Internet Data Usage - where and how is it being used

Just like your mains water supply, data usage on your Internet connection can flow at different rates (your Internet speed measured in Mb/s (megabits per second), during different times of the day, and is largely down to what devices and applications you are running, either that you are aware of or not (as many devices these days auto-update and backup without you knowing).

The amount of data you use (measured in MB or GB (megabytes or gigabytes) refers to the amount of data you have transferred, either downloaded or uploaded. 

Our data allowances refer to download + upload.

Keeping with the water analogy for a moment, Wessex Internet are like your water company. We provide you the main feed into your home or business, and then it's up to you what appliances or devices you fit. We have a 'meter' just like you may have with a water company. It's accurate. There's no chance that we're adding your neighbour's data usage to your readings!

We don't know what you plug in and use on your network, and we don't know what applications or services you use on those devices just like you water company doesn't know that you may have 2 power showers, 1 dishwasher and 5 sinks etc.

Like your water appliances, network devices and applications use a varying amount of data depending on what they are. Like running a bath will consume 100s of litres of water, downloading the latest version of iOS for your iPhone may consume nearly 1000 MB (megabytes) of data. Forgetting to turn the tap off is like leaving your BBC iPlayer live TV window open without shutting it down. Where it can sometimes be difficult to know where the data usage has come from is because some applications can be running in the background, perhaps without your knowledge. This is like your dishwasher turning on automatically!

Can you tell me where I have used the data?

Unfortunately not. 

We can only tell what your main account uses which is what you'll see reported in the customer portal.

We can supply a business-grade router which does have client-device tracking and reporting, however these can range into the few £100s.

I've just joined Wessex Internet, and my data usage is much higher than I'd expect. Why?

This is a very common question we hear, and can be explained for the most part with a simple explanation.

Before, with your previous Internet provider, you may have had a slow broadband. In many cases, a very slow broadband connection!

  • It may have been so slow that you were unable to fully download software updates needed for your connected Internet devices. So these have all backed up and with the faster connection they have unstuck and caught up. This may consume many MB (megabytes) or GB (gigabytes) of data.
  • It may have been too slow to allow your online backup service, or Dropbox to upload all of your files to the cloud. These may have completely caught up with the faster service.
  • Maybe, your household and business are now using online services like HD video websites (BBC iPlayer, Netflix, YouTube), that they were unable to use beforehand. You are starting to use more data because the service is better. Water analogy alert: Like a power shower - it will use more water and it's better than a weak mains shower. You may need to upgrade to the next-package up. After all this is why we have a range of packages to suit different requirements.
  • Perhaps, you had been on an 'unlimited service', and making the most of it! We don't currently provide unlimited data services as we believe at this time, that unlimited services are a quick way to a congested, non-premium network where 5% of users use 95% of the data. We recommended upgrading to the next package if you are using more data.

In most cases, we find that customer's data usage settles down after the first week to two weeks after installation after software updates have completed and your online backups and transfers complete. In some cases, the higher usage continues, and this shows that you really must be enjoying the benefits of a faster connection and making more use of it. Again, different households and businesses will have different requirements.

Why did I download so much data on a day I hardly used the Internet or wasn't around? 

This is the second most common data usage question we hear.

There is no silver bullet answer, and it depends on what devices you left connected to the Internet, what applications you have running on them that require the Internet, and what other users in your household or business were doing at the time that may have contributed to this data usage.

Just because you only sent the the 'odd-E-mail' and browsed a few websites, it doesn't mean that elsewhere on your network, someone, or something was download or uploading data. A guest may have arrived with their iPhone and connected to your Wi-Fi. Do you know that they aren't backing up to their iCloud, or downloading many GB (gigabytes) of app updates? You may have a faster connection than they have elsewhere and so they or their device are making the most of it!

It can be confusing to see that on a particular day, a lot of GB (gigabytes) of data has been used, when you are sure that the Internet hasn't been used at all, or for light web browsing.

