How to pick the right Usenet provider - gHacks Tech News

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.

Usenet terminology

usenet

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 Rate  - 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.  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.

Research

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:

  1. How is the overall service?
  2. How is the real completion rate?
  3. How are transfer rates?
  4. How is support?
  5. How stable is the service in general?
  6. 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.

Signing up

Update: I switched to UsenetBucket recently. Their plans start at €2.95 per month for unlimited downloads capped at 10 Mbit. You can get faster plans for €4.95 (40 Mbit cap) and €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.

Closing Words

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.





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    Comments

    1. nero said on December 1, 2013 at 11:09 am
      Reply

      I was a Giganews subscriber for years until I switched to Astraweb which I have been using for over 4 years now. I haven’t missed the overpriced Giganews for even a minute.

    2. VictorL said on December 1, 2013 at 12:40 pm
      Reply

      Everybody – let’s all comment on our personal experiences with our providers so we can all get some idea of which is the best provider at the moment.

      Please include your opinion on the providers completion rates / DMCA takedowns as this is arguably the biggest difference between providers.

      Me
      Astraweb – main account for reliable connectivity, really high retention, but full of holes on popular titles due to takedown requests.
      BlockNews – block account for fills. Cheap blocks.

    3. Anonymous said on December 1, 2013 at 1:50 pm
      Reply

      DCMA is irrelevant if you use any sort of automated software to sort your downloads as soon as they’re posted. I use Sickbeard and NEVER have an issue.

      1. Anonymous2 said on December 1, 2013 at 11:58 pm
        Reply

        Wow, you are so L33t! (rolling eyes). For the rest of us who A) don’t keep our computers on 24-7, B) aren’t just TV leechers C) understand most posts don’t have file names in their headers, D) like to find older material on demand, then completion rates are very relevant regardless if they are DMCA requests or just post holes. If Sickbeard works for you with your limited knowledge-usage for the latest eps of Big Bang Theory or Dancing WIth The Stars then good for you. Instead of being a holier-then-though snark, put a comment that’s constructive.

        I’m on Usenetserver with Astraweb for fills. The combo covers 99% of what I look for although over the last year takedowns on the recent big stuff and holes on older stuff seem to be becoming a bigger problem. Astraweb is notorious for random holes.

    4. Rodalpho said on December 1, 2013 at 6:45 pm
      Reply

      Giganews is way overpriced. If you like their service, use a reseller like Supernews. Exact same service, much less money.

    5. browngeek said on December 2, 2013 at 3:20 am
      Reply

      Giganews is totally overpriced for what it offers, there are many many better options out there.

      You have four main networks: Highwinds, Giganews, Astraweb and Readnews.

      Each of these three networks (apart from Astraweb) have a bunch of resellers and subsidiary companies (Highwinds has the most).

      On top of that you have a bunch of European only networks.

      You should not be paying more than US$10 a month for Usenet access. Anything more, then unless they are offering a bunch of extra services (like VPN), I would say you are paying too much.

      I would get your main provider from one of the main networks, and then get a bunch of block accounts from the other networks (unfortunately none of the Giganews companies offer block accounts) including at least one from Europe.

      For example my set up is my main account is with Newsdemon (Highwinds), which I got as a Black Friday special of US$4 a month. I then have block accounts which act as fillers with Astraweb, Blocknews (Readnews) and yabnews (Euro provider).

      A good map of the landscape:

      http://imgur.com/r/usenet/Clg4x

    6. tom said on December 2, 2013 at 7:18 am
      Reply

      there are only 3 major providers; Highwinds, Giganews, and Readnews. Most sites are just reselling these. There is a complete list at anchordudes.

      Light downloaders should go with block accounts.
      ex: Blocknews, NewsgroupDirect

      Heavy downloaders should go unlimited and not metered.
      ex: Supernews, UsenetServer, PowerUsenet

      Astraweb has gone downhill since they now automate DMCA takedowns. A backup block account is necessary for missing tv and movies.

      Avoid Thundernews. Their “unlimited” accounts, especially ones they sell on black friday deals, have secret limits of a few hundred gigs according to customers at slickdeals. Once that is reached the account will be closed or bandwidth capped.

      NewsDemon has sneaky cancellation policies. They will rebill early before the month is over. An email says they require 72 hour advanced notice for refunds, but don’t mention that on their site.

      best free NZB downloader for Windows: Alt.Binz

    7. Jenny said on December 2, 2013 at 9:14 am
      Reply

      I am also going to vote against Giganews, their prices are extremely high, you can find much better value.

      For example NewsDemon, Astraweb, Altopia and UsenetServer. All cheaper.

    8. browngeek said on December 2, 2013 at 12:32 pm
      Reply

      Forgot to add, now is a great time to pick up usenet subscription, for example Newshosting is doing US$59.99 for a year. Great price.

    9. beemeup2 said on December 3, 2013 at 12:58 am
      Reply

      I like Astraweb. They’re the only provider I know of that offers pay-by-download plans that don’t expire, which suit my purposes much better than monthly subscriptions. The 1TB / $50 plan has unbeatable value imo. When they say “does not expire” they really mean it. I bought 180 GB for $25 back in 2010 and kind of “forgot” about it until about two years later. When I signed in again in 2012, everything was still there. Amazing. I’m still chipping away at that same 180 GB block. Today I have about 34 GB left. When those eventually run out, I plan to go for the 1TB block.

      If you’re into bitcoins, there’s https://www.bitusenet.com/
      They ONLY accept bitcoins and you pay by the month. That’s it. Simple.
      Going by today’s exchange rate, 1 BTC will get you more than eight years of unlimited usenet access lol. I actually use bitusenet’s homepage as a quick way to gauge the current value of bitcoins. I remember when one month’s access was about 0.5 BTC. Now I see it go as low as 0.009 BTC.

      1. browngeek said on December 3, 2013 at 9:35 am
        Reply

        There are many providers (Blocknews, NewsgroupDirect to name two) that also offer non expiring blocks.

        1. nero said on June 8, 2016 at 11:36 am
          Reply

          After leaving Giganews I was with Astraweb for a while until they started processing DMCA requests way too quickly.

          I moved over to Eweka which flatly states that since they’re not US based they will not honor any DMCA requests. They’re cheaper than Astraweb and I’ve gotten much better results completion % wise.

    10. Danny said on August 1, 2014 at 11:22 am
      Reply

      I found a usenet provider that claims this:

      We are the only Usenet provider in the world having this unique feature and it ensures that we are able to retrieve your articles, even when they may have been removed or DMCAed at other providers.

      And i tested it i could download games of thrones 10 days old!
      http://www.nextgennews.net/index.php?refid=a9f8ae2a1d71958bf9985efd9aa37adb

    11. Anon said on June 8, 2016 at 12:00 am
      Reply

      Is it OK to use my real email address to buy Usenet services? Will that email address be shared with other Usenet users?

      1. Martin Brinkmann said on June 8, 2016 at 6:26 am
        Reply

        Your email address won’t be shared. I’m not sure about uploading though, maybe someone else can chime in?

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