30 May 2014

Five Easy Tips For Ensuring That You Don’t Hit Your Bandwidth Cap

There’s nothing worse than hitting a bandwidth cap and being forced to struggle along with a slow connection for a few days (or weeks) as you wait for the cap to reset.

More than simply meaning that you’re not going to be streaming movies or downloading games for that time, for people operating home offices with video conferencing and cloud connections back into the network, hitting that bandwidth cap can also do severe productivity damage.

Increasingly, with more data-intensive applications such as the file sharing of video through to teleconferencing, businesses also find themselves hitting their own data caps. Managing the use of broadband, be that in the house or office, isn’t always something that we pay close attention to, but there are some simple things that individuals and organisations alike can do to minimise their excess broadband usage that are often overlooked.

1)      Monitor how the connection is used

This is the most simple of all, but so many individuals and organisations have weak or even non-existent passwords for their Wi-Fi connections. Ensuring that the Wi-Fi environment is secure is one of the first ways to ensure that bandwidth isn’t eaten up by people outside of your control. Organisations who offer guest Wi-Fi should also monitor how that is used, and organisations should set policies on the use of video and other bandwidth-hogging digital services (such as music streaming services) by employees.

2)      Consider whether everything needs to be in HD

High Definition (HD) is a wonderful thing when it comes to watching a favourite movie, or even having a “same room” teleconferencing experience with someone on the other side of the planet. But it also consumes a lot of bandwidth. Consider a classic movie such as Monty Python and the Holy Grail. According to iTunes, the Standard Definition file is 1.00GB, which rises to 2.91GB for 720p resolution, and then 3.65GB for 1080p… nearly four times the size. While there will be times where HD does add enough to the experience to be worth hit to the broadband limit, if it’s unnecessary, then don’t waste precious GB on it. This goes for video interactions, too; you’ll often find that you just don’t need to see the freckles on your colleague’s face when collaborating with them over video.

3)      Be aware of automatic updates

As useful as automatic updates are in keeping your technology secure and functioning at its optimal, it’s also important to budget for these often quite sizable bandwidth hogs when they occur. If the computer fleet is large, and all are set to automatically update (and they should be), then you’re going to find that they will chew through a lot of bandwidth, even when the user is nowhere to be seen. This is something that’s largely unavoidable, so it’s better to simply budget it into the monthly data allowance.

4)      Keep the antivirus up to date

Malware is more than a risk to your credit card and login details; malware also sits behind the computer, constantly tapping in to the Internet to relay data back and forth with the author’s servers. Simply removing the malware from the computers, and ensuring that they all remain healthy, will reduce the impact of each computer on the months’ bandwidth usage.

5)      Games love bandwidth

Whether it’s an all-night session of World of Warcraft at home, or a quick couple of games of Bejewelled during the lunch break, games are some of the most bandwidth-intensive media, and they often wrack up the GBs without the user really being aware of just how much is being used. Either imposing some self limitations on just how much online gaming you’ll participate in, or setting strict workplace policies about the use of the bandwidth for games, even in free time, will do wonders in ensuring that the cap isn’t hit.