Is That the Best You Can Do?

Netflix traffic accounted for 34% of North America’s downloads
during the busiest hours of the day this year.
Drew Fitzgerald, Wall Street Journal, 2014 May 14

Maybe you already knew that Netflix accounts for one-third of internet downloads. But maybe you didn’t know that I accounted for another one-third of internet traffic this last week, downloading new software and uploading my documents and photos to online storage.

OK, not quite a full one-third share. But combined with our current Netflix preoccupation (“MI-5,” a BBC intelligence thriller with ten (count ’em, ten) seasons), my reconfiguration of my laptop and my foray into cloud storage did push us over the bandwidth limit on our internet package. A limit we’d never paid any attention to before, not in six years with this provider. It’s hard to get to 60 GB/month just by downloading Word files from shared work sites and uploading vacation photos to Google+ albums, 30 at a time.

But it turns out it’s quite easy to blow through 60 GB watching Netflix offerings—especially in the dog days of the network summer schedule—and uploading, oh, say, 30 GB in accumulated photos for backup. Just to pick a number out of the air.

The bottom line? We now have double the bandwidth and a new, much faster modem, all for slightly less than we have been paying. Not to mention a never-before-mentioned option for vacation shutdown, useful for the snowbirds we have become.

Pleased to have a better deal? Yup. Chagrined not to have looked into it sooner? Yup, that too. After all, it isn’t as if I hadn’t seen the behaviour modeled, and several years ago, at that.

Is that the best you can do?

Using a more polite variant of that plain-language question, the speaker is a client’s purchasing agent, talking to a supplier. The self-appointed mission? To push down corporate costs by asking one simple question of a different supplier every month.

Is that the best you can do?

Neither the words actually used nor the tone even hinted at a threat to take the business elsewhere. It was just a question. Yet invariably the answer was, No. We can do better. I was astounded and a little chagrined by the success of this tactic.

After all, in some idealized world, companies would call to offer me better deals. Faster modems. Higher bandwidth. Lower rates. In the real world, I have to ask, either directly or a little more softly.

Here’s what I have now. Is there any way that I can do better?

And once I put it like that, it’s a question I can put to myself, too.

In some idealized world, someone would monitor my performance and call to suggest improvements. Gently.  In the real world, I have to do my own monitoring.

Is there any way that I can do better? If not cheaper—although that might be possible, too—then perhaps faster? Sooner? Reliabler? Thorougher? Thoughtfuller?

After all, money is nice, but man (sic) does not live by, ahem, bread alone. And neither do I.

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6 Comments

Filed under Management and Work

6 Responses to Is That the Best You Can Do?

  1. I love your penchant for finding moral tales and humour in the hurly burly of stuggle with electronic devices. My tendency is to panic, hyperventilate, and despair; although I eventually fight my way through to fractionally more knowledge that I likely will never again need to use. So glad to know your marvellous photos have found a secure home in the clouds.

    • Isabel Gibson

      Laurna – Still hyperventilating here, too – but parallel processing at least offers the potential for some fun at the same time. My father (who moved into a new house after a corporate move every 7 years or so, in my memory) used to say that by the time he’d learned how to execute some house project or other, he never needed that skill again. With electronics, I find that by the time I do need a skill again, I’ve either forgotten the details (all remaining being a dim memory of having known how to do “that” at some point) or the entire interface and process has changed, rendering prior knowledge moot.

  2. Jim Robertson

    And you’ll be glad to have the extra bandwidth if you ever, heaven forbid, have to use the cloud back-ups to re-construct from another malfunction….
    I too enjoy, and marvel, at your ability to see moral tales in life’s trials that were endured on a completely different plane.

    • Isabel Gibson

      Jim R – Thanks for the kind words and best wishes. May heaven indeed forfend such an eventuality! If it does happen, I’ll have to schedule the downloads around our Netflix viewing to keep from going over our limit (whatever it may be at that time).

  3. Let me know if you continue to like MI-5. I loved it even through all the inevitable changes. Gets scarier as we get closer to our own time as it pushes almost unrecognized paranoia buttons!

    • Isabel Gibson

      Judith – Will do. We’re still in the early years but have been astounded by three things. First, the willingness (of the series authors?) to kill off or otherwise dispose of lead actors. I don’t think we’d see the same approach in an American series – think NCIS, for example! Second, the amount of energy that goes into inter-agency squabbles (with MI-6 and the CIA). Third, the paranoia (one hopes) about government overthrow, instigated by various sectors – military, MI-6 hooked up with business interests, and so on. I don’t think we have a similar vein of concern running through our political life – and that suits me fine.