How to unblock websites at work

African businesswoman holding phone

Let's face it, you probably spend a large proportion of your time at the office sat in front of a computer. Most of us do, since a large percentage of current jobs involve computers. And computers means using the internet.

But whether your work requires you to access different websites or not, there is a decent chance that your school or work has restrictions on the websites that you can visit.

Often these restrictions are rather overzealous and many of our readers have reporting trying to access blocked websites that they really need to do their work.

Equally, everyone needs a little downtime to break the monotony of their work and a lot of people do that by browsing the internet. This is why we get so many inquiries about how to access blocked sites at the office or at school.

The good news is that bypassing your employer or school's restrictions to access blocked sites is not as hard as you may think. Often all your need to do is change your IP Address and mask your true location.

In this guide, we will explain how to unblock websites at work or at school and allow you to access restricted websites whenever you want to.

How do employers and schools block websites?

Before we explain how you can unblock websites at school or at work, it is worth explaining in a little more detail how they might go about blocking restricted content in the first place.

These institutions can use various techniques including filters, firewalls, and proxies to block websites. They can even block your IP address from accessing a website.

Different institutions will do this in different ways, but here are some of the most common:

Places of work

If your office blocks access to a particular website, there could be a number of reasons why.

Some old-fashioned bosses might suspect their staff of procrastinating on Facebook or using other sites or streaming services when they should be concentrating on work.

They might block websites using firewalls or content filtering systems or use IP addresses or other tools to block certain sites they don't want their staff to visit.

Some will even block access to content to save on their company bandwidth.

This method might stop employees but it can also affect their ability to do their work because staff often need to access content from sites like these and social media is a common form of communication for professionals as well as for social reasons.

Schools, Colleges, and Universities

Schools and other educational institutions will often block access to content because of internal guidelines which require them to censor things like adult content, violence, hate, abuse sites, and even some political content.

In addition, they will also often block things like streaming services which have no academic purpose but use up bandwidth and even social media sites, many of which can contain useful information for students.

Schools operate closed networks in the same way that businesses do, so they will use the same types of method to implement blocks on websites, browsers, and other content.

How do I bypass Internet restrictions at work?

If you want to bypass the internet restrictions put in place by many offices and schools and unblock websites that are currently unavailable, there are a few options available to you.

Virtual Private Network

One tool to unblock the internet is to use a VPN.

This is an online security tool which encrypts your data and masks your IP Address from websites and your Internet Service Provider (ISP). When connecting in an office or school, this means your local IT staff too.

By connecting to a VPN server, it is possible to hide the websites you are visiting and your internet traffic from administrators.

If they can't see the sites, they are unable to block them and so a VPN is able to unblock websites and allow you to access restricted content. You will be able to choose a server from anywhere in the world and that server should still do the job.

One possible downside to using a VPN is that some workplaces will block access to a VPN service to try and prevent you bypassing their blocks and visiting a website.

But there are ways around this too.

Using a VPN is the most secure and effective long term way to unblock a website in your school or office. If you want to know how to unblock sites using a VPN, we are about to explain.

How do I unblock a website in the office?

The best way to unblock websites in school or at the office is to use a VPN. VPNs encrypt your data and let you bypass restrictions and access a website without your network administrators knowing.

What you will need

To bypass the online censorship of your firm, you need to download and install a VPN app.

You may need to do this away from work if your network blocks access to VPN websites, which some do.

Try the address for your chosen VPN (we can help with that, take a look at our VPN reviews) and enter it into your browser. If it doesn't work, use one of the other methods outlined below to get onto their website and sign up.

Where to get a VPN?

Choosing the right VPN is tricky. There are hundreds of providers out there, but they're not all the same and not all will be able to unblock a website.

You should avoid some because they are slow, or because their protection is weak. This is the case with so called ‘free' VPN apps.

We've been testing VPNs for over six years and have landed on some good choices:

  1. ExpressVPN – Recommended
  2. CyberGhost
  3. NordVPN

These are the VPNs we've found the most reliable over the past few years for unblocking content on a site and keeping you secure online.

