We’ve always been a big advocate of VPN use for streaming content from abroad, it is after all one of the better and most easiest ways to get access to the content that you want. Although using a VPN is an excellent choice for streaming content from abroad there are however a growing number of new methods being introduced in to the market specifically aimed at streaming content when you’re outside your country of residence or streaming content from a country you’ve never actually had any connection to.
Many expat Brits and expats of other nations love to tune in to familiar TV from their home country. In the case of the British there are many living in Spain, France and a host of other countries who love to watch BBC iPlayer, ITV Player and the other handful of good British streaming website. This type of outside country watching is repeated for most nations citizens when they find themselves outside their own country. With the expansion of the internet it has also become widely known that there is a mass of content from countries such as the US and UK available online but only to those within the borders of the host country. Services like Hulu and US Netflix are a mecca of content and users outside the US regularly make use of VPN services with our help to watch such services.
VPN use has many further benefits not only limited to circumventing geo-restrictions placed on content but also important features such as Privacy, Encryption and most importantly your Security so while these features can’t be overlooked there is a newish service appearing which the provider Overplay call SmartDNS.
What are DNS Servers
When you type in a web address on your computer, tablet or other device something called DNS servers are accessed to determine the location of that website. Computers and the internet don’t work well with easy to remember domain names that we all rely on but find it easier to work with numbers. So for example when you enter “http://news.bbc.co.uk” in to your browser the DNS servers act similar to a phone book and look up the location based on an IP Address. An IP Address is a string of numbers, and for the BBC site given above the DNS Servers would find the site located at 126.96.36.199. You can enter that IP Address directly in to your web browser and end up at the BBC news site, but it is so much easier to remember the text based domain name and this is in a nutshell what DNS Servers do.
How does SmartDNS work
SmartDNS works by re-routing your data behind the scenes which without altering your connection at all is able to unblock and stream content from a host of websites without any connection to a VPN service being required. The benefit to this is that you don’t lose any speed at all because you’re making use of your own internet connection without the need to connect to a third party. The magic of the system is you can access sites like Hulu, CBS AND BBC iPlayer, ITV Player and more from any country without switching between servers. With a VPN service you would need to connect to a US server to access Hulu and CBS and then disconnect and connect to a UK server to access BBC iPlayer and ITV Player. With SmartDNS from Overplay none of that is necessary, you can access all the sites they support without any changing or swapping.
How to set SmartDNS up
First you need to sign up at the Overplay website, the cost of the SmartDNS service is US$4.95 (Approx £2.95) on its own or free when you take their US$9.95 (Approx £5.93) VPN package. Once signed up you simply head over to the SmartDNS section of “My Account” and you are given two DNS Server addresses. These will be two sets of 4 numbers separated by points, eg; 127.0.0.1 and 127.0.0.2, Make a note of these DNS Servers as you’ll need to enter them to make use of the service.
Next depending on what system you have depends on how to change your current DNS Servers, they are usually ones related to your ISP and need changing to the new SmartDNS servers issued by Overplay. Overplay do supply a small program to carry out the process for Windows systems easily although I found it to be rather basic and doesn’t have any option to revert to your original DNS Servers when required. The most convenient method for Windows is to download a program called DNS Jumper (Download Link) which allows you to alter your DNS Servers and revert to your original ones with ease. For other devices you should google “how to change DNS servers on” + “your device name”
Once downloaded run DnsJumper.exe (no installation required) and under “Choose a DNS Server” look for the small cog icon and click it. At the top will be a box to enter the DNS Servers, enter the two DNS servers supplied to you by Overplay that you made a note of earlier. Change Row to 1, give “DNS Server Name” a name like “Overplay.net” and press the Add button.
Quit that window to return to the main screen. Under “Choose a DNS Server” make sure “Overplay.net” is selected and press the Apply DNS button to the left.
Get streaming content
Now that you’ve set the DNS servers to those of Overplay you can get watching content from around the world. No matter what country you’re located in you can try a few of the following sites :-
One of the most impressive aspects is the ability to use other locations Netflix sites with your current Netflix account, this allows you to watch the US version of Netflix which has an awful lot more content than the UK or Canadian Netflix. You can however change the Netflix location on the Overplay website so if for some strange reason you wanted to watch the UK version of Netflix but lived in the US then this is also possible.
Unfortunately Overplay don’t give a full list of sites that work with the service although all the major well known ones I tried worked fine. The benefit of this system is it is slightly cheaper than a cheap VPN service and you get to use the full speed of your internet connection. The system was exceptionally good and for those wanting to stream content from around the world without the hassle of swapping servers then it will be a massive boost to you.
One thing to remember is SmartDNS does not encrypt your connection, does not protect your privacy and does not alter your IP address amongst other things. It is however an excellent system for those who want to circumvent geo-restriction for content and don’t have a need for any of the other important features of a VPN service.
How to turn off SmartDNS
You don’t need to “turn off” the SmartDNS system as such and can leave it set without an issue, however if you do want to revert back to your ISPs DNS Servers which will in effect “turn off” the service then load up DNS Jumper again, under “Choose a DNS Server” select the top option “– Default” press Apply DNS and then Flush DNS. You are now back to normal and none of the geo-restricted services will work, you can of course re-enable it at any point using the method given earlier in this article.
SmartDNS from Overplay is a pretty neat system which removes some of the burden of using a VPN service, the price is extremely cheap and the actual service works extremely well. I would like to see a list of services that are available through the service and some better software direct from the company themselves but aside from that it is rather smart to see in action and adds an extra option for those who only wish to stream content without the other benefits of a VPN service. Set up is slightly more messy for those who are very new to computers but with my above instructions should be easy enough for the majority to get going.