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The GigaOM 250 GB Challenge & 5 Tools To Monitor Your Bandwidth Consumption

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With Comcast announcing a 250 GB cap on its broadband service and Time Warner trialling a tiered service with limits that range from 5 GB to 40 GB, we’ve decided to challenge people to break those caps. Obviously we can’t verify if someone actually downloads everything they claim to, but we’re looking for real examples of how a heavy bandwidth user could breach either the 40 GB or 250 GB limit. Leave your attempts in the comments. [digg=]

Unless you have a large family that consists of early adopters (and teenagers), or you want to step up your seeding for BitTorrent files, most people should try for the more easily attainable Time Warner caps. And since you’re going to need some software to measure your current consumption, below is a list of free and cheap programs. Now grab your Roku box, hook up the kids with Hulu and see about buying some HD video conferencing software. Do it now, because soon this stuff won’t be free.

  • Rackeys: For $9.95 you can download this broadband usage software for Windows machines.
  • Net Meter: This software from Hootech can be tried for 30 days for free; after that it costs $19.95. Measures usage, broadband speeds and allows you to save the data. Only for Windows machines.
  • Broadband Check: Free software from the UK, but your stats will be uploaded to the site.
  • iStatMenus: Free broadband usage tool for Macs.
  • Surplus Meter: Free broadband usage meter for Macs and PCs

115 Responses to “The GigaOM 250 GB Challenge & 5 Tools To Monitor Your Bandwidth Consumption”

  1. minimatti

    It’s frustrating to see a 250GB limit being introduced in the USA, and having people nag about it. It’s common in Belgium to have a 12GB limit PER MONTH – and we accept it. There’s not much you can do when all your ISPs give you very low bandwidth limits, and we just have to deal with.

    You’re worried you “only get 250GB/month”? Thrust me … you can do a hell of a lot worse! Here’s some math to show the situation in Belgium:

  2. Charles

    Let’s do the math.

    1 Byte = 8 bits (Also written: 1 B = 8 b)

    250 GB x 8 = 2 terabits

    In a month, you have 30 days, that’s 2,592,000 seconds.

    2 Tb / 2.5 million seconds = You need to pull 772 Kbps 24/7 for a month to break the 250GB limit.

    2 Tb / 50 Mbps = 12 hours connected non-stop downloading at 50 Kbps necessary to break the 250GB limit.

  3. blkdrgn

    i have been online for 22h 35m and already i have 4.48gb sent and 5.1gb recieved according to my local area connection status window. not even a full day, but multiplied for a month is equal to about 153gb recieved if everything were to stay constant. in these 22 hours i have downloaded 2 movies @ approx 700mb each, the rest is web surfing and gaming ( TF2, CS:S, WoW). putting caps on the usage that ppl use is wrong, we pay for a faster connection speed, and we should not be limited because rich companies want to get richer by charging us for more “allowances” in our connections. the world is filling up with more gamers every day and we need that bandwidth to maintain the competitive edge. instead of finding ways to limit us, these companies should be trying to find ways to increase capacity.

  4. I consider myself a heavy user, I watch a lot of Internet TV and buy my music in low compression/uncompressed formats. My bandwidht usage since I last reset my router.

    Uptime: 25 days
    Bandwidth (Up/Down) [kbps/kbps]: 1,274 / 8,046
    Data Transferred (Sent/Received) [GB/GB]: 12.03 / 66.59

  5. Anonymous

    I was at ~500GB/mo for a while before Comcast decided that I had broken some barrier that they couldn’t tell me what it was. Now I’ve been watching my family’s bandwidth like a hawk for fear that we’ll get kicked off. This was back in the days before Blurays; just downloading DVD5 and DVD9 material.

    I pay Comcast far out the ass and at a premium for their Ultra-mega-tier. I expect to be able to use the bandwidth I’m paying for without limitation.

  6. I live in a 4 computer household, and we regularly break our 200gb limit by about 10~40gb per month. (We) Do everything from downloading things (music, software, TV Shows) to streaming (Divx, youtubes, other sites) to just general internet surfing and game playing.

    According to the stats that my ISP offers (us), the majority of our bandwidth is spent on streaming, games and downloads.

  7. I live in a house with 6 other people (all college students), in the last 16 days we have downloaded a total of 228 GB worth of data, and uploaded about 50 GB worth of data.

    I will say that we are heavy users, we have a NetFlix account with streaming movies, we watch TV shows on Hulu and move a lot of data for school. I personally also run Backups from my web host to my local server so that in case something happens I have a backup of the data. We are all also fans of Open Source, and the majority of the machines in the household run Linux/FreeBSD. Those ISO’s are not going to magically appear for us to burn … coupled with wanting to play new games (some of them being over 5 GB to download) when beta’s come out …

    Since I have IMAP for my email, if I start syncing my 4 different email accounts I use about 14 KB/sec which comes out to about 35 GB in just one month. That is assuming I could keep up 14 KB/sec (24 hours a day, 7 days a week). Which with visiting websites, checking email, IM clients, IRC clients, Skype, and Ventrillo becomes quite easy. Especially when that is just the average I have to come up with.

