Web browsing in Australia is better than ever thanks to faster broadband speeds, but one major nuisance still persists. Occasionally, the average user attempts to visit a webpage only to be stopped by a screen saying, ‘This is not available in your country’. This phenomenon is known as geo-blocking, and it’s fairly common in video streaming services, app stores, and eCommerce sites.

Here’s a comprehensive rundown of what geo-blocking is and what you can do about it.

What is geo-blocking?

Geo-blocking is the act of denying or limiting access to online content based on the user’s geographic location. This is primarily done by identifying your internet protocol (IP) address, which is a unique number assigned to network-connected devices by internet service providers.

When you visit a website, the IP address is sent to the website’s server so it knows where to send data and content. Think of it like a return address on letters you’ve mailed.

Different regions have a range of IP addresses, and website administrators can choose to whitelist and blacklist IP addresses from specific locations. Special geo-blocking tools then check a visitor’s IP address against a web server’s database to see whether they’re allowed to access the website.

Why do organisations geo-block websites?

Essentially, geo-blocking allows organisations to control which regions can see their website and content. Streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, and ABC iView, in particular, have copyrighted material and licensing agreements that determine where they can stream movies and TV shows. With geo-blocking, these services can better manage licensing limitations and release shows curated for particular locations. This also enables them to segment global markets and develop local campaigns to promote popular content.

However, it’s not just streaming services that use geo-blocking. Online gambling websites, for instance, need geo-blocks to deny access to regions in which they cannot legally operate.

Businesses that manufacture and ship location-sensitive goods may geo-block to limit overseas orders. Online retailers also take advantage of geo-blocking to charge products differently based on the region. Plus, because tax laws vary depending on the location, geo-blocking is important for applying local tax codes to online purchases.

How do you bypass geo-blocking?

If you ever need to see geo-blocked content, there are ways to get past these restrictions. Since geo-blocking pinpoints locations through IP addresses, you have to alter your IP address to an area where geo-blocking restrictions don’t apply. There are three ways to do this:

  1. Enable a virtual private network (VPN)

When you use a VPN, your internet connection is routed through a secure tunnel to a remote server that could be in a different state or country. The server then accesses websites on your behalf, masking your IP address to look like you’re in a different location. For example, you can connect to US servers through a VPN service to see US-exclusive websites and content. Alternatively, if you live in a country that imposes heavy internet censorship laws, VPNs let you get around these regulations.

Besides circumventing geographic restrictions, VPNs are vital to Australian businesses. Now that more employees are working remotely, there’s a chance they may have unsecure internet connections. VPNs use advanced encryption systems to protect data transmitted through a network, hiding your online activities. This effectively secures your online privacy even if you’re connected to a public Wi-Fi hotspot.

If you’re looking for reliable VPN services, consider providers like Sophos, ExpressVPN, and NordVPN.

  1. Utilise smart domain name system (DNS) 

Much like VPNs, smart DNS services connect you to servers that fake your location so you can access websites normally blocked in your region. More specifically, it intercepts connection requests and removes information that may disclose your actual geo-location.

One distinct advantage of smart DNS is that it doesn’t affect network performance. The downside is that it doesn’t encrypt your connection and is therefore not as secure as VPNs.

  1. Connect to proxy servers

Proxy servers serve as intermediaries between your device and the internet, communicating with websites on your behalf. These servers hide the origin of your IP address so you can look at geo-blocked content with ease. Many proxy servers are also free, and can act as firewalls and content filters to protect your network from common intrusions. However, you don’t nearly get as much protection as you would if you opted for a paid VPN service instead.

Although there are three options for bypassing geo-blocking, security should always be your number one priority when browsing the web. As one of Australia’s leading managed IT services, Empower IT can ensure your company’s online safety. Inquire about our cybersecurity services and solutions today.

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