Many of our rural customers do not have access to cable, DSL, or fiber Internet services and need to rely on satellite or cellular data connections. While these options are better than nothing, they do have the disadvantage of offering a limited volume of data. With higher demand for streaming services Microsoft almost entirely removing the ability to turn off updates in Windows, customers on metered Internet connections are running into their data caps more frequently than ever before. Fortunately, there are ways to manage your Internet usage to help keep costs down. Read on to find out how, and be sure to check back next week for part two.
Data Usage Monitoring
Windows 10 allows users to monitor their data usage in a similar fashion as smartphones. The advantages of this feature are that you can track how much data you are using (useful if you are on a metered connection, more on that later) and which apps or programs are using the most data. To access this feature in Windows 10, click on Start > Settings > Network & Internet > Data Usage. From this screen you can see your total data usage on either your wired or wireless connection. To see which apps are using data (and how much), click on Usage details. Keep in mind that Windows only shows data usage from the last 30 days.
Why This is Important
With the proliferation of mobile devices and the increase in cellular data speeds and coverage, more people than ever are on metered Internet connections. What is a metered connection? Simply put, a metered connection is one in which your Internet consumption is limited to a certain amount each month. For instance, your smartphone service plan includes a set amount of data that you can use each month. Whether it’s small(1GB) or large (30GB) it is limited. If you go over this limit you are either charged an additional amount to add more data or your speed is reduced (known as “throttling”). Satellite Internet connections are also limited in this fashion.
While some see this as unfair (it is) there is a reason and that is to manage capacity. As more people (and devices) connect to the Internet, more bandwidth is needed to ensure that everyone is allowed access. This means that service providers must continually increase the capacity of their service to handle more customers. A good way to visualize this is to think of a highway. When there are few vehicles on the road, traffic moves faster. As you add more vehicles (especially semis and oversized loads), the highway fills up and traffic begins to slow. There are two solutions to this problem; add more lanes to increase capacity (which is expensive and slow to implement but fixes the issue of capacity) or charge an extra fee to people who want to use more road (easier to implement, increases profits but doesn’t fix the problem of capacity).
Mobile data providers (cellular, satellite) charge customers higher rates for using more volume, (instead of charging more for faster speeds) while fixed service providers (DSL, Fiber, etc) charge customers higher rates for more speed but don’t limit the amount used. The results are the same; customers who use more, pay more.
If you are on a metered Internet connection, you will want to make sure you don’t go over that limit. Doing so will either cost you dollars in overage fees and/or see your connection “throttled,” either of which will make you very unhappy. Let’s take a look at how to prevent this from happening. In Windows 10, you can designate a wireless connection as being metered. Unfortunately, at this time you cannot do this with wired connections so if you use satellite or cellular Internet by connecting your computer with a wire, you may want to consider switching to wireless.
To mark a wireless connection as a metered connection in Windows 10, first connect to the network, then click on Start > Settings > Network & Internet > Wifi > Advanced options and enable Set as metered connection. You will need to do this to each wireless network that you want to limit but once you set it as a metered connection it will remain so. Using this option disables or limits certain features and functions in Windows 10. Items like Windows Update will only download priority updates, apps downloading from the Windows Store might be paused, Start screen tiles might stop updating, and offline files might not sync automatically. There are additional settings and services which can be disabled to lessen data usage even further and these will be discussed in our next article.