Curtis Blevins @ 12 November 2014

Originally Posted on January 29, 2013 by Curtis

Data usage has doubled on the Wilderness Wireless network over the past year due to the increase in the numbers of computers, tablets , smart phones, DVRs, Blu Ray players and gaming consoles in use.  During the past year and a half we have twice doubled the amount of bandwidth that we purchase from our provider. Unfortunately the data is not free, nor is the cost of infrastructure to transport it to the area we live in. In order to give our customers the best possible internet connection experience, we use shaping technology so the available bandwidth is shared fairly and managed to give everyone the best experience possible.

Here are some suggestions to help you take charge of your usage and get the most out of your Wilderness Wireless internet connection.

Computer Operating System updates:

Operating Systems and application updates are handled online now. It is necessary to update your OS and applications for reliability and security reasons.  OS or application updates can be up to 500 Mb or more. You will want to make sure that the updates occur when it does not impact more important internet usage. If you are planning to work or go to school from home or even stream a video later that day move the updates to a day that you are not using the internet.   The best time to do OS and application updates is at night from 1 AM to 6 AM.

SmartPhones and iPods:

SmartPhones and iPods are used for many things these days and they all involve data usage. SmartPhones with cameras now are used to take pictures and synchronize the pictures to a cloud based server.   After uploading, other devices synchronize to the cloud server and pull down the latest image.  In this scenario a 2 Mb picture file taken on a smartphone becomes 2Mb of traffic up and 10 Mb of traffic down to sync to 5 devices. If the SmartPhone user takes 20 photos in this scenario that suddenly becomes 240Mb of data through an internet connection. Location services on smart phones and tablets also consume your data.

Many households have multiple iPods, downloading content to a central computer and then synching the iPods to that computer via a cable is much more data efficient than downloading the content to all iPods individually.

File synchronization gotchas:

DropBox, iDisk and other file synchronization services are handy tools to sync files between computers at home and work. Any time your file is changed it uses a little bit or a lot of your bandwidth. For example, if you are working on a Powerpoint presentation, it may be only a 20 MB file but if you save your work every 5 min, in an hour you will have used 240 MB of bandwidth. After half a day of work, you will be up to a gigabyte of data. That will have an impact on the speed of your connection. If you are sharing files with multiple people your local files will sync with their updates as well. Consider doing a project on your local disk and moving it into your Dropbox folder after you are done to preserve your network bandwidth. You can also manage bandwidth by selecting the folders you want In Dropbox to sync on with your local dish drive.  Check this link for an explanation of the settings: https://www.dropbox.com/help/175/en.

Review your online backup strategy: 

Online backup software can consume gigabytes of data.  Make sure your preferences are set so that you are in charge of the data usage not the backup software. Some of the online backup providers allow you to ship them an image of your hard drive so you will not have to use up bandwidth with your initial backup of your computer. Conversely they will ship you a hard drive for a restore if your computer happens to crash.  Also consider a local backup strategy.   Apple’s OSX has a built in backup software called Time Machine that works well. Windows and Linux have backup software available as well.   A good backup system happens automatically and has geographical isolation but it does not have to be cloud based and simple USB based systems at home and office can backup your file systems with no recurring costs.

Manage your Voip and webcam usage:

Many people on the network have started using Voip and cell network extenders. Voip and the network extenders use relatively small amounts data but require low latency and consistent data flow. Without network shaping Voip and network extenders would be unusable on the Wilderness Wireless network. Google video chat and FaceTime on IOS devices have become popular as well. Video streams use much more bandwidth than voice so monitor your video use.  HD quality desktop FaceTime consumes a large volume of bandwidth so make sure that you do not have something planned later that day that will require a faster connection if you run extended sessions of HD Quality video conferencing.

Look for Bandwidth Leaks:

Many devices in your home use your Internet connection, even when you may not be aware of it.  Security systems, DVRs, and Blu-ray players all use data when online, and game systems will use bandwidth while you are playing games online. Some of this use may be minor, but you still need to be aware of data they consume.   Smartphone applications that are running over WiFi 24/7 can also consume large volumes of data depending on what those apps are doing and how they are configured.

