How to keep a handle on your data usage

  • Securing a Wi-Fi network
  • Unmetered content available through most ISPs
  • How to utilize off-peak data

There are a number of ways you can ensure your data allowance doesn’t get eaten away before your monthly bill cycle ends. Fortunately, many internet providers no longer charge for excess downloads (apart from providers such as Dodo and Exetel), however many ISP’s slow your broadband speed down considerably. These shaping speeds can be as slow as 64Kbps, which makes it virtually impossible to surf the net without mashing the keyboard with your face in frustration, so don’t rely on using your internet once the speed has been shaped.

If you’re not the only one who’s accessing your internet connection at home, you may want to pass these tips on to your housemates!

Secure your wireless network

If you find your data trickling away even though you or your housemates have barely been on the net, there may be freeloading neighbours who are logging onto your Wi-Fi connection! Having an unsecured wireless network not only means you’re throwing your data away, but it also means others may be able to access sensitive data from your home computers.

The first thing you should do is enable ‘encryption’ on your wireless router, which will encode the information sent from your computer and wireless router. This helps to protect your computers against hackers. Type in your router’s IP address into the web browser, type in your username and password, and navigate to the wireless section. Use the WPA or WPA2 connection types, and creative a strong password for your wireless network. It should be made up of both letters and numbers, and be at least 14 characters long.

Check your usage online or over the phone


You can monitor your usage by logging into your online portal (usually found at your ISP’s homepage), and checking your broadband usage for the month. The site should tell you both your peak and off peak usage, and how long you have left on your monthly billing cycle. Bear in mind that there is often a 24-48 hour delay on the figures, so if you’ve been doing some heavy downloading during the last 24 hours, it might not appear on the site yet.

If you don’t know how to access your online broadband portal, contact your internet provider directly. They should also have a username and password for you so you can log in. This is usually the place where you can also change your plan, direct debit information and contact details.

Install bandwidth monitoring software


Honestly, logging in to your online portal to check your usage all the time is annoying. However, there are free applications you can download which will automatically monitor your data usage for you. Often, these applications also give you more data statistics, such as ‘average daily data usage.’ The applications often sit on your desktop, so you won’t have to go very far to find the information you are looking for...

Take advantage of unmetered content


Most internet providers offer content which you can access that doesn’t count toward your monthly data allowance. So for example, if you’re bored and looking for something to watch, instead of viewing YouTube, your internet provider may offer unmetered usage on ABC’s iView. Not only does unmetered content not use up your monthly data, often these sites aren’t affected by shaping once you have reached exceeded your data limit.

Some examples of unmetered content include:

iiNet: customers can navigate to the Freezone webpage, and access unmetered content from there. Unmetered content includes FetchTV, Tivo, ABC iView and iiNet iTunes.

Internode: ABC iView, Broadband Streaming Radio, Games On Net, Tivo and Fetch TV.

iPrimus: ABC iView, Lingo VoIP service and Tivo.

Telstra Bigpond: Bigpond has a range of unmetered content, including news, sport, movies, games, music and shopping.

TPG: iPTV.

Use your off peak data

Just because you’re not a shift worker doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of your off peak data. You can confirm via your online portal with your ISP when your off peak data times are. Off peak times vary from provider-to-provider, and plan-to-plan, so it’s best to double check this.

There’s software you can download to schedule your biggest downloads during off peak hours. Not only does this save you on data, but can also make downloading large files a little bit quicker.

Limit your uploads

Many internet plans count both uploads and downloads toward your monthly data usage. This means that even though somebody may be taking data off you, it’s still using up your monthly allowance.

An easy way to do this is to download software which will limit the upload speeds allowed on your computer. Limiting your upload speed will also ensure your downloads aren’t slowing down considerably.

Turn off applications running in the background and close unnecessary widgets

Most people don’t notice their PC running unnecessary applications in the background (Windows is especially good at doing this). Running these applications uses up extra data, and can also slow your computer down.

Turn your computer off at night


OK, so if you close extra applications and widgets off, this step probably isn’t as important. But it could save you a little extra data each month and the planet will also appreciate the effort.

Upgrade your plan


If you find you’re still running out of data each month even after some careful monitoring, it might be time to upgrade your plan. Even if you’re within contract, most providers will let you upgrade your plan with no penalty fees. Many ISP’s have larger plans available for only $10 more each month.

If you’re already on a very high data plan, give us a call on 1300 106 571 to find out about TPG’s unlimited broadband plans. Dodo (1300 136 793) also offers cheap unlimited plans, and both iiNet (1300 106 571) and iPrimus (1300 137 794) offer huge terabyte plans.

Engin customers can purchase “Afterburners,” which can be purchased as a once-off (or whenever needed), to get you through the rest of your monthly broadband cycle.

Afterburners:

1GB peak, 1GB off peak: $5
2GB peak, 2GB off peak: $10
3GB peak, 3GB off peak: $15