"Everybody was asleep when this data was being used."
"I wasn't even home on that day!"
These questions come up quite frequently here on the Community, so I thought it might be useful to elaborate a little bit about what could possibly be causing your data usage headaches.
The first thing to consider is that if your usage has creeped up steadily over a period of months, that it is quite probably normal. If you find you are regularly billed for data overage, it may be worth considering an Unlimited Broadband package to suit you and your family's needs better.
We are able to establish whether or not the queried usage was accumulated from your connection and IP address, and if so, the usage will be deemed to be legitimate and you will be billed for overage accordingly.
In the extremely unlikely event that you are the victim of a DDoS attack, your connection may register abnormal data usage. While we are rarely able to pre-emptively track this kind of activity, if you query it with us Vodafone will be able to determine if a DDoS attack is responsible for your usage and we will remove the charges from your account. If you are the originating source of the DDoS attack, we will evaluate the situation on a case-by-case basis.
What can I do?
While you are responsible for the securing your own broadband connection, there are some things that you might have overlooked. To help you determine what the cause of unusually high usage may be, you should consider the following:
Operating System Updates
Most computers update their software on an automatic schedule, typically between 10pm and 3am. The vast majority of updates are quite small (a few kilobytes), but in the case of major Windows releases and service packs or Apple iOS updates, several Gigabytes could be used in a matter of hours. Multiply this by the number of devices in your household that each require the update and usage quickly adds up.
Video Streaming Sites
Streaming videos online, especially in HD, uses several megabytes per minute of video. The higher the quality of the video stream, the more data is used. In the case of YouTube, there is now an ‘Autoplay' feature that automatically starts playing the next video when the previous one has finished. Leaving a YouTube video running on your computer can result in a significant chunk of data being used up unbeknownst to you!
Fire Sharing/Peer-to-Peer Software
If you are using file sharing software (such as BitTorrent), the application may be using up your data by running in the background on your computer. These kinds of applications run every time you restart your computer and continue to upload or download information without your knowledge.
Tip: Remember to disable file sharing software when you are not actively using it.
Game Updates and Game Consoles
Downloading new games from online content providers (eg. Steam) can rack up several Gigabytes of usage in a very short space of time. Be sure to check the file size of the game you want to download before you click!
Many games also complete their own updates via a built-in client. These clients may have several titles attached to each one and frequently update all game titles associated with the client. Examples are:
Blizzard's Battle.Net Client
World of Warcraft
NCSoft Game Client
TRION Worlds Client
Tip: Uninstall games you are no longer actively playing to avoid accidentally downloading large content patches and expansion packs.
Applications like DropBox, CrashPlan and JustCloud.com allow automatic schedules for backing up and synching your data to the Cloud.
Tip: Check to ensure that only critical information is backed up on a regular basis, as this could quickly use up your data allowance.
Unfortunately despite your best efforts to secure your computer, you may suffer an infection from a virus or Trojan. These malicious scripts could be using your connection to:
Send unsolicited email spam
Launch DDoS attacks
Provide unauthorised access to your computer by a third party.
Install keyloggers, which may record your credit card or internet banking information.
Note: Please be aware that due to the huge variety of operating systems and risk factors involved, Vodafone support staff are not trained for this particular task. Therefore this is unfortunately not something we are able to assist with. If you even remotely suspect your personal banking account may be compromised, contact your bank to keep an eye out for untoward activity on your account and consult an IT professional for assistance in securing your computer.
You may not be aware, but HD Video calls using applications such as Skype can use up to 22.5 megabytes per minute during a HD Video call.
That's a whopping 650Mb for a 30 minute conversation!
In reality, because Internet speeds are variable and the application will reduce the call quality to retain the connection, the average call usage will be much less; but this is definitely something to keep in mind when you mentally try to assess your usage.
Large email attachments
An often overlooked problem when your outgoing data seems high is to check if there is anything in your email client's ‘Outbox'. If you have tried to send and extremely large attachment (such as a collection of very high definition photographs, for example) your email client may time out and keep the item in your Outbox. As long as the connection is maintained, your system will continually try to resend (Upload) the item, resulting in a large portion of uploaded data.
‘Outbox' items disappear almost instantly. There should be nothing in your ‘Outbox' folder.
If you spot anything that appears to be staying in your ‘Outbox', you can try to move the item by dragging and dropping it into your ‘Drafts' folder. Open the item and check if you are able to alter the size of the attachment.
Resize images to more manageable sizes or use a compression tool to reduce the file size of documents and other files.
Unsecured Wifi (It has really pretty shoes, though.)
If you have a weak Wifi password or do not use encryption for your Wifi network, your neighbours could be using your internet connection without your consent.
Ensure your password is complex, difficult to guess and not a dictionary word. Change it frequently or as soon as you suspect unauthorised access.
Use an encryption technology such as WEP or WPA.
Disable SSID broadcasting to make it even harder for unauthorised users to access your connection.
If you're sure that none of the above are responsible for your high data usage, you might need to consider your children's usage patterns and educate them to help them understand how their habits may be impacting on your overall bandwidth usage. If you have extended house guests or a live-in roommate, it may pay to have a conversation about your bandwidth limits and expectations around what acceptable levels of usage are.
If you are absolutely certain that your usage is untoward and nothing on your end is responsible, we are more than happy to investigate this further. Feel free to email us on firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll look into that further for you.
Thanks for reading! If you have any questions about this whole process or are just interested in learning more about anything I've mentioned here, feel free to start a new topic to discuss your situation. We have a wide variety of users (both staff and customers) with a wealth of knowledge between them to help you troubleshoot the problem. And if this article was useful to you, I'd appreciate a +1!