If you share your home with an avid gamer, they often get the blame when your Internet connection slows to a crawl. However, games aren’t normally the biggest hogs when it comes to your Net speed.
Actually playing games usually takes very little bandwidth. The game just sends minimal information required to tell the other players what each person is doing. That’s generally just basic mouse and keyboard strokes: everything else is done on their own computer.
There are four main exceptions to this:
- If you’re hosting the game or running a server. The server is keeping track of everyone, and uses far more bandwidth than individual players.
- Voice chat. This uses a more bandwidth than the actual game, though it’s still not significant compared to some of the other things we’ll mention later.
- Downloading updates, patches, and new games. Some of these can be huge, and can impact everyone’s usage.
- Some fully-online games, particularly Web-based games, send a lot of data, including graphics and sounds, as you play. Games you’ve installed, or which you’re running off a disk, generally don’t do this.
Photo: Hector Alejandro
So where’s the bandwidth going?
In a typical four-person home, it’s not unusual to have ten or more devices all connected to the Internet simultaneously. Not only everyone’s desktop and/or laptop, but their phones and games consoles – they’re all taking something. If everyone’s running apps that are regularly polling for updates, that quickly adds up to a noticeable background level, even when noting much is happening.
The biggest consumer of bandwidth in the home is streaming video. If you’ve got several people all watching videos on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, or YouTube, especially if they’re watching in HD, this will eat up far more bandwidth than any game. And don’t forget video chat – that can be a big hit.
Streaming music isn’t anywhere near as intensive as video, but it still takes more bandwidth than you might realize, especially if you’ve selected the higher quality channels.
Uploading and downloading big files can have a massive effect too. If you’re downloading or torrenting videos or software, this can slow things down for everyone. Sometimes, if you have applications that are downloading updates in the background, you may not even be aware of it. If you’re using cloud storage, Flickr, or Facebook to and uploading a bunch of photos, that can quickly congest your home connection.
Malware can be a real abuser of bandwidth. Unwanted rogue apps could be could be doing almost anything behind your back: sending out thousands of spam emails, or even hacking into Web sites round the world.
The other thing to bear in mind is that your neighbors may be affecting your bandwidth. There’s a limited amount of bandwidth available in your street, and when everyone’s home, watching videos, surfing the web and listening to music, it can all get congested. On average, we’re using about ten times more bandwidth now than we were three years ago, and providers sometimes struggle to meet peak demand. If you test your home Internet speed throughout a weekday, you’ll probably find that it’s great in the morning, slows down when the kids get home from school, slows down even more in the evening, and then picks up again when people are heading to bed.
So when your Internet feels sluggish, don’t necessarily blame your Warcraft– or Call of Duty-obsessed teen. Their game is unlikely to be the true culprit.
If you need help to find out more about where your bandwidth is going, we can assist you with tools that monitor your actual usage and identify any problem areas. This will also tell you whether you’re getting good service from your Internet provider or whether you’re simply using a lot of bandwidth.
Want to measure your Internet speed right now? Check out: https://www.speedcheck.org/