Is Smart DNS – Replacing VPNs

The surge of Smart DNS services seemed to come to a halt this Summer, as it looked like the major websites had started to block them completely.  Just to explain Smart DNS is a system developed to offer the accessibility features of VPNs but with potentially faster speeds and a lower costs.  They work by handling 99% of DNS requests exactly the same as any other DNS server would,  however when receiving a request for a region locked site like the BBC or Netflix it would reroute the connection through a server in the required country.

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The advantages of this system is that the whole connection was not routed so the bandwidth charges were negligible, hence the cheaper price.  The other advantage is that you don’t need any client software so it was easier to setup on different devices – all you needed to do was change the DNS server settings. Of course there was no security and encryption either but the service was never designed to be a security product.

It worked very well for most situations, certainly for accessing most media sites it was very effective as the video content itself could be streamed directly unlike a VPN which tunneled everything.  There were a few drawbacks it did sometimes get detected and if you changed your client IP address you’d usually have to re-authorise the new ones. However as a cut price way to simply spoof my IP and watch media sites  that were normally blocked it worked very well.

Unfortunately the battle continued and the media giant Netflix started working on a system which blocked access to these services.  It also hit the vast majority of VPN services too, much to the shock of what is now a multi-million dollar industry.  They actually took a step back and realised that the method of individually blocking VPN based IP addresses would never be completely effective and was simply too time consuming.  They used a method that had been tried several years ago by some UK TV sites and that was to look at the classification of the IP address rather than just the location.

Netflix discovered that if it blocked access to commercially tagged IP addresses suddenly all the VPNs and Smart DNS servers stopped working.  This was because all of them were housed in commercial datacentres and were classified as non-residential addresses.

For a few weeks it looked bleak for those of use stuck with a rubbish regional version of Netflix instead of the US one because of our location but that’s starting to change now,  This site was one of the first to break the change with this article – The Return of US DNS Netflix which describes the first DNS solution which has incorporated residential IP addresses into it’s network.  It’s an impressive upgrade as it incorporates residential IP addresses from all over the globe meaning you can use it to watch any variant of Netflix you wish.

For the TV and movie watcher it looks like Smart DNS may become a viable option again so it’s worth watching to see if other firms will follow this lead.

 

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