First, let me start out by saying, I love Backblaze and gladly pay them to back up two computers a month, and its completely worth the money for the peace of mind it provides (and in theory the eventual recovery should there be a problem). This post is merely about helping people who might be in a similar situation as mine where you’re having problems and the tech support for your ISP is less than helpful (not in a mean, hate the customer way, but in a we can’t help you diagnose kind of way).
About three months ago, I started having connectivity problems at night, with commands like “ping google.com” timing out (70 – 80% packet loss) from multiple computers and directly from the router. This often happened during peak times on a shared connection (cable in a townhouse development) so the automatic assumption was noise or other congestion on the line. Whenever there was a problem, I would note the time and dutifully contact Optimum, who to their credit would send a technician out every time to look. Even though I prompted on whether there was any tests I could run in that moment for them, they always opted to send out a technician. That’s nice, but when they come the next day, its not quite helpful. They would do their standard swapping of every piece of hardware and running of tests, and they could never find anything.
I was getting fed up as it was affecting our ability to watch shows, do large downloads, etc. I noticed however, I never had this problem when using my work laptop, it was only the personal computers (my wife’s and my iMac). This was a little hard to determine at first because I wouldn’t often have my personal and work computer on at the same time, so I would never see it degrade when my work computer was on. There happened to be an instance when they were both on, and I thought at first that maybe I download a trojan or some other nefarious thing. I started looking and couldn’t find anything but I could confirm the problem happened when my iMac was on.
Then it hit me, my back ups. If I do a photo shoot, I can often have 20gb of RAW images that need to be uploaded. Backblaze was set to go full-throttle, meaning up to 5mbps. My connection upstream is unfortunately only 5mbps, meaning I was saturating the upstream (it was actually using 4.85mbps according to the Backblaze software). Apparently this saturation delayed legitimate packets, meaning the request/replies were timing out.
I throttled back Backblaze to 2mbps for now, and everything is quite happy. I’m experimenting with two options:
- Upgrade to a higher plan (the next plan is only an extra $5 a month and since we only use Internet (no TV) it seems like it could be worth it)
- Looking at QoS on my router to ensure that HTTP traffic is always prioritized
Bottom line though is that if you’re seeing connectivity problems and you’ve eliminated the normal possible hardware culprits, take a look at what is going up/coming down. You may find something is using all of your bandwidth. I wish the Optimum technicians (when I was on the phone with them) could have pointed this out to me, as I would have been able to resolve this issue without them sending any technicians (saving all of us time and money). Oh and always make sure to back up, whether its local or remote.