Does Skype Steal Your Bandwidth?

Does Skype steal your bandwidth? The short answer is yes, it does, but for a very good reason. Many people were surprised to find out that Skype actually slows down their internet speed even if they do not engage in a conversation and just leave the program open. Skypes architecture is based on a peer-to-peer network, but takes advantage of it by ‘lending bandwidth from one user to help the needs of another. Not only does bandwidth gets shared, but also the performance of the computers central processing unit. Even though this is the case with Skype, people cannot disregard the fact that it is the first peer-to-peer service that allows millions of people to connect and make calls for free.

If you are on mobile broadband with Skype app loaded then your limited bandwidth will be disappearing minute by minute as Skype uses the bandwidth you are paying for.

Whats the deal with Skypes affinity for bandwidth?
To understand why Skype steals bandwidth from its users, you must learn how the program first came to be. A few programmers who worked at Kazaa — a file sharing program — had the brilliant idea of designing software that could help people make video calls. In 2003 they began working on a program called “Sky Peer-to-Peer” which was later renamed to Skype. This technology allows the use of bandwidth from one user to the benefit of another (route calling) even if it involves stealing, as long as the unused internet is directed to video calls that require quite a large bandwidth usage.

Administrators and network operators try to block Skype but the programmers keep piling up algorithm on top of algorithm to make it even harder to block, this also applies for individual users. The good news is that Skype does not affect everyone the same way; only users who benefit from large bandwidth are seen as “targets” only to be used as “super peers”. This type of users can “piggyback” hundreds or maybe even thousands of calls made by other computers or phones. The one thing that can aggravate people even more is Skypes use of bandwidth for its paid services. For every paid subscription, the company gets the money but not the people whose bandwidth is being used. Today, Skype performs better, but back in 2007 many Windows users had to restart their computers because of a patch released by Microsoft which made computers freeze and crash.

Peer-to-peer connection is also dangerous because it presents itself as an important highway for hackers and governments to spy on people. The Chinese have been reading texts containing private information from within the country, simply because they had the necessary encryption keys to decrypt phone calls and hack into the computers with ease.

How can you tell if Skype is slowing down your speed?
The longer you leave the program open, the more bandwidth is will use. To get a better idea of how much does it actually uses, try letting it run overnight then run a file download in the morning. Right in the middle of your download check your speed and then close Skype. If the speed increases, this clearly shows that Skype has been using quite a lot of your bandwidth. If torrent downloads, online games and general surfing almost slows down to a standstill and Skype was open during these processes, its clearly the only one to blame. To test how much lag the program creates, perform a speed test to get some data just out of blatant curiosity. If latency goes through the roof and the download and upload rates are half of what your ISP provides, then you should clearly consider using Skype less.

What can you do to stop Skype from stealing your bandwidth?
Although Skype relies heavily on its bandwidth-stealing capabilities, disabling this sharing feature is close to impossible, its programmers have made sure of that. According to the End User License Agreement (EULA), once you have downloaded and installed Skype, you agree to have your bandwidth put to “good use”. The only viable solution is to turn Skype off each time you finish a conversation. Use it like you use water in the desert and your computer will thank you for it. There are good Samaritans who may not want to close down Skype just to help a fellow user. It is not that much of a selfless act if the bandwidth they benefit from is not used by any other programs.

Alternatives to Skype
People have known for quite some time that Skype is slowing down their Internet speed. Some have chosen to stick with the “known evil” while some have tried to dispose of it, looking for alternatives. The truth is these alternatives are quite good at providing VoIP service. Gmail is a strong counter-candidate for the position of the best VoIP software program, offering not only video chat, but also telephony services. Unlike Skype, Google doesnt use peer-to-peer so there is no risk of losing your bandwidth anytime soon. Gmail offers almost the same features Skype does, and the costs are worth it. What you dont get from Skype, you get from Google and privacy is important to the latter. Unlike Skype, Google broke relations with the Chinese government because it meddled with its servers. Google uses open protocols that are used by third-party clients, granting you access to a multitude of devices and platforms.

If youre a businessman, Skype can really do some damage to your business. Companies that rely on Skype know for a fact that it can slow work down to a halt. Relations with logistics, suppliers, clients and partners can be affected by the programs appetite for bandwidth. Googles alternative should be a reminder that all programs can be replaced if need be. Even Yahoo Messenger can perform well and offers voice and video calls. However, Skype still offers free services and continues to be the most popular VoIP software in the world. People should read the terms and conditions so they are not surprised when their bandwidth is sliced in half. Whats more is Skype can make your browsers pages fail to load, downloads to show errors, or games to freeze without any warning.

Sam Jones’s sister thought that mobile broadband might benefit her but she wanted to know more.  Sam helped her to figure out from sites like uSwitch just what the advantages were.

 

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