About a month ago we significantly increased the capacity of our internet connection. We went from a 100 megabits per second (MBPS) to 200 MBPS. This doubling of speed has had a nice impact on daytime network performance. But, it’s been my experience that internet connectivity is a lot like household income: most people, even after a significant pay raise, will spend up to their level of income. I already see our new pipe filling up during peak times, too. So, I need to do my due diligence the ensure that we are using our new resource to the best possible effect.
To be totally clear, if we fill up or 200 MBPS connection with content that is totally related to our mission of educating kids, I would be thrilled. That would mean we are getting the most out of our investments. However, there are some etiquette steps that we can all employ that will ensure our bandwidth is available when we need it. Here are a couple of guidelines.
A lot of our traffic comes from YouTube. Anecdotally, I know that staff and students are both using this as a great educational resource. But, streaming even just one high definition, longer video can take a big bite out of the internet connection – sometimes up to 10% of the total connection per use. So, here are a couple recommendations that should help everyone out:
- If you are playing the same video for several sections during the day or if you will be replaying it several times for the week, use a site like Zamzar to download the video to your computer. Downloading and playing the video off of your MacBook will not only save bandwidth, but it will provide greater reliability for you. If something goes wrong with the network, you can still access the video.
- Carefully consider when it is appropriate to have students watch videos independently. I know there are times when it makes a lot of sense to have kids view a video independently during class. But, if you can simply project the video this saves us a ton bandwidth – one connection versus twenty-five or so.
- Streaming audio sites are also problematic. Programs like Pandora, iTunes Internet Radio, and Spotify (just to name a few) use a lot of bandwidth. Again, I understand that there are some educational applications for each of these. However, I would ask you to consider if you are using these types of programs to create a good work environment (i.e. having kids listen to music as they work), is worth the overhead and slow speeds it’s causing for others? For example, several people using these services at the same time my dramatically impact a classroom of students ability to access video or other online resources that are critical to learning. Personally, I don’t use these types of services at work. If I want to listen to music, I’ll use my iTunes library on my computer on in my phone.
- The biggest bandwidth eaters are the commercial streaming video sites like Netflix and Amazon Prime. These are flat-out bandwidth hogs. I would only use these as absolutely necessary instructionally while on the school network. A single connection to one of these sites can really put a strain on the entire system. These types of sites are tricky to block with our filter because to do it right often gets other sites that might be very educationally friendly.
I don’t want this post to be interpreted as me saying we need to strongly limit our use of bandwidth. We have enough– for now. But, given our current use patterns, I don’t want to see us squander this resource either. Another apt analogy would be to think of our internet connection like your hot water heater at home. If there are people in the house wasting hot water, there’s not enough for critical tasks like doing the dishes, laundry, and showers. Buying a larger tank on the heater will help for a while. But, if the waste continues, the problems will return. So, again, I would ask each of you to consider your personal impact on our network.