Reducing Bandwidth to Improve Performance

With almost everyone working from home, it’s being recognised that the bandwidth available to home workers is under pressure.  Compounding this effect is that not only are we working from home, but we have transformed into an at-Home-World (aHW) … our families and entire ways of living are now driving up bandwidth utilisation.  We need to reduce our bandwidth, to improve performance!

In it together !

The impact of this behavior, is that those who are working from home and dependant on the performance of their network, are having to contend with both streaming media services as well as overall ISP contention.

Some of the things I’ve thought of already include:

Home Networks

Here are a few ideas of what you can do around the home.

  • Go to your Netflix settings and reduce the quality to a lower resolution (eg. Standard instead of Ultra-HD) ***
  • Do the same for other streaming media services such as YouTube, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Disney+ (when it launches)
  • Stop running (unnecessary) speed tests – some modems and firewalls do automated speed-tests, and one manufacturer does them every 49 minutes – on my 1Gb connection it was consuming ~250Gb of bandwidth per month)
  • If you have the ability to implement per-device bandwidth throttling, do it !  eg. what about if all the ipads/tablets etc only had 3-5Mb/s of bandwidth?  You could still (for example) leave your work device at 10Mb
  • Check the quality of your wireless connection. Depending where you are in relation to your wireless router, the quality of your wireless connection could be impacted
  • Consider disabling “background data” on your tablets and phones
    • Apple
    • Android – NOTE – this page describes turning background on – you can use these instructions to reverse the steps to disable background data usage

*** Interestingly Netflix is doing this centrally – but doesn’t hurt us to do too

Work Connections

For those who are Working From Home, there are behaviours that you can consider about how you connect, and what services you use.

IMPORTANT NOTE – before you do things like changing automatic backup policies, or disabling backups on certain wireless networks, make sure you have the approval of your office IT department.

Managing systems and services

  • Change your Citrix settings to reduce the resolution and/or colour depth of terminal sessions – in my experience, this makes a significant difference
  • Where possible, use a command line interface (CLI)  instead of graphical user interface (GUI) to manage products consoles *
  • When using Microsoft Remote Desktop (mstsc/rdp), turn off the folders synchronization feature if you don’t need to copy files from/to the remote server
  • Use VPNs sparingly.  If you don’t need the VPN to connect to internal services, disable the VPN.  In many companies, VPN is not needed for email or collaboration tools like Slack or Teams

* Note- if you’re not used to using the CLI, make sure that you know the commands you’re using, and all the switches involved – don’t add unnecessary risk, especially in production !

Services that run on your workstation

  • Disable automatic syncing of cloud-hosted drive services such as Box or OneDrive – only use the online / web-based experience.  Downloading only what is necessary (lock the file for editing, and then upload the new version … don’t forget to unlock it when you’re done!)
  • Reduce the frequency of automated backup technology such as CrashPlan *****
  • If using a 3G/4G model device (or if you’re tethering off your mobile), then set that wireless network to the exceptions list for your automated backup technology – this also avoids bill shock from all the backups going over your mobile data plan *****
  • Disabled unnecessary browser plugins and add-ons – every little bit helps !

***** Be careful with this one – reducing the frequency means a longer “exposure” time where files are not backed up.  It will help save bandwidth, but adds some risk

Communicating with others

  • Consider changing the start time of your call
    • Instead of starting “on” the hour, why not a few minutes before or after. The heaviest load on the conferencing services is when everyone is logging in
  • Disable Video when doing conference calls – do you really need to see everyone else in their pyjamas? Do they need to see you in yours? Only enable it when it’s needed
  • Consider using a headset – especially if you are having a confidential conversation
  • Stay on mute unless you need to talk
  • Some carriers and mobile phones support WiFi calling. You may wish to disable this feature if you find that your mobile phone audio quality is impacted

Call to Action

Above I’ve listed a number of things that I have considered.

I welcome feedback and comments – let me know your suggestions so I can update this page !


Thank you to Rod Anami for contributing to the list above!

Original Post

This post was originally authored on this blog, you can also see the corresponding LinkedIn Article here –