Archive for December 2009

VPN, OR Non-technical people making technical decisions

December 29, 2009

Let’s begin honestly: this is an introduction for

I recently had a friend from Germany ask me about VPN services. She misses American TV shows, and wants to watch them over the internet, but for her many of those sites are blocked.  Since the supposedly reputable ones cost money, could I make any recommendations?

My understanding of VPN was something like Terminal Services for Windows, and didn’t include getting around regional or corporate restrictions: it simply never occurred to me.

A couple of weeks ago, my partners at work started talking about putting in a hardware firewall to restrict access to things like Facebook – ridiculous since at our largest we’ll never have more than ten people, and there are only three of us now! Yes, Facebook can be a time waster, but it’s also a resource for me: I often post technical questions for my many techie friends who are also on Facebook.

I may very well need one of these services in the future, myself.

I found several VPN services through a Google search, but as I have no experience with any, it’s tough to recommend. The prices are all comparable, within $10US or so of each other. Once I’ve reached the point where one orange looks like another orange, I change my criteria.

Is the company honest about what is on offer – basically an end-run around network restrictions, or do they hem and haw around the issue? Does the service look like it caters to someone like me, an individual who wants safer, anonymous, more secure browsing?

Does the website look like it was written by a meth addict, with content all over the screen? If so, imagine what the customer service must be like.

Does the website use correct, idiomatic English, which suggests one of  two things: either the company is honestly an American company, or the company cared enough to hire a good translator. (I found one website that claimed to be American, but the website copy was full of past/present-tense errors, indicative that it was written by a non-native speaker, or someone who’s just bloody stupid.)

I also look for articles like “The Five Best VPN Services for 2009”, or some such, and then I read the comments: that’s where the real information is. At the bottom of this article, a couple of readers suggested

I visited the website. The copy is written well, using good English. The design is no-nonsense and easy to navigate. Their services are comparable and prices are very reasonable.

This is a site I’m bookmarking for future use…which will most likely be  just a few minutes after the new firewall is installed at work.