When we think of data usage, one of the first things that come to mind is the lag, buffering and general misery that comes with going over what originally seemed like a manageable data limit. Many users start the month with a fresh data cap and high hopes for their internet connection, only to end up halfway through the billing cycle browsing at a snail’s pace.
Smart internet data usage starts with a quick knowledge of the technology so that you and other members of your household can make wise connection decisions. Our experts start with the basics and give a few helpful ways that you can limit data usage in your household.
So, what is data anyway?
Data is information that we upload to our personal computers and phones, or download to other destinations (websites, servers, etc.).
It’s difficult for the average consumer to wrap their mind around the concept of data limits and usage, as data is not a physical thing we can touch or see. So when it comes to the ability to limit data usage, many users tend to “go with the flow” until the well runs dry.
Internet and phone providers typically put a cap on data and how much of it we can access. But when you can’t see something that’s constantly depleting, it can be difficult to stay within the recommended, or mandated, perimeters. Most subscribers only get an idea of how much data they really have at the beginning of the billing cycle and if they happen to run out before the next.
Data usage is also very relative to the user and the internet activity. Some internet providers allow 10 GB a month while others provide what seems like endless usage. While some people never hit their 10 GB ceiling, others (likely gamers and heavy streamers) are having to check their usage daily to make sure they stay under their data limit.
Thankfully, there are a few ways you can limit data usage to make sure that the data you’re allotted lasts all month long.
What are five effective ways to limit data usage?
1. Be aware of your data usage
Your typical data consumption depends on how often you’re connecting to your network and the types of activities you engage in when you do connect. Certain internet activities (online gaming or streaming in 4K, for example) will always use more data than casual browsing, so if these are things you typically enjoy, you may want to consider a plan with a higher cap.
Check your usage weekly or even daily to see where spikes are in usage. You may find that video chatting with your friends for long periods of time is taking up 50% of your data. Streaming and gaming can also be major data drains. The more you’re aware of your activities and usage, the more you can pick and choose what to skip in order to limit data usage.
2. Turn off automatic updates
New software often comes with unexpected updates that can eat away at your data at the most inopportune time. Instead of foregoing updates, which can cause a decrease in performance quality, go into your settings and turn off the automatic download function. This way, to limit data usage, you can see alerts for when updates are available and decide which are necessary and which you can leave until a different billing cycle.
3. Set limits
If you know your household is tight on data each month, be sure to make everyone aware of the situation. When you’re trying to limit data usage, one uninformed streamer on your family’s shared data plan could spell trouble for all. In a plan with multiple users, it’s sometimes best to allocate portions of available data to each family member. For emergency purposes, set aside a small amount of data to tap into if everyone reaches their limits before the month is up.
4. Use free Wi-Fi connections
When you’re away from home, if there’s a free Wi-Fi signal available, use it! This is a great way to limit data usage. It’s basically free data, and you’ll find that these kinds of connections can be your best ally when you’re in a data squeeze. While you’re online, take time to run updates on your device, back up large files and even get in a video call or two to family members.
5. Try an unlimited data plan
If there’s a provider that offers an unlimited data plan in your area, it may be the most cost-efficient way for your family to browse comfortably each month. Providers like Frontier and Spectrum typically offer residential internet service without data caps, but even those are subject to restrictions if you go overboard.
In what’s deemed as the “Acceptable Use Policy”, Spectrum reserves the right to impose limits on excessive bandwidth consumption if the user places an “unusually large burden on the network or goes above normal usage.”
This basically means that as long as you keep in mind some of the aforementioned tips, a typical household should be able to browse and stream to their heart’s content.
Looking for a plan like this near you? Give us a call today to speak with an internet expert about upgrading your residential plan to unlimited data usage.
Originally published 03/09/2016. Last updated 07/01/2019.