How to Meter Your Internet Usage  

Posted by Mohammad Talha in ,

As Internet service providers seek to limit the amount of bandwidth subscribers can use in a billing period, some customers are unpleasantly surprised at how quickly they're cut off.

Internet service providers can't provide infinite bandwidth, as much as we'd like them to. They need to manage their resources so that every customer gets a fair share of the bandwidth. Comcast is capping its customers at a loose 250 gigabytes per month. AT&T is experimenting with caps ranging from 20GB to 150GB per month, depending on service plan. Comcast will throttle ("deprioritize") your service, while AT&T will charge you additional fees for exceeding your cap. Other ISPs are implementing similar plans.

ou may wonder why anyone wants or needs 150GB or 250GB of content per month, but as more video content moves to the Internet and more devices, such as game consoles, iPods, TiVos and other DVRs, and even TVs, are fed by the data stream, you can pretty much guarantee that your usage has gone up or will go up soon. If you get the dreaded notification or extra bill from your ISP, how do you know whether to acquiesce, tone down your data consumption, or cry "Foul!"? You could take your ISP's word for it, but it's smarter to monitor your own usage.

For a single PC, the job is simple. If you use McAfee VirusScan or Total Protection 2009, you can use the program's built-in monitor. It works for one Windows PC only, but it captures everything that flows through. There are also freeware usage meters, which are feature-rich—and some let you set bandwidth caps for a given period and warn you when you're getting close. Typically, these meters can also measure upload and download speed, so you can see whether your ISP is upholding its side of the bargain and delivering the throughput you're paying for.

Some of the popular Windows-based meters are:

BitMeter 2 (free)
BitMeter 2 can run as a transparent overlay on your screen or in the system tray. It provides real-time as well as cumulative logging and also ISP alert levels.

WatchWAN (free)
WatchWAN is designed to be accurate down to the packet. Using the WinCap packet-capturing library and filters for MAC and IP addresses, it eliminates packet exchanges between your PC and your cable modem or router and other spurious traffic that can inflate your local usage count.

Bandwidth Meter Pro ($19.95)
Since it has pretty much the same feature set as BitMeter 2, you may not see a specific advantage to paying for Bandwidth Meter Pro. But it has handsomer screens, a well-organized tutorial and help file, and a few more operating/display modes.

If you're serious about tracking your Internet consumption across multiple PCs, you'll have to install the software on each of them and tally up the results. That omits, of course, your Xbox 360, TiVo, Netflix box, or any other device that receives streaming media. The only way to capture their traffic is at the router level. (full Story)

This entry was posted on Dec 19, 2008 at 9:07 AM and is filed under , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


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