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Top 10 Ways To Reduce WFH Bandwidth Consumption

Posted by Corey Meyer on Mar 31, 2020
Corey Meyer
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In the new work-from-home (and school-from-home) era, between adding your family “full-time” to your home wifi and the cloud providers and ISPs scrambling to increase capacity, many of you have probably already experienced some network slow down or lag. Here are SecureSky’s “Top 10” ways to decrease load and, hopefully, increase your speed:

  1. Reduce your webcam resolution/video quality – we agree it is nice to stay visually connected in these times, so we are not going to suggest totally turning off your video connection to your co-workers. But video is 70% of all network traffic. You and your spouse videoconferencing while the kids are video-learning, or watching streaming services, might create the biggest issue. All webcams have settings to adjust resolution and frames per second. Dial yours down to see if you can tell the difference. For those of you that are admins for your home or businesses, there are Quality of Services (“QoS”) settings on your network devices, network segments and service upgrades that will help, and below are links for QoS settings for three popular video/audio conferencing services:

Zoom:

https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/207368756-QoS-DSCP-Marking

Teams:

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoftteams/qos-in-teams

Webex:

https://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/td/docs/solutions/CVD/Collaboration/hybrid/12x/hybcvd/bwm.html

  1. Stagger start times for meetings and gaming times – this suggestion from Microsoft initially seemed silly until we tried it. If your team agrees to start meetings at 15 or 45 minutes past the hour, you will run into less traffic congestion. Also coordinating with your children’s class schedules and gaming times will reduce overlap.
  2. Reduce meeting length – everyone in business should applaud this suggestion. If we all target making our one-hour meetings last 55 minutes and our half-hour meetings last 25 minutes, we give “the system” an extra 10 minutes an hour. With millions working from home worldwide, this adds up to considerable capacity.
  3. Do not send attachments via email; instead use file sharing links – many companies on SharePoint or similar services already adhere to this practice. Now is the time to get into the habit.
  4. For those of you with unlimited cellular data plans, take your family’s cell phones off your home wifi. If you don’t want to do this, turn off maps/GPS/locator functionality running in the background of most apps on your phones. Also, close apps that you’re not using. This is done in different ways depending upon your smartphone platform, and each platform offers a way to turn off background app refresh.
  5. While you are pondering the effect your family’s cell phones have on your home wifi response, use your router application and see all of the devices you have on your network. When you add up the number of connections from iPads, Kindles, Apple TVs, Rokus, Amazon Fire Sticks, XBoxes, PlayStations, security cameras, alarm systems and video doorbells, smart outlets, switches and light bulbs on your wifi, it may surprise you. While many require constant connection, many do not. As mentioned above many newer home routers allow you to prioritize, rate limit or time limit device connections to free up bandwidth (i.e. applying additional “QoS” techniques to your home network). Also, if your wireless router offers 2.4 Ghz and 5 Ghz channels, make sure low bandwidth devices like printers are using the 2.4 Ghz radio, and other devices are using the 5 Ghz radio(s). The 5 Ghz radios typically have larger bandwidth capabilities and will be much more tolerant to the number of devices connected. Finally, while you are at it, change the password of your wifi, just in case a neighbor is “borrowing” your bandwidth.
  6. Speaking of streaming TV devices – make sure everyone in your family understands how to turn off the streaming device and not just the TV when they are done watching.
  7. Limit streaming music, video or gaming services during business hours, or at least if you have an important meeting (this will be by far the most controversial suggestion to those with bored kids right now). But it will add a tremendous amount of capacity when you really need it.
  8. Similar to number 1 above, lowering your outbound video quality, lower the download quality of services such as YouTube or Netflix (if the isn’t already throttling you). If you are currently default streaming everything at 4K, consider dropping to 1080p, at least during your working hours. This can be done at the service level or device level.
  9. Look at your web habits – for example, what browser do you use? (Google Chrome offers the most compression). Do you have automatic uploads to iCloud or Google Photos enabled? Do you take advantage of browser extensions to block images, JavaScript and plugins? Every little bit helps.

While this post addresses some ideas to lower bandwidth usage, we continue to see an increase of attacks on home networks, automation devices and endpoints. Make sure your router, device firmware and devices are up to date and you use encryption functionality, MFA/complex passwords, and follow security best practices: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2020/03/online-security-tips-working-home.

To close, in this day and age, we recognize the trade-offs between everyone in the family competing for the same network resources, while trying to maintain some semblance of normalcy. Talk with your family members so that everyone understands priorities. If you socialize with your neighbors (obviously while maintaining social distancing measures) you might even have a “driveway talk,” especially if your local ISP options are limited and you are all on the same service. We hope a suggestion or two above helps you remain productive in these uncertain times, and you and your family stay safe and healthy.

Topics: Cloud Security, WFH, Work From Home

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