbps
- Hotspot Shield: Ping-366ms Download-1.75mbps Upload-0.28mbps
UnoDNS came through on its promise of faster speeds than VPN alternatives, but does cost more money in the long run. When it comes down to it, it’s up to the individual to decide whether speed is really worth it when compared to security… and cash on hand. This traveller’s in no rush at the moment and money on hand takes precedent.