As many of you will know, in the UK at least we have an issue with broadband in that it our upload speed is no-where near as fast as our download speed. In my case, not untypically I can download (i.e. play videos, grab music, files and web pages) at something like 6Mbps. However the less obvious UPLOAD speed is around 600Kbps (i.e. 10 times less). This is often disregarded and yet it is very important. Some folk have as low as 300Kbps and this is very limiting – especially if you want to run something like Skype.
Where web pages are mainly about downloading (i.e. grabbing content) Skype is mainly about uploading – i.e. you are SENDING (uploading) your voice and video to the other party. As uploading is the slower of the two, this then becomes the limiting factor for quality and reliability for Skype and other forms of conferencing software.
If your connection was doing nothing else, this would likely not be an issue – but even if you only have ONE PC on the network connection (and many homes and offices have several) you might still have issues thanks to OTHER processes/programs using up your limited upload capability.
Examples might be Google Drive, Dropbox, Box and other backup/sync solutions. In the background these programs check for changes in files (perhaps a WORD document you may be editing) – and if there is a change this triggers an upload to the cloud. It happens automatically and in the background.
Thankfully the people at Dropbox put a LIMIT as to how much of your bandwidth the program can use – hence allowing it to work while you’re Skyping without bringing Skype to a grinding halt.
The people at Google are no-where near as thoughtful despite having (arguably) a better product and yet despite many discussions and gripes in Google forums – right now there is nothing to stop Google Drive eating up all of your available bandwidth. Similarly programs like LiveDrive may do the same though in this case you can, if you know what to do, limit the upload bandwidth.
But the real problem is actually knowing if this is happening. Let’s say you’re right in the middle of a Skype conversation and the quality degrades – is this your broadband connection or did you just update/overwrite something that’s now being backed up – what about the kids in the next room…how would you know if something else is using up your bandwidth – and if you DID know what would you do about it?
To the (possible) rescue comes NetBalancer. This is not free – though a limited version IS – go get the free download and see for yourself (I’m assuming you are on a PC, not a MAC – and I’m using Windows 7 64-bit – which works just fine).
The program once installed shows you (live) which processes are using what bandwidth – both for upload and download (*see up rate and down rate above and take note if the B in KB is upper-case that’s kilo-BYTES as against kilo-bits – roughly a kiloByte is 10 kiloBITS). Note in the example here, I simply right-clicked GOOGLEDRIVESYNC and set an upload limit of 20KB/s i.e. that process is not allowed to upload at a speed of more than 200 kilobits a second no matter what… Google Drive left to it’s own devices would consume ALL of my upload bandwidth.
This program in the unregistered form will let you control up to any 3 processes. If you choose to pay them something like £20 ($29.95) you can control as many as you want. In my case, this will do just fine. In the example GOOGLEDRIVESYNC is the ONLY process I’ve limited. In addition (right click) I’m giving SKYPE HIGH upload and download priority!
Something I did notice- occasionally for no obvious reason – OUTLOOK does significant uploads in the background….. like 300Kbps significant – just briefly but enough to mess up a conversation.
I hope this is useful to you – if nothing else you now know where to look when having problems with upload bandwidth. For this to be effective you’d need this on any and all machines connected to your broadband as you never know what might be happening in the kid’s room when you’re having an important Skype conversation!