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How do I monitor net usage in terms of GB/month?
January 21, 2011 12:49 PM   Subscribe

I need to monitor the bandwidth use at home, in terms of GB per month. The trick: I have a TV that has built-in wireless Netflix capabilities, and I think streaming HD shows are eating GB/month more than I realize.

I recently found that I had exceeded my 100gb/mo limit from my ISP, who don't do a darned thing to tell the user how much bandwidth they're using. How do I do it myself?

We have two wired Windows PCs, wireless TV with built-in streaming Netflix app, occasional wireless laptop access, as well as sporadic use of smart phones. I thought my torrent use would be the primary culprit, but the numbers they told me in terms of monthly bandwidth seemed too high for my one computer, so I figure a good chunk is going to HD Netflix streams.

I'd like to see how much bandwidth each item uses per day, or if nothing else, how much uploading + downloading is happening over the whole in-house network. I'm planning on upgrading to a higher monthly bandwidth cap, but last month we used a lot more than I expected.

I'm pretty sure we have the magical Linksys WRT54G (not at home at the moment, I'll verify later), but I haven't tried any 3rd party firmware, and I've thought of trying some out, but I'm wary of messing up the router. Is custom firmware the best way to monitor external bandwidth, or are there other Windows programs that could do similar monitoring?

I found one older question that is similar to mine, from 2008, except my ISP is no help (I can call them and find out about my usage, but that's not the sort of thing I want to do on a daily basis), I'm not sure if the Netflix capable TV would make the situation any trickier, and I'm guessing there is newer software out there. Thanks!
posted by filthy light thief to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If you have that wonderful Linksys router you can put Tomato or DD-WRT which will do exactly what you want.
Even better, you can implement rules for when/which devices connect.
posted by handbanana at 12:54 PM on January 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

I don't think you're going to be able to monitor this with any Windows app. You need to check the bandwidth at the router somehow. A new firmware on your WRT54G could do the trick nicely. You might also check if your ISP lets you check online someplace your bandwidth usage.
posted by floam at 12:54 PM on January 21, 2011

I didn't realize ISPs did this in the states? My sympathies. Seconding custom firmware. You sound like you know what you're doing, and it's pretty simple to do nowadays.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 12:58 PM on January 21, 2011

Dunno who your ISP is, but mine--Comcast--has this in their account tools. The only time I got close to maxing out was during a month when I tried to understand the lure of u-torrent. I have a Netflix (roku) box and that barely seems to make a bump.

Nthing DD-WRT or Tomato firmware on your router if you want an up to the minute picture.
posted by beelzbubba at 1:07 PM on January 21, 2011

Thanks for the answers so far - I saw DD-WRT and Tomato mentioned before, but didn't know if they were still the go-to answers for custom firmware.

My ISP, Charter, doesn't allow "excessive use of bandwidth" - their definition of excessive use has three tiers. I'm looking to go up a tier, but I still don't want to exceed the allotted amount. At the moment, they have nothing online to tell you (I looked, then asked a service rep, who offered to tell me my bandwidth usage any time I called), and no warnings are sent until you've had an excessive use month.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:18 PM on January 21, 2011

Do you run an open wireless network? I think on the standard Linksys admin panel you can see how many devices are connected and their MAC addresses.
posted by zippy at 1:35 PM on January 21, 2011

The network is password-protecter, and I check the number of devices connected from time to time. No strangers noticed so far.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:59 PM on January 21, 2011

Er, "protected"
posted by filthy light thief at 2:00 PM on January 21, 2011

BTW the highest Netflix streams are around 3.8Mbps. Assuming you are getting the highend you are using 3.8Mbps * 3600 seconds = 13680Mb per hour. But thats bits. its about 1710MB per hour or 1.7GB. (Roughly) per hour of highest quality Netflix streams.

Generally they use adaptive bitrate streaming so this might vary over the course of a stream, but that should give you a high end idea of how much bandwidth they can be using.

Encoding rates:

Note I do a lot of work in this space, 3.5Mbps is about what most "HD" is encoded at (which is very low compared to "real" HD). Most TV's and boxes like Roku use some sort of speed testing to figure out your bandwidth and select the correct bitrate for your TV/device. Those I work with on the HW side say that according to their logs most peoples happy zone for speed is about 1.5Mpbs (so most people get a stream lower then 1.5Mbps). I have no idea if this has bearing on you.
posted by bitdamaged at 5:03 PM on January 21, 2011

My previous router seemed to give up the ghost, so I got a new Netgear router that has a traffic meter built in (plus it looks to be on the DD-WRT list of supported devices).
posted by filthy light thief at 12:24 PM on February 21, 2011

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