Like many people that I’ve been hearing about recently, we got hit by some Internet usage overages. Currently, I’m on the Blast Plus package with Comcast. This provides for 300GB per month. That sounds like a lot, until you think of what streaming video adds up to. Comcast is charging $10 for an extra 50GB of transfer per month. We’ve hit that a couple of times this year. It’s time to tighten the belt to help prevent these overages.
The first step is being able to measure and examine the problem. Your network router within your house typically will allow you to produce reports. I reach my router by logging in through the browser interface at the address http://192.168.1.1. Your setup and router may be different so check your router’s manual. My router allows for three reports in the Traffic Manager: Real-time, Last 24-hours, and the Daily report that produces a summary per day. Unfortunately, the daily report has a bug in it that the totals are incorrect and are over-reported, but the 24-hour report is very useful to me.
Don’t worry about the spikes in traffic. Watch for long, heavy usage. That’s where video is buffering and is the source of the problem. On a side note, be on the lookout for odd traffic at odd times. That may be an indicator that some of your machines may be compromised. By turning each device in turn off at night, leaving certain systems on, it may help narrow down and identify the “heavy usage” culprit. Note that certain systems may do updates in the middle of the night.
The biggest bandwidth hogs are video. Period. It’s not the text content of websites. It’s not even pictures/images. Video is the bandwidth killer. The key to lowering Internet usage is to lower the video usage. We can either [A] not watch videos or [B] watch the videos in a lower resolution. Let’s go with option [B]!
To lower your YouTube usage, log in to your account, and then click on your icon which is currently in the upper right of the browser page. Then choose the “Account Settings” menu option. Under the “Playback” option, choose the “I have a slow connection. Never play higher-quality video.” Then press the “Save” button to save your changes. I barely notice the difference in quality. Often times, I will hand-lower the resolution from 480p to 360p to further save on bandwidth. Make sure to do this for each YouTube account that you have in your house: Spouse, kids, dog, etc. They each need to make this change.
Next up is the settings of Netflix. Even if you use a smart TV, a Roku, or Kindle Fire TV, you change these settings from their website. Log in to Netflix, and then click on your icon in the upper right and go to “Your Account”. Click on the “Playback settings” menu option. Then choose the “Low” option under “Data Usage per Screen”. Click the “Save” button to save your settings.
What are the results? We went from using 10-17GB per day, to about 4-6GB per day. I barely notice the difference in video quality. Of course, I’m not really picky with my video quality. Your experience may differ.
It doesn’t hurt to have the DVD subscription of movies as well. That gives your Netflix viewing a break on certain nights. If you’re paying a lot in data overages, the DVD subscription may pay for itself.
I hope this helps. Let me know if I’ve missed any aspects on big savings in bandwidth usage.