How To Conserve Internet Bandwidth

Introduction

    I wrote this in response to someone who was complaining about a 250GB/month cap on their internet bandwidth.  While I understand that people are upset because they originally signed up for unlimited internet, nothing is truly unlimited.  Here are some ways you can possibly save some internet bandwidth:

Bit Torrent

    Bit Torrent is a wonderful tool.  It allows downloads to be done communally, meaning it lightens bandwidth usage on the server by using the bandwidth of those downloading to feed the process.  As you download, you're also uploading to someone else who is also downloading.  This may be a way, however, that you're using up bandwidth on your monthly allowance.  While Bit Torrent is a nice thing, and it's nice to help by sharing (mainly Linux distributions use it for the download process to save money), once you're done uploading just as much as you have downloaded, any moral or ethical obligation is complete.  To save bandwidth, you could stop seeding over what you downloaded.  You can also consider buying the media you are downloading (such as Linux DVDs) rather than using Bit Torrent.
    I am not saying you should stop using Bit Torrent.  It's a nice tool.  I am just saying maybe you could limit its use.  It's like the difference between being generous (uploading as much as you download) and too generous (uploading more than you downloaded).
    Also, stop downloading illegal stuff using Bit Torrent.  (It's not Bit Torrent's fault.)  There are those out there using this technology for evil purposes.

Limit Online Movies


    While I like being able to watch movies on demand online, it's where some bandwidth is used up.  Movies can be 2GB or more of data.  You could instead either rent the movies (or via mail), use the local library, or simply buy the ones you like.  I am a very big supporter of copyright laws as written, so long as they do not prevent Fair Use.

Limit Internet Radio

    I love internet radio, especially free internet radio.  However, it uses bandwidth obviously.  Instead of listening to internet radio, you could instead buy the CDs you like, and/or purchase in mp3 or other online format.  I do this personally using BMG Music Services.  All my CDs are in FLAC format on my laptop.

Use RSYNC

    Rsync is an excellent tool for conserving bandwidth.  Instead of, for example, loading up everything on my website each time I make a change, I use this tool.  It finds what's changed and only uploads that, but still synchronizing the two copies (i.e. the local copy of my website on my laptop and the copy on the web server).  You can use rsync on your computer (for synchronizing a backup drive faster than normal) or over the LAN for copying files from computer to computer (like using file sharing).  You can try to use rsync for things, such as getting updates for your computer (for example, I keep a copy of Slackware-12.1/patches/packages so that I run rsync each day and only get the updates I need).

Do Not Watch Movies Online

    This is another way people "bleed" bandwidth: watching online movies.  It's fun, and I like YouTube, but is a waste of bandwidth some times.  If you have something you watch often, download it if possible.  As for pornography, other than the very obvious and serious moral and ethical problems, it uses bandwidth.  Stop looking at it.

Do Not Use Interval Mail Checking


    I see people set their email programs to download their email every 30 minutes.  Seriously, if you're not at your computer, does it need to get downloaded?  You can't answer it if you are not around.  I'd recommend if you need to save bandwidth, shut that feature off and only check email once a day.

Do Not Idle On IRC


    IRC (internet relay chat) is a very nice thing when used properly.  However, you don't need to stay logged into it if you're not around to talk.  If you're not at the computer, consider closing your IRC client.

Limit Online Forums / Newsgroups


    I'd suggest for those who need to save bandwidth to not use them all day.  This wastes bandwidth.  Why not log in only once a day?  As for newsgroups, do you really need your newsgroup client to download new messages every 30 minutes?  Again, if you're not there to use it, consider shutting it off.

Limit Instant Messenger Applications

    Again, the same concept.  If you're not around to talk to, why stay logged in?  I realize that sometimes you want people to be able to message you.  However, good protocols, such as Yahoo Messenger, save these offline messages for you to review next time you log in.  That, and honestly, people can email you (they know your email address typically) or call you on your phone.
   

Evaluate Internet Phone and Cell Phone Use


    If you can use your cell phone, or even a different phone (since there are toll free phone numbers), you should try to do that if you are trying to conserve bandwidth.  Also, sometimes it's easier to use a lower bandwidth method for communications: such as text messaging (cell phone) or instant messaging (Yahoo/AOL/ICQ/MSN).

Toolbars


    Some web browsers like FireFox have toolbars that can help you save bandwidth.  For example, the search toolbar: type it in and click Search rather than navigating to Google's website separately.

Use RSS


    RSS is a web feed format.  Basically, instead of using the Fox News website to view all that stuff plus links to the stories, you can use RSS to view it in a lower bandwidth format and only click the stories you want to read more on.

Summary

    There are ways to save bandwidth.  I wouldn't go to the extent of running a bandwidth meter to check how much space you have left if your ISP capped the line at 250GB a month.  That's extremely generous, in fact.
    Besides which, there are other things to do in life.  Spend time with your wife and kids (if applicable).  Go out and do something stimulating for your mind like go to a music or art festival, go to an art gallery, get your education, learn a new hobby or skill, get (and use) a gym membership, go to LUG meetings, etc.  The less you use your computer, the less bandwidth you should probably use (and/or if you go some place where the wireless is free.... )



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