When Pandora started, it was a great service that provided music based on my selection of artists. When the record companies complained, Pandora had to close the doors on us 'non-americans'. I have since searched for ways to revive the ability to listen to Pandora. I have used free proxy services, and services like Hotspot Shield, I had minimal success, since the bandwidth is extremely limited and I was riddled with tons of ads.
Then I stumbled upon the idea of a VPN server as a conduit. At first, I was planning to setup a private remote VPN server in the US, but then I had to find someone willing to host the server for me, configure it and hopefully, be able to troubleshoot the server when problem arises and also willing to pay the electric bill. After which, I stumbled upon companies that are VPN providers and have the necessary infrastructure and just requires a subscription. After careful consideration, the first solution was free but I had to do all the work, or the second solution, subscribe and pay a monthly fee and get the service right there and then. I eventually chose the second solution, I evaluated several VPN companies and settled with StrongVPN.
I was apprehensive at first, but I am completely happy with the solution, now, not only can I listen to Pandora again, I can watch HULU, NBC, CW, CBS, ABC and all the US only websites. Nothing illegal is being committed as the TOS does not prohibit its use for these purposes. I have since transferred my StrongVPN account to my DD-WRT router and it is now sharing the US IP to all my computers, so all computers/devices connected to the router can now share my US IP address. I am now watching all the latest shows in HULU and my next stop would be to subscribe to NetFlix and enjoy their Instant-ACCESS.
Now, StrongVPN is not limited to the U.S., it has 122 servers that will give you an IP address from 13 different countries like the UK, Canada, Netherlands, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Russia and many more. You have the option to choose your server and the IP that you wish to have. In my particular package, I have the option to switch 5 servers per month, pretty good, but after choosing the fastest server, I haven't really moved yet but it's good to have that option. How about the price, I paid for the whole year and it cost me US$55 (3-City PPTP Package), just about the price of a good dinner for me and my wife. I chose PPTP as security is not really a big issue for me, I just want my Pandora and Hulu, but if it is an issue then an OpenVPN solution may be the way to go.
How fast is the VPN server, technically, the speed is dependent on your own bandwidth. Generally, I notice a 5% drop when it is a direct connection, meaning a connection from my operating system, for a router based install, it is a drop of 10% in speed. For routers, make sure that you have a router that can be flashed with DD-WRT and is fast enough. Latency is highly dependent on your location and the VPN server that you chose, I am from asia and I connect to a VPN server in San Francisco and I get a 246ms latency. So for gamers, I think this is a major consideration but for streamers, this does not pose a problem at all. The tech support is good, helpful and they answer quickly, however, I did encounter tech. people who are lacking in the tech, fortunately, the forum is active and has a lot of resources to overcome most problems. One of the initial problems I encountered was a slow connection, after several diggings, it was a simple switch to a new server, that solved the problem, so for new signups, make sure to switch to the fastest VPN server to your location so you avoid any disappointments, the control panel is easy to use.
In conclusion, I am a happy camper with StrongVPN and would highly recommend it to people. Save yourself from trying to get a free solution, nothing is truly free. If you are thinking the US$55/year is still high and you can find a cheaper provider, in my experience, a cheap solution turns out to be neither cheap nor a solution. I am so happy that I have joined their affiliate program so if you are interested in learning more about StrongVPN, please do click the banner below. Tell me also your experiences.
UPDATE (2013-06-07): For more tech savvy enthusiast, you might want to read this new article.
Figure 1. Hulu without VPN
Figure 2: Hulu under VPN with US IP (5 minutes later)