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IT Blurb #6 - Streaming vs. Downloading

December 11 2020

Good morning, everyone! This will be our last blurb for 2020, so we have decided to go with somewhat of a different topic than we have been the last couple of months. Many of us will be spending lots of time online this holiday season, so this blurb will cover some of the differences between streaming and downloading: two of the most popular ways to view and consume various types of media. (For consistency's sake, video will be used in the examples below.)

Streaming requires continuous data usage for as long as the stream is active. As soon as you pause or stop, the data that was being used will be freed up. The data usage depends entirely on the quality (resolution) of the video you're viewing. For example, YouTube uses 562.5MB of data per hour when streamed at 480p resolution. This jumps drastically when viewed at higher resolutions: 1.86GB/hour at 720p, 3.04GB/hour at 1080p, and a whopping 15.98GB/hour at 4K.

Downloading is a great way to conserve data, especially if you have a data cap set by your Internet Service Provider. Unlike streaming, however, downloading is not instantaneous; it requires time which will vary depending on your internet speed. The amount of bandwidth needed to download a movie will, again, depend on the resolution of the file. For example, downloading a 2-hour movie in standard definition (720p resolution) will use about 2GB of data. That same movie in high definition (1080p resolution) may require upwards of 4GB.

Lowering your quality settings may be worth it if you're noticing frequent buffering or pauses, even though the resolution will be downgraded. Alternatively, try not to download and stream at the same time as they will interfere with each other, especially if you have low bandwidth through your ISP.

Thank you for reading! Everyone in the IT team would like to wish you all Happy Holidays, and a Happy New Year!

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