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 ::
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. The following sites provide information on reconfiguring P2P applications:
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.