Data Cap Management Poses Challenges

We called it a long time ago, and now it’s a reality. Internet service providers (ISPs) are capping data, and it couldn’t happen at a worse time. As we continue to work and learn at home, use cloud-based services for application programs and data storage retrieval – and stream more entertainment, we’re set up to use more data. You’re going to need to look at data bytes like you look at calories on a menu.

We all know that calorie counts on a restaurant menu don’t tell the full story. The calorie count for a salad may be low, but dressing may raise the total through the roof. Knowing how much data you’ll use to watch a standard-definition movie on a device of any kind won’t really help you a whole lot in planning your data usage for a month. In reality, you’ll want that visual salad dressing – HD or 4K resolution – to enjoy the quality of the experience. A movie that requires 600 to 700 mbps to watch can easily balloon to 4 Gigs.

What’s really ugly about it is that most households or small businesses have multiple users on their internet plans. We’re still not going back to the office in droves in anytime soon, and the same is true for kids going back to school – although that will likely happen faster. If you have a business and have employees logging into your network from home, they’re using your data while logged into your system. They’re also using their own data to log in.

In addition to logging in to work from home, kids are logging in for classes, collaborating with classmates and doing research. That uses data.

Everyone, no matter where they are, is using cloud-based software to run applications and work with files. We’re all using data, too, for email, web browsing, social media and entertainment. That last item is a major source of data use for families that have cut the cable TV cord. The more people you have streaming different content, the faster your data usage can run up – and up.

We have no problem with that; it’s a reality. But we do have a problem with the ISPs’ lack of transparency in sharing our data usage. You can’t easily find how much data you’ve used during a billing cycle so that you can manage it. The ISPs make it easier for their big-business customers to know how much data they use. They don’t do it for small businesses or residential users.

If you don’t know how close you are to your limit or if you’ve exceeded it, you can be in for a surprise. Either your service will drop down to a slower speed, which is not cool during a business meeting or class, or you’ll wind up with an extra charge on your bill.

As the cable companies lose traditional cable TV subscribers, they need to make up for lost revenue by fine-tuning how they price their data plans. That’s fine. We knew they’d come to data caps. We just want them to be more transparent about telling us what the caps are, letting us know when we’re close and giving us realistic options for managing our caps.

Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us if you have any questions about how to better manage your data use and monitoring at home or at the office.

What Will Change When We’re Healthy Again?

Be careful of what you wish for. Employees have pushed to work at home, and employers – for the most part – resisted it. More remote working – and learning – will become the new norm as our coronavirus ends, and dynamics will change.

Our workplace and school dynamics are under scrutiny, for sure. People are adapting – at least for now – to the reality of not being able to gather and interact. Are they more productive? Our collective adrenalin is still pumping, and we’re all finding ways to make this new environment work. But what will happen as time goes on?

If working from home becomes more the norm, employers will add more tools to monitor the productivity of their remote workers. A lot of them are already available in the office, where the computer can be just like the boss sitting on a worker’s shoulder and recording every work-related and non-related movement. Will that kind of oversight extend to the home? Right now, an employee suddenly working at home can probably take a break to do some cooking or laundry, especially if they need to meet the needs of a family that’s suddenly at home all the time. What’s going to happen next?

My personal feeling is that everyone is going to miss the personal interaction of the office – and for kids, the interaction at school. There’s much to be gained from the social experience of collaborating in person – and it’s a huge part of a young person’s development. Yet, at the same time, I also think that working and learning through online channels will eventually become more stressful for people who have felt the need to be at the office or in the classroom.

We are social beings, and the people who need to mingle will want to return to an office. We see signs of it as we socially distance ourselves now. When we met some neighbors to walk together, we walked on one side of the street, and they walked on the other side. We came upon other neighbors who were having “picnics,” with their picnicking partners each on opposite sides of the street. Anyone with kids who go to school knows that the kids are trying to find more ways to connect and engage with their friends. Even homeschooled kids have needed social interaction.

The internet will continue to provide a way for people to gather, but it will always be a remote gathering. Will we be able to accept some of this as a new norm? I believe we’ll need to come to grips emotionally and politically with new ways of working, learning and socializing before we address the technology needed to make it happen. Once we decide on our direction, we’ll be able to add the required internet capacity and build the necessary security infrastructure.

Are there any insights into what may be our new way of life? If the observations of our neighborhood UPS driver are any indication, we’re setting up more home offices. He said his most-delivered items are boxes from Staples, monitors and office chairs. Once we have the means to work at home in place, the more likely we’ll all be to work at home exclusively or to a greater extent.

And what about our relationship with online shopping? We’ve taken Amazon and our entire package delivery system for granted; overnight delivery is the rule. Will next day become next week?

In the meantime, we can help you keep up with the technology you need now to meet your evolving everyday-living needs – and maybe help you map out what you might need going forward. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to talk about it.