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Image adapted from “Cat” by Xiahong Chen license under CC By 2.0

We have all been there… you sit at the desk, fire up your computer and try to watch that viral cat video everyone at work was talking about, but instead of your heart filling with delight, rage builds as the video enters an endless buffering cycle. The little voice in your head frantically begins asking a million questions and you dial your provider. Upon describing your issues, they tell you “everything is fine, it just looks like you are using up all of your bandwidth.” And then there is that dreaded question, “Would you like to upgrade?” But, is the upgrade really necessary, or is there some way to use your connection better?

By following these 5 steps, you can stretch your bandwidth and maybe, just maybe, avoid a situation like the one above.

1. Control high bandwidth utilities like streaming.

Everyone likes streaming, from high intensity movies to your child’s favorite episodes Pokemon. But streaming services are among some of the highest bandwidth users on the internet. You have the ability to control how much bandwidth streaming uses. Some services, like Netflix, even allow you to control bandwidth for specific users but not others. Limiting streaming bandwidth not only frees up enough bandwidth for your other applications, but (for those of you who have to deal with such things) can also help you dodge those data overages. I know what you may be thinking, won’t I be missing out on a lot of content? To be honest, you will miss some, but not as much as you think. A lot of content isn’t available at higher resolutions anyway, to be honest, with the exception of “Ultra-HD” (4K resolution), I can’t even tell the difference between resolutions.

2. Keep your devices up to date.

There are many reasons to keep your devices up to date – from performance to security, but those pesky updates are so darn annoying. We all feel this way, and I too have been guilty of putting off updates longer than I should. But letting updates pile up has a variety of consequences. Most notably, when updates do finally happen, they can take up a lot of bandwidth for a long period of time, not only rendering the offending device unusable during the updates, but ruining your internet connection for everybody. Simply updating your devices and apps as they are needed can help avoid unfortunate bandwidth hogging and keep your devices secure to help prevent viruses.

3. Turn off idle devices.

Did you know that just because you aren’t using your device doesn’t mean it isn’t very busy? Devices like to use idle time to handle tasks that may cause performance impacts while they are in use. Often, these tasks involve using your internet connection, from simple tasks like downloading emails and status update, to more important tasks like sending log and usage data to app and device manufacturers to ensure your device is functioning at its peak performance. You may be thinking that this doesn’t sound like it will use a lot of bandwidth and you are right; however, a modern family may have a large number of devices doing this at once, and this is where you may lose a noticeable amount of bandwidth. Another thing your devices may do while idle is install updates and as I listed above, controlling how your devices download and install updates is very important to control bandwidth usage.

4. Keep your network secure!

It goes without saying, the more people who use your internet means that each user will have less bandwidth. This may be the most important item on this list, but it is also one of the most difficult to implement. Some best practices are to set a secure WiFi SSID(Network Name) and Password. Weak Network Names can lead to your network being easily identified by someone else and once you are identified as a network owner, it significantly reduces the amount of work an invader has to do to figure out your password. By setting a non identifying Network Name and a secure password, you can avoid bandwidth leaches stealing your WiFi. Another good practice is to set up a guest network. You should only let the members of your household know your main network and give everyone else the guest credentials. Then when you don’t have any guests, simply turn off the guest network and all of your neighbors no longer know how to get on your WiFi. The final recommendation for your network security is to set a secure password for the log in to your router itself. This means that once someone connects to your network, they do not have total control of it. With an insecure password (or even worse, a default password) it is easy for someone to learn about your network and even set up a backdoor so they may get in without you even knowing.

5. Keep your computers virus and malware free.

All of the previous steps are for nothing if you are harboring viruses on your computers. Viruses and more broadly malware (short for malicious software) can do any number of nasty things to your devices, but many of them use your computers and internet connection to maliciously attack others. These programs are made without any regard for your devices or your connection and having them can and will slow even the fastest of internet connections to a crawl. If you suspect your devices are infected, you should quickly consult a local computer repair shop and get the offending device cleaned up as quickly as possible.

Following these steps is always a great start, but there are bound to be problems you cannot solve on your own. If you have implemented these steps and don’t see any improvement, I would recommend calling your service provider. We here at Plains Internet are always willing to help with your service related issues, we are even partnered with a local IT company to help with your computer issues at affordable prices. So if you are having issues, call in at (806)340-7320 to speak with a representative today!