Beware the ‘data vampires’ — tips for managing hidden data usage

It’s a good idea to keep data under control no matter what plan you’re on

data usage
Auto software updates, streaming video auto-play, app updates and malware can all be hidden sources of unwanted data usage.

We often hear the term “energy vampires” — all those things plugged in at your home that use electricity even when they’re turned off. Data “vampires” are also at work on your internet service, gobbling up megabytes while you’re not looking.

While many Viasat Internet customers are on our unlimited data plans, some are still on data-restricted plans. But it’s a good idea to keep data usage under control no matter what plan you’re on.

Here are a few data vampires to be aware of — and some tips for managing them:

Autoplay

Autoplay is a feature on many streaming video services that really enhances the experience of binge-watching a series. Rather than manually selecting the next episode, it will play it instantly right after the current show ends.

Depending on the length of the series, each episode can chip away at your priority data. If you’re watching a show as background noise or catching a few episodes before bed, it’s easy to forget the shows are playing. If you conk out on the couch with autoplay on, you can wake up two seasons of the show later – with a lot of your data depleted.

Here’s how to disable autoplay on these top streaming services:

Netflix

  1. Go to Settings and select My Profile
  2. Under Auto-Play, uncheck “Play next episode automatically”

Hulu

  1. Start any video
  2. While the video runs, scroll over the Settings button at the bottom of the player
  3. Click Off under the Auto Play

Prime

  1. Select Settings on the menu bar
  2. Scroll to Player Preferences and check Off under Auto Play

Malware

If you notice your data usage taking a dip that doesn’t quite match your online habits, you may want to do a scan.

Malware typically runs silently in the background, sometimes with no other indication than a lot of used-up data. All it takes is clicking on a bad link to be infected, so routinely running a scan and updating your anti-virus software is a good way to keep malware at bay.

Here’s a good article about scanning for malware on PCs. For Macs, Malwarebytes is a good, free solution.

Cloud, software auto-updates

These updates are typically scheduled in the wee hours of the morning. Sometimes they are simple and small and don’t use much data. Others can be major updates that consume a hefty chunk of data, and there can be updates on multiple devices, adding to the data hit. With some software, you can schedule and manually prompt the updates; other times, you don’t have a choice.

Keeping those updates on your radar can help better prepare for future instances. Apple OS updates will always give you the choice to update them when you want. One little trick is to do those big downloads close to the end of your billing period. That way, even if there is an impact, it’ll be short-lived

Old apps

Apps are like digital fads; some fizzle out and die off in a relatively short time. So if you’re not using them, it’s a good idea to delete them. Those unused apps and their updates could be chipping away at data by running in the background.  Even if you haven’t used Augmented Reality and GPS maps to capture digital dinosaurs and monsters in several months, there may have been a flurry of updates that downloaded. Purging those flash-in-the-pan apps you no longer want can help conserve data.

You can find more tips on managing data on our website here. By slaying some of these data vampires, you’ll have a less scary experience the next time you check your data usage for the month.

Brad Bagby
About Brad Bagby 5 Articles
Brad Bagby is a member of Viasat’s Corporate Social Care team based in Denver. He focuses on helping Viasat's residential internet customers with quick responses on social media as well as the Viasat Internet Community. In addition to also penning freelance features for various blogs, he enjoys home-brewing and practicing the art of “dad reflexes.”