We are in the midst of a massive surge in internet data use. We’re doing more things online than ever before, to the point where you could almost say we’re "living our lives" online. With our data-intensive lifestyles, you could find you're consuming a lot more data on your internet plan with each passing month. So what can you do to save data on your internet plan, and why should you be managing your data usage?
Why manage your data usage?
If you're not on an unlimited plan, managing your data usage helps you stay under your limit and avoid being throttled. Watching how much data you're using lets you avoid internet congestion in your household if you have multiple devices streaming at the same time. However, keep in mind that if you're consistently going over, it might be worth it to switch to a bigger plan.
Additionally, managing your data usage can save you money, as you could find a smaller plan satisfies your requirements just as well as an unlimited one. For example, if your household doesn't stream video and only needs the internet for work, school, and other basic tasks, you could save money by choosing a basic plan.
For mobile broadband users, tracking usage is vital, as you'll likely be charged extra when you go over your monthly allowance.
Working out how much data you use each month
The average household consumes around 196GB a month, and nbn™ subscribers tend to chew through more data than ADSL users. Video streaming is the single biggest driver of the leap in our data consumption. More than 80% of households in Australia use the internet for streaming services, with web browsing, social media, study, work, and gaming as the other common internet activities.
So how much data are you using each month? Work out how many hours of each activity you do each month for an estimated total. Streaming video services like Netflix can use around 3GB per hour for HD formats and 7GB per hour for UHD/4K.
It’s also important to note that if you’re using a VPN to watch Netflix, you will still be using up data, even if you’re connected to Wi-Fi. Similarly, YouTube can use 3.5GB per hour for HD and 7GB for 4K. Browsing, email, study, and work tend to be light uses when it comes to data, and you could estimate these to be around 150MB per hour.
Strategies for saving data
Adjusting settings, using the right tools to check data, and paying attention to security could help you save more data and stay under your allowance.
1. Track your data usage
Use an app or your account dashboard/portal (often provided by ISP) to track your data usage. Check how often the data usage is updated to avoid going over unintentionally.
For mobile broadband (like on your phone), you'll likely get alerts when you reach certain usage milestones and possibly a warning before you exceed the monthly allowance.
Your router management software might allow you to view your usage by device and application. You can also download third-party firmware solutions to monitor usage through your router, though this tip is for more advanced users only.
2. Unmetred versus metered content
Your provider might offer certain content on a free, unlimited basis. For example, you might be able to stream music or watch sports from certain providers without it counting towards your allowance. Get to know what unmetered services you can use so you can enjoy these without worrying about data usage.
3. Adjust settings
Adjust the video settings on streaming sites like YouTube and Netflix. Lowering the playback definition can help you conserve data. For example, you'll save a lot of data by streaming video in SD rather than in HD or 4K.
4. Turn off automatic downloads
Another way to save is to turn automatic downloads off on your devices and consoles. A lot of devices have automatic downloads as the default setting for software updates. Check the settings on your computer, games consoles, phone, and other devices so the device asks for permission before downloading system updates.
5. Sync settings
If you use cloud storage platforms like Dropbox, the default setting could be ‘automatic sync’. Switch this off and opt for manual syncing unless you need to have automatic syncing enabled.
6. Disable video autoplay
Check your browser settings and make sure autoplay for videos is switched off. You might need to download an add-on for this, depending on your browser. Some social media platforms like Facebook might have the video on autoplay by default, so ensure you change your settings for these as well.
7. Data-saver mode and apps
Some browsers, like Opera Mini, offer ‘light’ or data-saver versions with in-built ad blockers and data-conservation features. Devices could also have integrated data-saving features, so check these out and turn them on if available. For desktops and laptops, look for browser add-ons and settings designed to conserve data. Some of these also come with speed-enhancing features, so you’ll not only save data but be loading pages more quickly.
Make sure your wireless networks are using the highest encryption standards available, and scan for malware on your devices. Doing so can help you avoid malicious attacks, as well as bandwidth theft.
If you've been exceeding your data or experiencing internet congestion due to multiple users at home, applying these strategies can help you stay within your allowance. In addition, by better managing your data usage, you and your household members can avoid congestion and enjoy a better internet experience.