What water can teach us about internet data

What water can teach us about internet data

The best analogy to explain internet data usage, is one that compares it to water. If you think of data as water, and apps as taps, then the mystery behind data usage starts to become clear.

Water (data) is supplied by the municipality (data service provider), via a water meter (data meter) and is then distributed across your household (smart device) to a network of taps (applications).

If you open a tap, water comes out; and the more taps you open, the more water is used. Some taps are larger than other taps leading to different rates of water usage per tap. For instance, the Youtube and Facebook apps use much more data than the News24 app.

Close all the taps on your property, and water usage should read zero … but this isn’t always the case with smart devices. Unfortunately, just as you might have leaking taps in your household, there are apps that ‘leak’ data.

One application that’s notorious for this is Facebook. Even when the Facebook app is closed, it continues to synchronise in the background which consumes data without you even knowing it. But there are a few simple ways to manage this:

  • Make sure you log out of your Facebook account each time before closing the app;
  • Turn off the Facebook app’s ‘allow background data usage’ option in ‘data usage settings’;
  • Set the app to ‘Wi-Fi only’ mode; or
  • Disable the app completely.

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Another data-consuming function on Facebook is the video auto-play function. To stop this, go to your Facebook settings and tick the ‘autoplay videos on WiFi only’ checkbox. This will prevent Facebook from using your mobile data to auto-play videos.

Facebook aside, if your data is still disappearing, turn your smart device’s mobile data ‘OFF’ and take it to a registered service provider to identify and resolve the software that’s consuming your data.

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Beyond apps, there’s the data-devouring hotspot/tethering function which allows remote devices to connect to your device and use your data. This is equivalent to laying water pipes to your neighbours’ houses and opening taps for them to use as much of your water as they want.

Fortunately, these taps are password protected, and you can close them whenever you want (by disconnecting unwanted remote devices).

The sad reality is, that in 99% of cases customer ignorance and/or incompetence is the reason behind unexpectedly high data usage. In the same way the municipality won’t reimburse you for ‘accidentally’ leaving taps on, your data service provider won’t reimburse you for ‘accidentally’ leaving apps open.

The onus is on you to manage your data usage, just as you manage your water usage. Some good advice includes:

  • Connect to Wi-Fi whenever possible (Wi-Fi is available at most shopping centres, hotels and restaurants, just ask for their passwords);
  • Monitor your data usage daily to catch any unexpected spikes early;
  • Use your device’s ‘data usage warning/limit’ functions to prevent excessive usage;
  • Regularly confirm which apps are allowed to use background data; and
  • Keep an eye open for huge discounts on data contracts – particularly around Black Friday.

Date Published: 
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