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MSU-Northern students, faculty and staff - Use the ITS Help Desk as the first point of contact for your technology problems, questions & services!

Information Technology Services Help Desk
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Last Updated: 24-Jan-2017
Information Technology Services
Information Technology Services: Bandwidth & P2P

What is Bandwidth?

Simply put, bandwidth is the carrying capacity of a network. It's rather like a highway. Four lane highways can carry more traffic than two lane highways. However, neither highway can carry an infinite amount of traffic. At a certain level, even a six lane highway can become saturated.
:: Bandwidth is finite ::

So the speed and performance on a network (or highway) is inversely proportional to the amount of traffic it carries: more traffic = slower speeds.
:: Performance is based on volume of traffic ::

Like a highway, a data network is shared by all the users who have access to it. There are no reserved or express lanes. The more bandwidth any one individual uses, the less there is available for the rest of the user population.
:: Bandwidth is shared ::

What are peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing programs?

P2P file sharing programs are designed to let people easily exchange music, movies, video and other files over the Internet. Some common programs are Ares, BitTorrent, KaZaa and LimeWire. Many of these programs are used to distribute copyrighted materials and thus violate copyright laws.

What effect do P2P file sharing apps have on bandwidth?

The same effect that a herd of elephants have on a small watering hole: They use it all. Every last bit of bandwidth that is available will be sucked up by file sharing applications.

How do file sharing apps use so much bandwidth?

The size of the files being shared and the act of sharing combine to eat up a network's limited amount of bandwidth. File sharing apps like KaZaA have two sides: they act as clients, enabling you to download files from other participating systems, and they convert your computer into a server, allowing other clients to download material from you.

When you install a peer-to-peer application on your computer, the default installation process sets your computer up as a server. The net effect is that hundreds of thousands of users around the globe, who would otherwise have no interest in you or MSU-Northern's network, now want to utilize your PC and our bandwidth to download files.
ANY media that exists on your computer is searched by these programs and shared to the rest of the community of users.

It's a bit like throwing a barbecue and having everyone who smells the smoke drive down your street, park in your driveway, and come into your backyard. Only the smoke isn't limited to your neighborhood. It travels around the world and everyone who likes what you're cooking is free to come. In very short order, the carrying capacity of your street, not to mention your backyard, is exceeded.

File sharing apps can have a significant adverse effect on your PC's performance. While you're trying to use your computer, dozens of other users are accessing your disk and making demands on your memory and CPU.

What about privacy and security concerns associated with P2P apps?

Privacy concerns are real. Many users of file-sharing programs have inadvertently made highly personal information available to other users. Once one personal file is discovered on a P2P user’s computer, a feature on Kazaa called “Find More from Same User” will reveal every file being shared on that user’s computer. Use of this feature can result in the disclosure of a wide range of highly personal information about the user ranging from tax returns, medical files, legal documents, personal correspondence, business files and more.

Many P2P apps also contain spyware that can monitor your Web browsing habits or record your passwords, credit card data; and adware which causes advertisements to appear. KaZaA bundled a back door into their distribution that would allow them to create a network within a network using the millions of systems that have installed their software. (more on spyware & adware)

KaZaA and other peer-to-peer file-sharing apps are also the targets of viruses, worms and Trojan horses.

Copyright laws apply.

If you're caught violating federal copyright laws, you will suffer the consequences. MSU-Northern cooperates with law enforcement agencies when required. Universities are facing increasing pressure to take action against any and all copyright violations, especially those that can be attributed to P2P. If you're unsure whether a shared file is copyrighted or not, assume it is.

So... How can I reduce my bandwidth usage?

The best way to avoid being a bandwidth hog is to remove (uninstall) all peer-to-peer file-sharing programs from your computer. See the right sidebar on this page for instructions on removing programs.

If you insist on keeping your file-sharing programs on your computer, learn how to use them responsibly so you do not use up the University's network resources.

Other steps you can take:

Turn off your p2p application
If you're using your computer, but you're not using your p2p application, make certain the application is turned off and not running in the background. Several p2p applications run in the background even if you think you've quit the application.
Do not set up your p2p application to start automatically when your system starts.
You may have done this when you installed the application. With this configuration you may not realize your p2p application is running and using system and network resources.

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P2P Facts
P2P activity on campus can consume a disproportionate amount of network resources.

Copyright laws apply.

P2P and anonymous file sharing programs on your computer can inadvertently allow access to your entire computer.

P2P file sharing networks are used to spread viruses and worms.

Illegal types of materials such as child pornography are often distributed by renaming the file to a seemingly innocuous name.

    Read more about P2P
"Bandwidth Hogs"
A bandwidth hog is a user who sets up their computer to suck up as much of a network's capacity as possible.

Bandwidth hogs may not be hogs on purpose--they just don't realize what they're doing. That, for instance, downloading just a handful of MP3s a couple of weeks ago may have made their very own computers into network servers, sharing those files with people from all over the world - from Washington to Florida to France to China!

If you know any hogs, tell them to ditch their file-sharing programs and remove spyware.
Removing P2P Programs
The best way to avoid being a bandwidth hog is to remove all peer-to-peer file-sharing programs from your computer.

Note: Uninstalling programs will not remove any data files (like MP3 files) that you have on your computer.

1. Double click on the My Computer icon on your desktop and then select Control Panel -or- use the Start menu: Click Start -> Settings -> Control Panel.
2. Double click Add or Remove Programs.
3. Select Change or Remove Programs (if it isn't already selected). You will see a list of installed software.
4. Click once to highlight the software you would like to remove, then click on the Change/Remove button.
5. Follow the instructions presented.
6. If you have more than one program to remove, when prompted to reboot the computer, click No. Then follow steps 1-4 again until you have removed all file sharing programs.
7. Make sure you reboot the system when you are finished.

Some programs can be removed just by putting them in the trash folder and emptying the trash folder.

Others require you to use their own "uninstaller" programs. These directions are an example for whatever file-sharing program you are removing.

1. Open the programs folder.
2. Double click on the uninstall icon.
3. Follow the instructions on the screen to remove the program.
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