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What Happens When the Cloud Meets a Bandwidth Cap

2011-05-07 00:00
The cloud is a wonderful thing, as you probably know from reading our coverage on the Structure blog and posts from my colleagues Stacey and Derrick — among other things, it allows us all to keep almost unlimited backup copies of our documents, photos, music and other files on a remote server somewhere, and thanks to services such as Amazon’s AWS suite, such backups are pretty cheap as well — pennies a gigabyte.

At least, they’re supposed to be.
But when the cloud meets an Internet service provider’s bandwidth cap (something that is unfortunately becoming more and more commonplace) it can be a less than happy experience.

I know this all too well. And while some of what happened is my fault, it’s probably not that unusual, so I thought it might be helpful to tell people about it.

Some readers may recall that I wrote recently about my problems with bandwidth usage, and how I thought I had solved them. In a nutshell, my ISP — a Canadian cable and media conglomerate called Rogers Communications — started warning me that my household was using huge amounts of bandwidth, far more than I had ever used before. One particular day last month, the online bandwidth meter showed that we had consumed 75 gigabytes of data, more than three-quarters of our 95-gigabyte allotment for the month.

As I described in my last post, I wracked my brain to try and figure out where this could be coming from. At first, I (and the Rogers technician I spoke to) thought that it was our wireless network, which was unencrypted. So I locked it down with a 64-bit password — but the downloads continued at huge levels, sometimes 20 or 30 gigabytes a day. I interviewed all three of my daughters, aged 13 to 21, and my niece, who is living with us. All denied downloading huge amounts, but one daughter said she had been using a Bit Torrent program for some Japanese TV shows.

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