All three have secure encryption (known as ‘256-bit AES'), multiple strong security protocols (with OpenVPN being the strongest), although their network of servers and locations do differ somewhat.

ExpressVPN has 3,000+ servers and covers, 94 countries; CyberGhost has 6,982 servers in 90 countries, and NordVPN has 5,429 servers in 59 countries.

30-day money back guarantee

How to set up & use a VPN?

If you would like to know how to set up a VPN to unblock websites at school and work, the process is effortless.

Follow these few steps, and you will be complete within minutes.

  1. Choose a VPN you wish to use, again I recommend ExpressVPN.
  2. Go to its site and sign up. You will need to choose a payment plan and enter your email address and payment details.
  3. Download their VPN app for the device you want to unblock on.
  4. Then install it, open it and login with your account details.
  5. Click the ‘Selected Location‘ button and choose a country.
  6. Now press ‘Connect‘.

ExpressVPN connecting to the UK

It is worth saying that you should connect to a server that is as close to you as possible, to achieve the best speeds. This means picking your own country or one as nearby as possible.

If, for some reason, the website, app or service is blocked in your country then connect to a neighbouring country.

30-day money back guarantee

Warning: Using a VPN on work's device

While VPNs are usually a solution for matters like geo-restrictions, censorship, online surveillance, and alike – we need to include a warning for those who wish to install them on company-owned devices.

You need to be aware of the fact that some firms monitor what their employees install on their devices. This usually includes work computers, laptops, and even tablets or phones if you happen to use them for your work.

And some firms don't like VPNs!

Some companies also have restrictions on what you may or may not install, so you could get in trouble if you install a VPN on their device. This isn't merely limited to VPNs either, as they can ban any none-work related apps too.

However, you won't have any problems if you install a VPN on your own device.

In other words, it is better to have a VPN on your personal smartphone than on the company's computer, so when you access your work's network via your own device, you're able to unblock any website and app that you want.

Other ways to unblock websites

There are a number of other tools and methods that you can use to unblock sites. VPN use is not your only option.

Tor

Tor website

An alternative to a VPN is the Tor Browser. Tor, or The Onion Router, routes your online traffic through multiple layers of encryption via a series of nodes located all over the internet.

This method allows it to hide information about the websites you are visiting and so unblock sites on controlled networks such as those in workplaces and education institutions and let you access restricted websites.

To use Tor, you will need to download the Tor browser. The Tor browser is in many ways a regular web browser. But it also allows you to connect to the Tor network.

To use the Tor browser, just download it to your device and then use as you would any other browser. Enter the address of your chosen site and click search.

The Tor browser will enable you to visit any website you want and view any content you want without restriction or censorship.

But be aware that the Tor Browser might be blocked on some networks and it can can slow down website load times and connections too.

Web Proxies

If you find yourself unable to download a VPN, a web proxy website is another good option. A proxy network does the same as a VPN but without the encryption.

When you visit a proxy website your internet traffic will be redirected through a web proxy server before going off to its desired location.

This will hide the actual location of your data and give your network administrators no reason to prevent you from accessing a blocked website.

There are lots of different proxy websites out there all of which will allow you to mask your location and spoof you IP Address to make it look as it you are in a different location.

Proxies can be faster than VPNs since there is no encryption involved but they're often overused making them slower.

The downside to Proxies is that, while they can change your location and your IP address, and allow you to access content, they do not offer any of the security benefits of a VPN.

This is why no IT security expert will recommend using proxies instead of a VPN.

Proxy Extensions

You may also come across a proxy extension that you can add to any web browser such as Google Chrome.

This proxy extension will do the same thing, masking your location and hiding your IP Address while providing you with different anonymous IP Addresses.

It will make the whole process a bit more user-friendly and convenient by building the proxy directly into your browser.

Faster speeds makes using a proxy server popular for unblocking video streaming sites especially. But beware of rogue proxy sites and remember that a proxy server will not be encrypting and protecting your data.

Anything sensitive you send via the proxy could be recorded by its owner.

