Managing Internet Bandwidth at Home

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Many lawyers are working from home now, and so are their kids, spouses and other family members. That means that most everyone is probably relying on the home Internet router to supply bandwidth. If you find that your internet is running slowly there are some things you can do to reduce your usage and speed it up without impeding your ability to work.

Check Your Equipment

Most home users will be dependent on a wireless router to deliver access to the internet. If your router is older or is not optimally placed, it can slow down internet in certain areas of the house. Wired Magazine has an excellent guide to getting faster internet at home, including repositioning the router, purchasing extenders and even upgrading your router. If you have an older router you can try to update the firmware. If you have an older laptop you could try updating the PC’s wifi drivers. If you have a dual-band router (2.4GHz and 5GHz) the computers closest to the router should use the 5GHz and the computers farther from the router should use the 2.4GHz. Of course, you can always try rebooting your router and check with your ISP for outages. This Techhive article walks you through many of these steps.

Your Internet Browser

If you are using the Chrome browser, you are already using one of the fastest leanest internet browsers. However, there are some things you can do to speed up your browsing.

If web pages are loading sluggishly you can see what is hogging resources. Right-click on the title bar and select “Task Manager”, or press Shift + Esc to open it. Just like the task manager in your operating system you can sort by “memory footprint” or “CPU” and see what might be running in the background that is slowing down your browser. If you see a website or process is using a lot of resources and slowing down your browser select the process and click “end task”.

Some webpages may be slow to load because they are running ads in the background that are “phoning home”. If these pages are left open while you have other tabs open it can slow down your browsing and page load times and impede performance. Two ad blockers that can reduce the performance issues due to ads are the Ghostery extension and the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Privacy Badger. Ghostery has a lot of options, so if you find a site that doesn’t load properly you can pause Ghostery or trust the site. Ghostery makes money by collecting anonymized data, which you can turn off. Like anything free, understand how these ad blockers make money. Privacy Badger, which is provided by a non-profit and is truly free. It also has user settings and options, including turning it on or off for certain websites.

Of note, some browser extensions may slow down your browser. Check your task manager to see if any are suspect and turn them off.

In a typical day you may find that you have lots of tabs open in your browser. Lots and lots and lots of tabs. All those open tabs can slow down your browser’s performance. A browser extension called OneTab can help. If you realize you have a whole lot of tabs open, after you install the OneTab extension just click on it and it creates a page with all the open tabs. Then you can safely close the tabs. If you want to get back to the tabs you had opened click on the OneTab extension to view what you saved. You can re-open all the tabs, open them one by one, share them with someone else and many other options.

Your Smartphone

Your smartphone may be using wifi, even when you aren’t actively using it. While you are sitting in front of your computer you can turn off the wifi on your phone. Calls and texts will still come through because of the voice plan on your phone. If you turn off wifi on your phone the data plan will kick in to supply internet access. If you do not have unlimited data turning off wifi will increase data usage, so be careful with this option. You can reduce data usage on your phone by turning off GPS and checking which apps are quietly using data and adjusting some settings.    

Video Conferencing

If you are participating in a video conference with more than one person you can turn off your video camera to save some bandwidth. Don’t want to be an empty square? In Zoom and other popular video conference platforms go into your settings and under your profile upload your headshot. Then if your video camera is turned off your headshot will appear.

Entertainment

In your smart home, you may have a lot of devices using the internet. Internet of Things devices like Nest, smart speakers, gaming devices, streaming media, Ring and other devices all use bandwidth. Make it a habit to turn off any streaming devices like Roku, Chromecast or Amazon Fire Stick before you turn off the tv. You can also reduce the quality of streaming on Netflix and other streaming services to save bandwidth. Just go to your account under Playback – Settings.

If you are streaming music from Spotify you can download a playlist instead of streaming it. Similarly, if your kids are streaming movies or tv shows is there an option to download them? Most young kids are content to watch the same few videos over and over anyway. Or you could introduce them to some ancient technology, like a DVD player, if you still have one around.

Your Computer

You may have apps installed on your computer that are using bandwidth in the background, like Slack or Teams. If you are about to get on an important client conference use the computer’s task manager function (Ctrl + Alt + Delete) to close some of these apps. Even if they are not in an active Window they are actively running and looking to the internet to bring you updates.

When sending emails with attachments, remember that sending email counts against your upload speeds – which are usually far lower than your download speeds. Consider creating a link to a file in Dropbox, OneDrive, Box, ShareFile, Drive, etc. instead of attaching large files.

Conclusion

Before you call your ISP in a panic and upgrade your plan or impose more naps on your children so they’ll quit using wifi, try some of these tips and tactics to work at home productively.