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Chris Hall

Adjusting technology to make it fit my requirements...

Windows, Linux, Virtualisation, Unified Computing & Cloud Offerings Design Engineer.

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I know I downloaded that 25Mb file a couple of hours ago, but I've no idea where I saved it. Oh well, I'll download it again. I've got broadband, it's all good :o)

Hmmm. Same file, same download location... Now it's only downloading at half the speed. What the.....?

ISP Traffic Shaping
Say hello to Internet Service Provider (ISP) traffic shaping - or "Prioritisation" as some ISP's like to call it. The idea is - in a nutshell - that as an ISP's network gets busier the ISP avoids total network slow downs / hold ups / congestion /etc to all users by prioritising certain types of traffic at certain times of the day. This prioritisation typically takes the form of allowing time sensitive "legitimate" Internet traffic - such as Voice Over IP (VOIP - aka Internet telephone calls) gaming traffic, video streaming traffic (YouTube / BBC iPlayer etc etc) have priority over download traffic.
For further reading, see here for a very full explanation.

"Does my ISP employ traffic shaping?"
- Probably. See this list of ISPs that traffic shape. I'm sure that this is by no means a complete list, but it is a good starter for ten.

"I see your ISP is listed Chris!"
- Yes I know. Plusnet were one of the first to start traffic shaping their customers. What's even more confusing is that Plusnet have turned this into a money making scheme. Plusnet will vary your traffic restrictions depending on which Plusnet service offering you are on.

Here's the shaping according to my Plusnet Service Offering:
This was taken from the excellent Kitz forum
Here is Plusnet's own explanation - For some reason I find Kitz's explanation better - I think the colours help a lot.

"Right, got it. Now What?" - Virtual Private Networking (VPN).
As used by many, many Companies / Institutions / Individuals to route private network traffic over a public network - the Internet. Now, as so many users these days are home / remote / mobile workers, all used to accessing their company networks as Local Area Network (LAN) speeds (100Mb upwards) and the plethora of ISPs these days, any ISP would be crazy to lower the priority of the VPN traffic they carry - especially to those customers who are paying good money for their Internet connection.

For example, did you notice that only the cheaper Plusnet service offerings throttle VPN traffic (remember I said that Plusnet had turned this into a money making scheme?)

"As VPN traffic is not throttled by the ISP, is there a way that I can create a VPN connection and still download that file?"
- Sure. You can VPN in the normal way to your Work's network and download the file that way. Ah. Hang on. My employer has a code of conduct regarding 'proper use' of company assets. Oh okay. No problem.

Its Hidden.com
No, I haven't just bumped into Lord Lucan in Tescos. Far from it.
www.itshidden.com is a free service that allows you to create a VPN connection to a server farm in Amsterdam. Using this VPN connection, I can browse the internet, download files etc all without having to put up with my ISP's traffic prioritisation. Whats more is that if I'm using Windows XP or above, I don't need to download any software to use this service.
Testing
OK, on to the proof of the pudding - the eating.
I decided to test using a download of the latest partedmagic CD - v4.4. This 95Mb download is a available as a download via sourceforge.net or via a bittorrent download.

Download Site
As sourceforge.net use the University of Kent Mirror site, and that site is listed as a download site on Plusnet's site, I should only expect to see around 1Mb (100kb/s) download speed when not using itshidden VPN.
Download without ItsHidden VPN - 120Kb/sec

Download with ItsHidden VPN - 119Kb/sec

Hmm No real difference there then.

BitTorrent
What is Bittorrent? Put simply its a peer-to-peer protocol commonly used for file transfers. See here for a full explanation.

Bittorrent without itsHidden - 18.3Kb/sec - ouch!

Bittorrent without itsHidden - 106Kb/sec!

Conclusion
So, what have we learnt here?

Well, it looks like we have a winner for bittorrent downloads.
For ordinary downloads, there is no real difference.

Of corse, this is a very subjective test and YMMV

I need to spend some more time testing. Especially with Windows rather than Linux. I'm not saying that there is any problem or difference, it's just easier as windows is my 'first language' to fully understand what's what.

Given the ease of setup, the fact that no additional software is required and especially the price, what have you got to loose?

Certainly 'worth a spin'.

- Chris