URL Shortener

Bitly

You have probably come across URL shorteners like Bitly when frantically trying to keep a tweet or social media posting within a word limit.

But actually, they are a clever way of getting access to a blocked website too. All you have to do is visit a URL shortener and enter the web address of the access restricted site you want to visit.

Click shorten and then cut the shortened address out of the site and paste this address into your URL bar. If you are lucky, this clever way to unblock censored content will work.

But, it isn't 100% reliable.

Switch protocols

Another clever way to unblock restricted websites is to switch protocols.

Often, your school or work administrator will only block a website using the most common protocol – https these days.

But if you try and access the site using the https protocol instead. You may still find that it works. Methods like this are never perfect and it won't work all the time, but this can be a quick way to unblock websites.

Google Cache

Google's cache is a local log of commonly visited websites that it keeps to speed up subsequent visits and let you access content on those sites faster.

If you find a website is blocked, you can sometimes visit a cached version of the site and still see the same content.

To try this method, just head to your regular Google site and search the website you want to visit. Google will have an arrow next to the URL and if you click on this you can choose to view the cached version of the site which is stored on your device.

Try the IP Address

Another way to unblock websites to which access is restricted is to use the IP Address instead of the URL.

Once again this does not have a 100% success rate and doesn't offer all the other benefits of VPN use, but it can sometimes be a quick and effective way to access blocked websites.

All you have to do is find your websites IP address using the Whois lookup tool and the enter this in your browser address bar. Sometimes, but not always, this will bring up the site in your browser by getting around your network blocks.

Try the Wayback Machine

Waybackmachine

The Wayback Machine is a tool which backs up older versions of the content of a huge range of sites from all over the web, whether the website owners want it to or not.

If you can't access a websites live versions, you may be able to look at a recent version by searching for it on this tool.

Google Translate

Google translate

Unlikely as it may sound, Google translate is also a useful tool for unblocking websites. Just copy and paste the URL of the blocked website into Google Translate and translate it into your own language.

Just click on the translated link and in some situations it will be able to open the website and display all the content you would normally see.

Is it legal and safe to unblock restricted content?

Unless you live in countries such as China, Iran, or Russia, where the authoritarian regimes in charge severely restrict the sites you can visit, it is perfectly legal to use a VPN or any of these other methods to access restricted content.

There is no security risk to download a VPN onto your computer or mobile device either, provided you do it from a trusted source and steer clear of free VPNs.

Content providers don't usually have a problem with it either, unless you unblock sites that are breaching their copyright.

How your workplace or school will feel about your access of restricted content on their network is another matter. Unblocking websites can be frowned upon and could even be deemed as a breach of contract.

Check your contracts and student agreements carefully.

But with a VPN, there is no reason why they should ever know you are using one. Just choose your provider carefully, read our reviews, and unblock sites that contain legitimate work-related content.

Summary

Businesses today want their employees to be as productive as possible.

Schools and universities want their students to be focused and diligent in their work. This is why they often restrict their internet access and block any sites that might serve as distractions.

However, they often do not realise that this restricts employees too much, which can make it challenging for them to do their work properly. Also, if you wish to access one of the blocked sites during your break, you still won't be allowed to do so.

Fortunately, there are various ways that you can access blocked websites even at work.

To unblock sites, you can use any of the methods we have recommended in this guide, but our top recommendation is to use a VPN.

With a VPN, you hide your IP Address change your location and connect to sites through an external server which means your network administration nor anyone else can see what you are doing online.

Just be careful to choose a reliable service that will keep you safe. We recommend using ExpressVPN, but you're free to choose. Just read our reviews before making a final decision.

Sign up for a VPN, download their app, install it and then enjoy accessing the internet freely no matter what restrictions your employers or network administrators might have in place.

 

Ready to start unblocking? Get our Recommended VPN!

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Author: David Spencer

Cyber-security & Technology Reporter, David, monitors everything going on in the privacy world. Fighting for a less restricted internet as a member of the VPNCompare team for over 5 years.

Away from writing, he enjoys reading and politics. He is currently learning Mandarin too... slowly.

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