How to pick the right Usenet provider
If you never came into contact with the Usenet before, it is quite the challenge to get started. Not only do you need to select a Usenet provider to gain access to it in first place, you also need to pick a software that lets you do so, and understand how it all works.
Selecting a provider can be a frustrating experience, as you are confronted with new terms that you may have troubles understanding, or at least putting into context.
There is a lot that can go wrong here, especially if you pick a Usenet provider that is charging you for months in advance as you may lose a lot of money if you pick wrong.
First thing we need to do is look at the various terms used by Usenet providers to get a better understanding of them, and make educated decisions in the end.
Lets get started.
- Completion RateÂ - This refers to the availability of articles on the provider's server. Files and articles may become corrupt during the transfer to the Usenet or thereafter, and while you can still download them when that happens, you may not be able to access them due to the corruption. Par files have been created for file uploads to counter this, but you should not rely on this solely. Verdict: The closer to 100% the better.
- Retention - The value in days defines for how long articles -- that is textual contents or binary contents -- are stored by the Usenet provider.Â Verdict: The higher the better
- Connections - The number of connections that you can create at the same time to a server of the provider. This value depends largely on your Internet speed and the output of a single line of the provider. Unless you are on Gigabit Internet, it is not that of an important value. Verdict: More connections are not always better, as you can max out your line with fewer usually, but they do not hurt either.
- Bandwidth - There are unlimited plans, which let you download as much as you can during a given billing period, and limited plans, which only let you download up to the limit of the account. Verdict: Depends on what you want to use it for. If you want to download a lot and have a reasonably fast connection, unlimited is the way to go.
- Security - You should make sure that the provider supports SSL connections
- Server location - A server location closer to you usually provides you with better speed and connectivity.
- Uploading - While all providers allow you to download from the Usenet, not all offer uploading access as well.
- Extras - Some Usenet companies offer extras on top of the plans. This can be access to a custom Usenet client, a VPN account, web access, or other amenities.
- NZB files - These files contain information about articles that have been uploaded to the Usenet. Since some files are split into multiple parts, they make sure that you download all required parts effortlessly from the Usenet.
- Par files - Parity files that you can use to repair damaged archives.
Picking the right Usenet Provider
Before you pick a provider, you should be in the clear what you want to use the Usenet for. Will you be a light or heavy user, mostly use it to participate in discussions, to distribute files. or file downloads?
Once that is out of the way, you know whether you need unlimited bandwidth or can work with limited bandwidth instead.
While limited plans are usually -- somewhat -- cheaper than unlimited plans, it is important to understand how that impacts your downloading.
A single TV episode for example sits at around 250 to 300 Megabyte. Make it HD and you are at 700 Megabytes. Uncompressed DVDs are about 4 Gigabytes each, and Blu-Ray's can break the 40 Gigabyte mark easily.
Note: Those are just examples. I'm in no way suggesting to use the Usenet to download copyrighted TV shows or movies.
It is important to research the providers that you are aiming for before you sign up. What you want to find out are the following information:
- How is the overall service?
- How is the real completion rate?
- How are transfer rates?
- How is support?
- How stable is the service in general?
- Are getting files pulled from the servers regularly?
You won't find those information on the provider's website. While you can test the support by opening a new support request and clocking the response time, it is usually better to use search engines to find out more about the provider.
Update: I switched to UsenetBucket recently. Their plans start at â‚¬2.95 per month for unlimited downloads capped at 10 Mbit. You can get faster plans for â‚¬4.95 (40 Mbit cap) and â‚¬12.95 (400 Mbit cap).
Once you have done the research, you may be ready to sign up. Most providers offer trials that you can sign up for, to test their service without committing directly.
It is a great way of finding out if a provider is keeping up its end of the bargain or not. If you notice slow transfer speeds during the trial, or many incomplete files, or other issues, then you should cancel the account right away again and head over to another provider.
Tools to get you started
Here are some tools and services that can be really useful to you, depending on how you use the Usenet:
- Usenet search engines - You can use these services to find files or information on the Usenet without having to do so in the client.
- Newsbin Pro review - The best Usenet client in my opinion. Not free, but worth every penny.
- NZB Downloader - A simple program designed to use NZB files for downloading.
You are probably wondering which provider I have selected for my Usenet adventures. I have been a happy Giganews customer for years, and see no reason in changing to another provider. It is a premium provider on the other hand, and if you do not want to spend that much money, you may find providers such as Newshosting or Easynews which provide nearly the same features for less than half the price.Advertisement