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June 20, 2012 7:35 AM   Subscribe

Given that the copyright landscape is about to change in Canada, educate me about VPN services and securing my connection like I'm a n00b!

I'm moderately technically-inclined, but have never been very concerned about security when it comes to my online activities, past basic common sense approaches. I don't engage in illegal online activities (past downloading episodes of Game of Thrones, because brotha, if that's wrong, I don't want to be right), but I also don't want to have this new Big Brother attitude in Canada get me in hot water the next time I miss an episode of Walking Dead. Plus, being able to watch Us-ian services like Amazon VOD/Hulu/Netflix USA would be great.

I have a high-level understanding of how VPN services work, but no experience using them at all.

So, I'm looking for suggestions of best practices for securing my connection, and recommendations for VPN services. Here's what I want, ideally:

-Some semblance of security that my online activities (torrenting) are at least obfuscated;
-Minimized impact on bandwidth or online gaming (XBL, WOW);
-Minimal maintenance per device/overall (so that I avoid the glares of death if/when others in the house aren't able to perform some region-specific action);
-The ability to access content not normally available in Canada;
-Reasonable cost (I'm more than willing to buy a year at a time, if it's going to work).

Thanks for any input or suggestions.
posted by liquado to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
A survey of (some) VPN providers, from last year.
posted by holgate at 7:48 AM on June 20, 2012

Not a VPN but this addresses everything except your first point - to access content not normally available in Canada, try Unblock-US. It's not a VPN, but rather a DNS service that proxies only specific websites. This means you can get US Netflix in Canada, Hulu, Amazon, and other US services, but also BBC iPlayer because they have a proxy in the UK, some French TV, etc. It won't impact your gaming because anything that doesn't need a proxy works as normal.

I signed up and changed my DNS at the router, and everything just worked. Cost is $5/month which I think is worth it for the expanded Netflix selection alone. The only problem I've found is trying to actually pay for services like Spotify, Hulu, etc with a Canadian credit card (Netflix will work fine as long as you have a CDN Netflix account).
posted by Gortuk at 9:19 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm currently trialling Spotflux. It's in beta and a bit buggy but also currently free.

I've looked into other VPN services but they tend to either limit or prohibit torrent traffic or else are reportedly slow. TorrentFreak is a good source of general info and reviews on the options.
posted by londonmark at 10:28 AM on June 20, 2012

Seconding Unblock-US for Netflix.

As well - some little birdy told me once - a friend who used to work at a major CDN internet provider - the simplest solution is to pay for private usenet, and then setup software which automatically sucks down associated "binary" newsgroups everyday (and you delete the unwanted files). Much, much faster than peer-to-peer - plus, completely legal - as you are never actually "sharing" or "uploading" anything...

(You might consider this "wasting" bandwidth... but...)
posted by jkaczor at 5:50 PM on June 20, 2012

Best answer: I've been using StrongVPN for the past six months and have been very pleased with it. I like it much more than using Unblock-US, which I found finicky and annoying for the mostpart.

I live close enough to the border that I have a mailbox on the US side, and an Amazon Prime account. I can use Amazon Instant Streaming, Hulu, and Netflix with no problems.

The best part is that I have a Canadian NetFlix account, however when I connect through my VPN it pops up a box saying that it appears I'm travelling, and shows the American selection. Great stuff.
posted by smitt at 8:22 AM on June 21, 2012

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