What You Said: Do You Monitor Your Bandwidth Usage?

By Jason Fitzpatrick on July 8th, 2011

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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 a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 07/8/11
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