Beware of torrent file sharing:

Torrents are a quick and popular way to download large files over the internet. It is against Wilderness Wireless terms of use to use the network to download illegal content. While there are some legitimate uses for this kind of file sharing most torrent sharing is not used for legitimate content. Make sure you do not have a torrent client running on your computer as they can quickly use up your bandwidth. We have had some of our customers report slow internet speed and were unaware of a torrent client that was installed on the home computer after a visit from a student during Christmas break.

Turn off remote connection software while not in use:

Remote connection software like LogMeIn, GotoMyPC, Timbuktu and even Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are handy ways of working from home.  An “always up” connection can consume your bandwidth if left open 24/7. Always remember to log out when done and save that bandwidth for something more fun or important.

Optimizing video streaming:

Streaming video from providers such as Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, YouTube and Vudu is becoming more popular.  In order to get the best streaming experience you will need to configure the quality settings for the provider you are using. Most TV shows and older movies do not suffer from streaming in SD quality.  Video streaming over the internet just to provide background noise is not a good use of your internet bandwidth and the shaper will reduce your speed. If your household has devices like smartphones and tablets that are capable of streaming video content you will have to control the usage of such devices so that you will have bandwidth capacity when you need it.

Netflix and Hulu will only buffer the video a small amount so it is critical that you configure the quality settings to enjoy uninterrupted streaming.

Netflix:

In order to prevent buffering it is best to set your video quality on the Netflix web site. This will also allow you to control bandwidth consumption and thus stream video for a longer period of time.

To configure Netflix

Login to Netflix

Click on Your Account

Under Your Streaming Plan select Manage Video Quality

There are 3 choices

  • Good quality (up to 0.3 GB per hour) or about 600 kbps
  • Better quality (up to 0.7 GB per hour) or  about 1500 kbps
  • Best quality (up to 1 GB per hour) or about 2100 kbps

The Better quality option is a good compromise between video quality and bandwidth consumption and will work with the Wilderness Wireless network.

Hulu Plus:

As on Netflix in order to prevent buffering it is best to set your video quality on the Hulu web site.  This will also allow you to control your bandwidth consumption and stream video for a longer period of time. The options are below

Low definition 288p

Standard definition 360p

High-quality 480p

High Definition 720p

To configure Hulu

Log into Hulu plus

Hover over your name in the right hand corner and select account.

Select Privacy & Settings

Under Player Setting look for Playback Quality: medium and high settings give good results.

The high setting worked without buffering after I was shaped down to 1500 kbps. Watching two 45 min episodes of Star Trek Voyager used about 500 MB of data and the picture quality was higher than when I watched it on TV in the late 1990s

Vudu:

Note: All Vudu movies are streamed with Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 audio.

  • 1.0 – 2.3 Mbps for SD video
  • 2.3 – 4.5 Mbps for 720p video
  • 4.5 – 9.0 Mbps for HDX 1080p video

Vudu also gives you options for bandwidth control on the streaming device. Page 31 of the Vudu user guide has an in depth explanation. The PDF file of the users guide is at:www.vudu.com/docs/VUDU_User_Guide_v2.0.pdf 

Apple TV:

Apple TV will only give you two quality options of HD or SD, however, it will use as much bandwidth as it can get to move the content to your unit.  It does have 8 Gigabytes of storage that is used to cache content, and if you rent a movie on your Apple TV it will start downloading right away.  A little planning will minimize the impact on your bandwidth. The iTunes store will give you 30 days to start watching the content and 24 hrs to finish watching it. If you download content in iTunes you can play it on your Apple TV over your home network.  This will let you control when the content is downloaded.

Play Later and Play On:

Play Later is a service that lets you record online content such as Netflix, Hulu and other video content on a windows PC for playing later. This is used in conjunction with a software package called Play On that will stream to game boxes and other internet appliances. This software takes some expertise to set up and does not have a download scheduling mechanism.

 

These suggestions will have the most benefit for customers who live in multi-device households and are used to using technology to the fullest.  With some planning you will get the most out of your Wilderness Wireless Broadband connection.

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