Is video conferencing devouring your data?

Some simple strategies to manage data usage on Zoom and other services

Here are some simple strategies to manage data usage

With more and more people working, going to school and even socializing with each other online, video conferencing and chatting has become a way of life. While no match for in-person communication, it’s a convenient alternative that provides the social distancing necessary in today’s environment.

One challenge is that video conferencing applications often consume a lot of data. This can be an issue when trying to manage data limits. For example, a one-on-one Zoom meeting with video at the standard setting can consume just over 1 GB an hour. And, as you add more people into the meeting, the amount of data used rises exponentially.

Fortunately, it is possible to reduce data usage when video conferencing. Below are some simple, effective strategies to help limit data consumption. 

Video: To preserve your data, turn off the video and choose audio only. While this may not always be the best scenario, especially during work meetings, it’s the most effective, decreasing data usage by an estimated 30%. Another option is to only switch on the camera when you are speaking.

Another way to limit data use is to reduce your streaming quality by turning off HD (high definition) and switching to SD (standard definition). According to Reviews.org, doing this can reduce data usage by more than 60 percent. Not all videoconferencing services offer this option, so check the help section to see if yours does.

Screen sharing: To consume less data, avoid screen sharing. If this isn’t an option, share what you need and then turn off sharing. An alternative to screen sharing is using a collaborative document program like Google Docs. It generally uses less data, while enabling everyone to contribute to the document and see changes in real time.

Microphone: While the audio doesn’t use as much data as the video, you might just want to click on the mute button when not speaking. This also ensures background noise doesn’t interfere with your meeting. Some videoconferencing tools also offer an audio only, telephone call-in option that uses zero data.

Limit activity: Keep in mind the more activity there is, the more data you use. Avoid multitasking and make sure that other household members refrain from streaming, gaming and other data-heavy activities when video conferences are taking place. And if you use GoogleDrive or Microsoft OneDrive, you may want to turn off or minimize automatic document syncing. In any case, you can always check your network usage using The Apple Activity Monitor or Windows Task Manager to pinpoint which programs are using the most data.

Viasat Internet customers also have the option to use Shield, a security add-on that also can help with data. The free version of Shield allows you to see what devices are online in your home and monitor per-device usage. The paid version lets you “pause” other devices; this way you can ensure there’s plenty of bandwidth for your video conferencing connection.

Learn more about Shield.

With a variety of video conferencing options available, you can always double check to make sure you choose the one that works best with your equipment, data limits and bandwidth. We’ve highlighted a few of the more common options below with links to the information.

Google Meet GoTo Meeting Microsoft Teams Skype WebEx Zoom

Aside from all of these tips, once of the most important thing you can do is to keep track of how much data you’re using. At Viasat, we offer a quick and easy way to keep tabs on it. You can monitor your data usage and also see your plan information at the Viasat customer portal. If all else fails, and you continue to run into data shortages, we offer a variety of ways for you to top off and upgrade your service. You can learn more here.

Learn more about Viasat Residential service

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Jane Reuter
Jane Reuter has a long history as a newspaper journalist in Colorado. She works as a corporate communications writer out of Viasat's Denver office.

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