Around 96% of Americans have a mobile phone in their pocket, and a whopping 81% of those are smartphones. Whether it be a smartphone, flip phone, or even a Ladybug, technology is rapidly evolving to give us better ways of communicating with each other. Increased communication ultimately means an increased need for the resources to provide the necessary components of the technology. So what happens when we max out the capability of the cellular network? This is where offloading comes in. Offloading is a process you don’t see happening, and something the majority of cell phone users don’t even know exists. So, what is offloading exactly, and what do you need to know about it?
What is offloading?
In simple terms, it’s a cheat for your cellular service company. Let’s think of it in basic terms that most people will understand – rush hour traffic. During rush hour, the roads leading to major cities become crowded with people trying to get to work. Once those highways reach max capacity, traffic starts to back up. To relieve congestion, cities may incorporate detours or express lanes that switch directions going in or out of the city at peak traffic times to speed up all lanes. Offloading works much in the same way.
In simple terms, it’s a cheat for your cellular service company to reroute traffic in times of high use. Much like rush hour traffic, having too many people on their service slows everyone down as a whole. That’s a lot of needed bandwidth with not much supplied. Bandwidth is the amount of data (traffic) that can be transferred from one point to another within a network (the highways and byways) in a specific amount of time. Once a network’s bandwidth reaches maximum capacity, everyone using that network is impacted by a slow-down.
We all know the struggle of a slow connection. And while it can be amusing watching other people lose their patience with slow connections, it’s never fun when it’s us. Especially when what we’re trying to accomplish is time-sensitive and reliant on being able to access the information you need in a timely manner or submitting important documents on a deadline.
With a need for fast connections for everyone, cellular service companies needed a way to lighten the load while still maintaining speed—the solution: offloading some of the strain from mobile service to wi-fi. Most of us switch to wi-fi when in public, or our phones automatically connect to wi-fi in places we have been before. In fact, many phones have a setting that allows you to automatically connect to an open wi-fi network when one is available. That’s why it’s also called wi-fi Unloading or wi-fi assist. This switch-over is what we call offloading. Offloading data needs onto a wi-fi network allows for customers to retain the speed they want when using their phone, while cellular companies can retain bandwidth for customers not within range of a wi-fi connection.
Why is offloading important to your company?
If you’re thinking data offloading is no big deal for your organization, think again. While data traveling on cellular networks is encrypted and considered safer than traditional networks, data sent over wi-fi isn’t. Most public wi-fi networks don’t encrypt your data, which means that anything you do while connected has the potential to be visible. If you submit a form online or send an email over an open connection, it could be hacked by anyone within range who has the know-how and the appropriate tools.
What to do to stay safe?
By offloading efficiently, your employees have the ability to keep working while on the move as they enter and leave hotspots. However, general online safety rules should apply when using your connected device over wi-fi.
- Educate your team to know the difference between benign information and potentially sensitive data.
- Be aware of the differences in private wi-fi and public wi-fi networks. If they must send data over a public network, use a VPN app to encrypt your information.
- Use your phone’s built in security settings and turn off location sharing and/or data sharing apps while using public wi-fi.
The fact that offloading is so efficient at keeping us on track with our communication is a testament to its importance. It’s a weird thought, but the fact most people don’t know anything about it is a credit to how effective it is. But that in itself poses a risk and
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