So what is a proxy, well the definition actually changes slightly depending on who you are talking to. The origin of the term goes back to the beginning of the web in around 1990 when proxy servers were actually referred to as ‘gateways’. These were simply devices which forwarded packets between different networks, sometimes even converting the different protocols that were being used.
However a simple up to date definition could be as follows:
A proxy server is a computer or system that acts as an intermediary between a client and a server.
They have all sorts of uses within corporate networks but in reality their real popularity has come outside that from ordinary computer users. You see the proxy sits between the computer you are using and the server you are contacting. It relays all information between the two sides and effectively protects the anonymity of the client computer.
This is the main benefit of using a proxy in this context, the proxy hides your location, your computer and identity from the web server you are using.
So Why all Secret Squirrel? UK Proxy Buy or Not?
Most proxy users aren’t looking for total anonymity (although some are), but people have been using proxies for years in order to bypass the various blocks and filters that exist online. For example one of the most popular uses of a proxy server was in order to access British TV Online and blocked media sites such as the BBC iPlayer or Hulu.
The BBC’s wonderful website and application is only accessible if you’re physically located in the United Kingdom – everyone else get’s blocked. However if you connect through a UK proxy first, then the BBC website only sees the location of the proxy and allows access.
It is how millions of people across the world could watch the BBC News or Match of the Day from outside the United Kingdom. As long as their proxy server was located in the UK, their actual location didn’t matter. Exactly the same situation from US sites like Hulu, to access from outside the USA you needed to channel your connection through a proxy server based in the United States.
So does a UK Proxy Unlock Every UK TV site?
Unfortunately no, in fact the reality is that nowadays a proxy is pretty much useless as far as bypassing geographical blocks. The reason is that the inbound connection from a proxy server is actually fairly easy to detect which is what most large scale media sites do. If they detect a connection from a proxy server then access is blocked automatically.
Here’s a example of the message you get when trying to access Netflix through a proxy, it simply won’t let you use the site.
The reality is that there’s little point in buying a UK proxy or indeed one based anywhere in the world. They can still obscure your identity a little, and they stop every website you visit being logged at your ISP but for watching UK TV you need something else.
That something else is a UK VPN service, which in many ways operates in a very similar way. A VPN is a virtual private network connection between your computer and a VPN server. Exactly like a proxy this server acts as an intermediary between you and the web resource you’re trying to access – relaying information both ways. Yet there are important differences, firstly the entire connection is encrypted which means that no-one can access or intercept your data at any point. The second is that a VPN connection is virtually impossible to detect, so none of the media sites are able to block or disconnect the connection.
Here we can see one such VPN service in action, it’s called Identity Cloaker.
As you can see it’s quite straight forward especially on a computer or laptop. You merely click on the country you require and it establishes a connection to that specific VPN server. From that point any website you connect to will only the address of the VPN server not yours, which means that you can access whatever you like irrespective of your location.
Literally millions of people use these VPN services now to bypass blocks and filters of all descriptions. Some use them to bypass state controlled filters such as in China and Turkey where the internet is heavily censored. While many others simply use them to access things like UK or US television, or to switch the version of Netflix they are using.
If you want to try the VPN service illustrated here, which is one of the few that still works with all the British TV sites it’s called Identity Cloaker.
You can try their 10 day trial here – Identity Cloaker