Avoid these Data Wasters

Home wifi set-up data wasters


We're all using more data – which ain't cheap – so be smart, get connected properly and make the most of your megs.


Even in 2021, it is possible to 'internet wrong'. In much the same way that you regularly have too much month at the end of your money, you likely often find yourself having to top up your data before the end of the month.


Mobile data is meant to be just that: mobile. If you're using it for your home connection, you'll rack up a huge account, very quickly. The smart answer is to look for an affordable, uncapped fibre solution that meets your speed and budget needs – but that's not always possible.


Your provider's network might go down, you might be locked into a capped connection, or you may be travelling and have no choice but to use a mobile hotspot.


If that's the case, here's how to manage your data usage effectively.


Do a Data Audit


If you're racing through data, do an audit of your household usage. Who's connected (maybe your sneaky neighbour is surfing on your Wi-Fi wave)? Who uses which programs and apps, how long and when? 'The average university student can easily go through 20GB of data a month on work and research alone – never mind video and music streaming during downtime. So that "cheap" 50GB per month package you signed up for isn't going to go far if the whole family is online,' says host of eNCA's TechHub and all-round techspert Aki Anastasiou.


Trickle, Stream or Deluge


Check your streaming settings on video apps from Netflix to Showmax and YouTube – most are set to automatically adapt their bit rate to the speed of the available connection, but you may have manually ticked a box somewhere along the way that means you're always streaming at maximum quality. '4K video is great, but not always necessary to watch on a small mobile phone screen,' says Anastasiou. '4K video can chew through 7 gigabytes an hour, HD 3 gigs and SD 1 gig, so make smart choices!'


Video Killed the Data Star


Once you've sorted out your streaming settings, kill off that 'auto video play' function on your social media platforms. 'Video is the biggest data leech, so enable it selectively,' says Anastasiou. 'You can switch off auto video play on Facebook and other platforms, which will save you plenty of data.'


You can also make sure you only do WhatsApp video calls when connected to Wi-Fi – and be careful of streaming music services, which can also munch through mobile data. 'Rather select and download your music when you're on Wi-Fi and then listen to it offline when you're out and about,' says Anastasiou.


High-res image downloads can also be a data-muncher (the files are bigger so the images are clearer for your viewing pleasure), so check your social media download settings for those, too.


Zoom or Bust


With more people working from home, volumes of domestic data usage have soared over the past year – no surprise now that most meetings are online. 'Do you need to use video all the time for Zoom or Teams meetings?,' asks Anastasiou. 'Zoom, in particular, doesn't use much data, but it can add up if you spend all day, every day in meetings – so be selective about your use of video, and you can also downscale the quality of audio if need be.'


Beware the Auto Update


Anastasiou also warns that automatic software updates are a major data thief. 'Software updates for smartphones can run into multiple gigabytes – and if you've set your phone up to update automatically, you'll be eating through data without even knowing it,' he says. 'Either disable automatic updates for your phone, or set them up to only run when you're connected to Wi-Fi. If your data gets you nowhere every month, disable auto updates for your laptop, gaming console and anything else that runs on an operating system, and see if that makes a difference.'


Above all, Anastasiou's recommendation is to go for the fastest uncapped fibre package you can afford. 'Life's too short for buffering and many uncapped packages – though they look expensive up front – will save you money in the long run because top-ups can come at a premium,' he says.


Lucky for you, you can use the Hippo Fibre Comparison Tool to make sure you get the best bang for your data buck.


This article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as financial, legal or medical advice.

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