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What You Said: Do You Monitor Your Bandwidth Usage?

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Earlier this week we asked you to share how (if at all) you monitor your bandwidth for both home networks and mobile devices. We’re back to share your favorite tools and tips.

Image available as wallpaper at ChrisHarrison.net.

Monitoring the Home Computer

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The majority of readers (77%) monitor their connections in some way either at home, on their mobile devices, or both. The reasons for monitoring ranged from necessity (to avoid overage fees) to curiosity (because they liked tracking or to, for example, keep their ISP honest).

Quite a few people, thanks to a single-computer environment, were able to use a local application to monitor their bandwidth. James writes:

3G WatchDog for my Android Phone
NetBalancer Pro (thanks How-To Geek) for my home network.

If you’re interested in using NetBalancer Pro check out our previous tutorial here.

Bob was one of the many readers who relied on NetLimiter:

Yes, unfortunately. I have a 250GB monthly cap, which i manage to stay under quite easily most times, but once or twice i have gone over and received a warning from my ISP, so i now use ‘netlimiter’ to keep on track of things.

If you’re looking for a program that you can install on multiple computers and sync the data, Travicane highlights Networx:

I started using NetWorx freeware version for about 2 weeks ago. Claims to sync usage (option to exclude internal Network traffic) for all systems on a home network. So far it shows about 1.3 GB per day.

Travicane was but one of the many readers that loved NetWorx, Joleca started using it after a run in with Comcast:

Networx – with Comcast’s bandwidth cap, its the best out there and its free…

Went over Comcast’s cap once (about 3 months into having and wasn’t aware of any caps).. They CALLED me and said if I went over again, they would cut off my access for “1 year”.. Stumbled across Networx shortly after that and installed on all 3 network computers in the house.. It monitors and tracks all network computers and gives you the full report on each device (no need to add up the totals), and it will ignore the traffic within your lan.. If you have a laptop and use outside of your home network, you can set it to only track your home IP address and ignore outside traffic.

We wrote up a guide to using NetWorx earlier this year to help out a reader who was struggling to prove he wasn’t the roommate that was causing the bandwidth overages. If you’re curious about NetWorx our guide will walk you through setting it up.

For readers with more complex home networks, router-based traffic monitoring was the way to go. Many readers used custom firmware upgrades like DD-WRT and Tomato to enhance their monitoring abilities. Krysaenaar writes:

DD-WRT on my Linksys Router. I have a 250GB cap so i need to monitor my WAN usage from one central location.

Steve writes:

I use the built in bandwidth monitoring of Tomato firmware on my Linksys wrt54g-tm router. I’ve checked it with my Comcast account online monitor and it’s accurate within 1 meg every month.

If your ISP has a report system it’s definitely wise to check your readings against their readings.

Monitoring the Mobile Device

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Years ago monitoring your mobile data usage would have been silly; there was little to do on a mobile phone that would pile up overage charges. These days, however, it’s all too easy to stream video and download content that sucks up your bandwidth. Many readers reported monitoring their mobile bandwidth and used an array of applications.

For iOS, the most popular application was Consume. Every reader who reported monitoring their iPhone was either using Consume or the built-in data monitoring tools. When it came to Android monitoring things got a little more diverse. James, quoted above in the home monitoring section, kicked off by suggesting 3G WatchDog. Fireball followed up with:

DroidStats for my Android
Monitors 3G, Wi-Fi, SMS and talking time.

Not a bad little app if you need to keep an eye on other kinds of usage (such as SMS). Jim uses a set of apps to keep tabs on his usage and whether his provider is accurately reporting it:

On my Android phone, I use Traffic Statistics and Network Monitor Pro cross checking bandwidth usage with my AT&T app. There have been time that my bandwidth usage has spiked and now I monitor it and set alarms in Traffic Statistics and NW Montior Pro.

If you’re wondering whether or not you should monitor, MrMike highlights an interesting reason to do so:

What’s important is how the carrier measures your data traffic.

Right now, Verizon says I used 151.58 MB on my Droid X as of yesterday.

3G Watchdog Pro says I used 47.87 as of about an hour ago.

Interesting, no?

Grandfathered unlimited, but for how long?

It seems like it would be worth having a monitor that logs simply so you can argue your case later when your provider insists you owe them $$$$ in data overages.

Monitoring? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Monitoring

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Finally we had the 23% of readers who don’t monitor at all—largely because they didn’t need to and thus were the envy of the readers with ISPs run by the Grinch. Among these readers were was either no cap or an extra fee for the privilege. Wayne, for example, pays extra for a cap-free connection:

I don’t monitor bandwidth. I pay Time Warner for their fastest and best internet package. As of right now, I don’t have a bandwidth cap. The package I have is not advertised and costs me about $70.00 per month which is much more than the general package they do advertise. However I usually enjoy 5 times the speed or about 30 Mbps here in Southern California.

Others, like Morely have cap-free services by default:

I have 25Mbps both up and down fiber at home, and I refuse to get a smartphone because of the ridiculous caps on bandwidth; so I don’t monitor bandwidth.

Finally there are the readers who, despite having a cap, simply disregard it. Jon_hill writes:

I don’t. TalkTalk give me a 40GB cap, but they don’t seem overly strict about it. I have downloaded near twice that and they have not complained.

Many companies have a “cap” so they can deal with customers they want to get rid of for abusing the system or causing trouble of some sort. If you’re not degrading the quality of the service your neighbors are paying for too, most ISPs tend to look the other way. Surely they know that no one would get an expensive broadband account just to check their email!


Hit up the original Ask the Readers post to read the rest of the comments. Have a bandwidth monitoring tip or trick? Sound off here to share it.

Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 07/8/11

Comments (17)

  1. Khai

    anyone got an application for monitoring bandwidth that I can exclude local addresses on, gathers data from 3+ PC’s for monitoring and is free? (no budget…)

  2. Kodess

    what the hell, a data cap?
    We only have that on mobile internet where I live… and its the exact reason I refuse to get a mobile internet subscription

  3. Eric Clausing

    Is there an app I can use on a window, mac, and linux pcs. I have all 3 of them at the house and would love to see my bandwidth usage. Would prefer not to buy a router if I don’t have to.

  4. dave

    I don’t understand, I can watch TV all day 24×7 on cable and they don’t seem to care. But if I use internet when my limit is reached they start adding on..

    Ok, lets view it this way.. you are allowed x number of hours to view content on cable. You then start getting charged a fee for every hour after that you watch their programming… How long would it take for that to change.. getting bumped off during my “all in the family” reruns is going to peeve me off!

    why do they treat the internet so different?? go figure.

    As it was stated elsewhere, its all data anymore. Be it video, music voice etc..

    Guess my vonage and netflix (and others) offers too much completion its the only way the phone/cable companies can put the breaks on that.. I have heard that Netflix accounts for a very large percentage of data during the evening hours in the US…

  5. Johnny Ixe

    For iPhone, you can use DataMan Pro app. DataMan tracks your cellular data usage every 10 minutes, giving you hourly, daily, weekly and monthly usage statistics. Plus, it warns you in real-time when you exceed your custom usage thresholds, geotags your data activities, and works with all carriers.

  6. Theshader2

    Hi
    As an OAP in Ireland I do have a cap of 60 GB’s per month
    I can look up anytime my remaining usage
    So far have not gone even close despite trying hard!!!
    Am really wondering how so many users in the USA manage to use so much bandwidth
    Hope this does not sound too stupid!!!!

  7. Sri

    I use Bitmeter.

  8. Theshader2

    Have gone into my own usage a little more in depth
    results would tend to be that the odd time we are allowed to stream from the US here in Europe our bandwidth usage does increase by at least 4 times
    When i say the odd time, I am 100% referring to golf
    Normally we are not allowed to stream from the USA, but circa 6>7 times per year we are by the PGA
    When that is allowed we do stream
    However we do notice that our bandwidth usage increases by above
    This is not a complaint, as the coverage is superb..congrat’s

  9. v1nd

    So is there any applications that will let me keep information based on the wireless connection I’m using? I often go between locations and they each have a different data cap, so knowing how much I’ve used on each one would be great.

  10. Meena Bassem

    there’s one i used which is quite simple to use but doesn’t give warning,s it just tells you how much do you use when you hover it in the tray
    it’s called tautology bandwidth meter

  11. GW2

    It amazes me that you people can complain about a 250GB bandwidth limit. Here in Canada 95 is the highest regular plan, and VERY few companies offer unlimited.

  12. Mike

    @ Dave

    That’s probably cause the TV signal is constantly being transmitted in the core network despite whether you are watching or not.

    http://www.docsishelp.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=266

  13. Mike

    @Theshader2

    As a standard user (i.e. 1 PC Browsing / Email) it would be very hard to use up 60 GB of data a month. However if you are Linux enthusiast you might be downloading different distributions on a regular basis. Many people might share videos over Torrents like “The Tunnel”. Plus as a fellow Irish user we lack some of the more juicy content that our internet counterpart in the U.S.A. get such as streaming our favourite TV show straight from our TV providers like FOX, or NBC, etc. (that being said our content is getting better as time goes on).

  14. Terry

    I’m in Canada using Eastlink. I’m using their 20Mbps service. There is no cap for this speed. But for the higher speed bandwidth, like 40Mbps and 100Mbps service there is a 250GB cap. After they charge you $1.00 per GB. I don’t monitor right now but years ago when Eastlink was Personia, there was a 10GB cap that I use to monitor by logging into the Personia web site. In this case they would just slow you down if you went over.

  15. Anonymous

    Just when did we become a cyber nation of WEENIES?! I mean, if the ol’ Scrooge ISP’s want to limit capacity after promising “unlimited” access then why don’t we protest when they start putting the screws to us? At the very least, why don’t we just take our business elsewhere?

    Want to know why? I’ll tell you why! BECAUSE WE ARE ALL A BUNCH OF WEENIES!

    Never mind telling Verizon to go shove it up their dark stinky orifice over bandwidth throttling or telling AT&T to go suck the other side for doing the exact same thing. We have to have our precious iPhone/Android and all the latest apps which basically allow us to waste our time and put our very lives at risk while doing more important things LIKE DRIVE! And once hooked, we’re like prostitutes working for a pimp ISP. So there’s no way we would even consider leaving for another service, er PIMP! NO WAY! We simply can’t go through the withdrawal or be inconvenienced by change. There’s no way we can vote with our feet which might wake these a-hole ISP’s up. Therefore, WE’RE ALL A BUNCH OF TECH WEENIES! And we deserve what we get. (So go bend over for da man, bee-atch.)

  16. Bessie Ball

    I paid $32.67 for a XBOX 360 and my mom got a 17 inch Toshiba laptop for $94.83 being delivered to our house tomorrow by FedEX. I will never again pay expensive retail prices at stores. I even sold a 46 inch HDTV to my boss for $650 and it only cost me $52.78 to get. Here is the website we using to get all this stuff, BidsG et.com

  17. Siddharta Buda

    Am I the only one who uses Paessler PRTG Network Monitor? The free version allows 10 sensors. I monitor not only my local network usage, but allows me to monitor remote services as well. It has impressive features and you can obtain reports and statistics from days, weeks, and months before.

    Sidd.

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