Here are some areas where large amounts of data can be downloaded:

  • Software updates.
    • Windows Updates: Most Wednesday's see Microsoft release a lot of security and important software updates. These updates can be automatic and download them without your express say so. The software updates can vary in size. Some weeks they many only be a few MB (megabytes), but other times, they may be a hundreds of MB.
    • Mac OS Updates: Apple try to make things even simpler than Microsoft, so their default options will be download recommended security and important updates on your Mac OS X laptops or desktop. These downloads again vary in size, and some updates have been seen to download many GB (gigabytes of data). These updates are irregular and may occur once or twice a month.
    • iOS Updates (iPhones, iPads, iPod Touches): Every time your iPhones and iPads are connected to Wi-Fi and charging, they will periodically check and download any App updates after a period of inactivity. As you can imagine, you may have tens or hundreds of Apps, and your household may have many Apple iOS devices. Most App developers are updating their Apps on a very regular bases, in some cases weekly or fortnightly. So it would not be uncommon for this to be a cause of much unaccounted downloaded usage. Just check how many iOS devices you have in your household and how many Apps these have. 
    • Android Updates: Although we at Wessex Internet don't have the familiarity with Android that we do with Apple iOS, we understand it operates a similar auto-app-update system so can consume a lot of data automatically when you are connected to Wi-Fi and apps and other backups are transferred.
  • Online File storage/ online backup:
    • Do you use Dropbox, Box or any other online file storage backup service? Everytime you put a file into these folders, they will sync, and if others are sharing files with you, then this could account for a lot of data usage.
    • If you have an Apple iOS device, iCloud backups are usually conducted overnight when connected to WiFi and charging. If you have added a number of Apps and taken a number of photos and movies recently, this will all consume a lot of data.
  • Is your neighbour using your Wi-Fi network?:
    • Have you changed your Wi-Fi security to none - i.e. you do not have a password on your Wi-Fi, or your Wi-Fi key has been passed unwittingly to others?
    • If so, then perhaps your neighbours or someone outside your home or business are using your faster Internet connection?

I've checked on my online portal, and I'm uploading a lot of data, what could be causing this?

Generally, customers upload around 10% of what they download. E.g. If you download 40 GB per month, you will generally upload around 4 GB of data. This is on average. Some customers may upload more, this depends on what you use.

Some high upload applications:

  • BitTorrent: BitTorrent is a peer-to-peer file sharing application commonly used to download films and movies (illegally or not!). The nature of it being peer to peer means that you are sending, or uploading, data to other people who want what data you have. E.g. if you have downloaded a film, and you have used Bittorrent, then you will also be uploading this to other people who want to download the film. Hence why it's called peer-to-peer!
  • Online backup: Do you use an online backup service? This will obviously be uploading, or sending your files to an online server for backup purposes.
  • A virus!: Have all of your connected PCs and Macs been protected with up-to-date Antivirus? Potentially one or more devices have been infected with a virus and it's using your connection to send SPAM or create a DDOS attack or data to others.

I do a lot of broadband speed tests like speedtest.net, is this consuming data?

YES!

Every time you run a broadband speed test, you will be downloading and uploading a huge amount of data that is counting towards your data usage.

The faster you connection, the more data you will consume.

A typical speedtest.net check on our network will consume 135 MB of data (based on download speed of 30 Mb/s down and 5 Mb/s up).

If you have a faster connection, like our pure-fibre 100 Mb/s services, we have seen nearly 750 MB used for one test!

Our recommendation is not to test your Internet speed 'every day' if you are concerned about data usage.

I'm still confused, is there no way we can find out what's using the data?

Ultimately, we don't know what devices or applications you are using on your network from our network-end. You will have a better guess than us.

We can provide a business-grade router that can give you an insight into what devices are using the data, when, and where to, but nothing from our central 'network-level'. 

 

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