It’s common to use Wi-Fi at home instead of cellular data plans (and modern devices are good at automatically switching back and forth). However, many homes still use internet plans with data limits: if you hit that limit, you can pay hefty fees if you keep using the internet that month. With many people working from home in 2021, reaching those data limits could be a lot easier than it ever was.
Paying for a higher level of internet services will increase your monthly bills, but there is another solution: smart data management at home to keep data usage low! These are the best techniques we recommend to implement.
Start by viewing your router information
Modern routers usually include app management that gives you many tools to see how devices in your home are using data. This is a great place to start, as it will help you determine which devices are responsible for the most data use and which new habits can mitigate that problem (note: families with children).
For example, in Google Nest Wi-Fi, you can select the network icon and select your Wi-Fi network name to see all the devices currently connected to the network and their data usage over time, customizable by duration of the time. up to 60 days. Is Someone’s Phone Streaming Way Too Many TikTok Videos? Do those web conferences for work require a lot more data than you thought? This is one of the easiest ways to find out.
Lower the streaming resolution a notch or two
Streaming is ubiquitous in today’s homes, but it also consumes a lot of data over time. While it is difficult to cut the streaming time, it is worth it if you consistently exceed monthly data limits. Try to avoid streaming video while doing other tasks to ease usage.
But an even more effective option could be to lower your resolution for now. In account settings for services such as Netflix, YouTube and almost all streaming apps, you have options to change the playback resolution. Ultra HD and 4K resolutions will eat up your data at unbelievably fast speeds: switch back to low quality or slow connection resolutions (aim for 720p if possible), which will save you a ton of data while still enjoying all your favorite videos.
Don’t forget to turn off your streaming sticks
Streaming sticks like Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV connect to Wi-Fi and your TV, so you can control apps and stream programs on non-smart TVs. These small streaming devices are handy, but they don’t always turn off automatically when the TV is off. That means you could shut down your TV while leaving the stick on and connected to your Wi-Fi, steadily chewing through your data. Double check that you turn off the streaming stick before you turn off the TV and teach everyone in your household to do the same.
Exit web pages when you are done
Today’s web pages often include auto-playing videos, ads, or GIFs that play in loops or over an extended period of time – as long as the web page remains open. If you’re the type to leave multiple tabs open, work on closing every web page you no longer need, instead of waiting to close them all at once. This helps with any background browsing activity that could eat your data.
This is especially true for social media. You’d be surprised how much data you can go through while scrolling through a social news feed, especially if each autoplay video is launched on the go. If possible, turn off auto-play videos on your social media and don’t scroll longer than necessary to get the latest updates.
Download a browser extension that can store data
There are also browser extensions designed to help you automatically save data while browsing online. These are especially useful to enable, as there is no need to manually adjust various settings on websites to see real data results – so it works for anyone using the browser.
Bandwidth Hero is a good choice for images because it automatically compresses them on the website you are viewing. It’s not great when image quality is particularly important, but very useful for more casual browsing. Bandwidth Saver for YouTube can be a good choice if your home is watching a lot of YouTube videos through the browser as all YouTube settings are set for the lowest and lightest data options.
For generic extensions that enable all of the data saving modes they can find on any site you visit, you can use skyZIP Proxy (which also includes privacy tools) or the simpler Save-Data: on extension.
Disable games if you are not active in them
While gaming, it is always tempting to leave the game open while doing something else, with the intention of coming back. But most games have online components, which means that while you’re not playing, they are still consuming data. That becomes a problem if you don’t play the game for an hour or two in a row. Accept the few minutes it takes to restart the game, and just shut it down when you walk away.
Use unlimited data plans whenever possible
Some teleworkers find themselves in the odd situation of having data limits on their home internet usage, but unlimited data on their mobile plans. That means you can save on data usage by moving some processes to devices with the data plan. That could even mean encouraging people to stream programs on phones or tablets instead of the TV, or business meetings on your mobile device instead of your primary PC.
Limit the recording of security cameras
Security cameras are designed to be smart and most come with motion detectors that detect human movement (indoors or outdoors) and immediately start capturing video. That video can be stored on local drives, but is often sent to cloud storage instead. If a video camera is triggered several times a day during the month, it can consume an incredible amount of data.
If you have such a smart camera, dive into the settings and see if there are options to enable recording only when you are not at home, to record only when motion is detected, and to record only in lower resolutions – all the options that Nest Cam and Nest Hello offer and are often available on other security systems. If possible, you may also want to set motion detector zones for more accurate alerts.
Keep your WiFi safe
A poorly secured Wi-Fi network can invite nearby people to disconnect, which is unfortunately common in Wi-Fi networks that lack passwords and proper encryption. Check out our guide on how to tell if someone is stealing your Wi-Fi and what you can do to stop it and keep your data.