    A 250 GB cap is too low, and I am not sure how Comcast would help out people like me where 7 people in a house use a huge amount of transfer, mainly because we are technology geeks. It almost seems unfair.

    As for people saying that 250 GB a month is insane, how about my use case? Not possible? It is entirely possible. In a month the 7 of us do about 300 – 400 GB of transfer.

  8. Bandwidth caps will never fly, not for long. As soon as those caps start hurting online vendors, the cable and dsl companies are going to be spending a great deal of time in court.

    IT’s all about greed. These companies just don’t want to pay for the upgrades so that they can continue showing higher profit margins for their aging networks and servers.

  9. I’m in Montreal.Canada and we have to deal with 20GB download limit and 10GB upload limit. It actually worries me because by the 3rd day this month i was already over the limit. and I downloaded just a couple of programs, didn’t even have time for movies or streamed videos.

    and for 7.50$ the extraGB i will be paying probably three times my internet bill this month

  10. Ikarasu

    Breaking it for me is really easy. I have a 300 GB limit (averaged between 2 months) so I watch my downloads and try to limit myself. if I didnt have this limit… I’d be doing far more. Before the days of HDTV, around 2 years ago, I hit 500 GB a month. Bandwidth data according to my ISPS tracker:

    March: 221 GB
    April: 309 GB
    May : 225 GB
    June : 203 GB
    July : 417 GB
    Aug: : 224 (so far)

    I’d be above 250 each month, but I’m allowed 600 combined between any 2 months.

    I think 250 GB is generous for this day and age, but with us just getting into the HD age, TVOIP (Which would use 250 GB alone) That 250 will soon be obsolete… And with Cable companies not wanting others to use TVOIP, I doubt they will raise their caps anytime soon to adjust with the needs of the future.

  11. Breaking past 40GB, maybe.Over 250GB? No way, not possible unless you torrent bluray movies or something, at which point it goes beyond “normal”, fair use. If you download that much per month, over 250GB and haven’t yet been booted off by your ISP you should be incredibly grateful.I guess it hasn’t occurred to you that you downloading that much stuff(stuff to be honest that you could 100% live without and most likely you don’t even end up watching completely) probably puts a big strain and limits other persons’ bandwith?

    Some people have no decency and common sense these days.

  12. I can break the cap by doing a reinstall. I’d have to redownload my Steam games and a handful of GameTap games. That would put me over 200GB alone, nevermind my other software I’d need to download on top of normal usage throughout the rest of the month. I don’t need to take this challenge. I live it.

    • But if you are a scrawny post-adolescent boy who absolutely must have a steady stream of calories all day, maybe pick an artificial-cheese-based snack that doesn’t make a heard-across-the-whole-floor crunchy sound? ,

  13. anonymous

    250GB is nothing. I was booted off of comcast over a year ago for using over 500GB/mo. 124 standard def movies? who watches those nowadays anyways??? high def content will drain 250GB in no time.

  14. I have 12 Win2003 servers on 12 cable and FIOS modems spread around new england. I give them to friends and family, maintain them, and use my own remote “desktop” so I dont bother theirs.

    I use them as seedboxes for utorrent with private trackers. They only seed from 1am – 6am.

    I’ll simply tweak the download/upload for any ISP that sets a known cap limit. I’ll slide in just under the limit.

    At home, I have Optonline Boost, and only DOWNload. I have a feeling if you pay a little extra, you wont get hassled or capped. not sure if it is true, but time will tell. I have heard other ISP’s have Extra you can pay for. Verizon FIOS does.

    Boost is only $15 a month more, and considering all the stuff I’m getting from giganews, Bitme, ST, PB, TL and PT, I think it is well worth it.

    Jay’s comments on DDOS bring up some interesting points though.

  15. I break 250GB every 3 weeks or so. I consume a lot of media with movie and music downloads in iTunes, streaming video, YouTube, podcasts, etc.. Then I have off-site backups of two machines on my network. I also upload a large amount of video and photos for client projects.

    In the last 24 hours, between my two computers I have used around 13GB of bandwidth. There are also three other computers on my network that use significantly less than me, but still average 50GB a month between them.

  16. There is going to have to be details on the “cap”.

    Element manager traffic over IP, tftp downloads, etc. would all count against you even though you don’t “ask” for that traffic.

    Does this now mean I am liable for a DDoS attack traffic against my home router and/or PC?

    It is curious.

    This also means they might place provisions on “in network” streaming and realtime services to place a competitive bar and hook subscribers on Comcast only content CDNs that are “free” or heavily subsidized as they acquire content assets.

  17. I don’t know about 250GB, but I know it’s TOO easy to break the 100GB mark. I’m on Shaw cable in Canada, and our service has a 100GB cap (wiuth a “grace period” of unknown size). I’m constantly over the cap, but luckily, I guess I’ve stayed withing the grace, because they haven’t shut me down yet…

  18. Run somthing like Joost all day and you might be able to hit the 250GB cap ……. now only if Joost would give us something to watch .

    ¨Joost downloads about 320MB per hour (as a maximum) and uploads up to 105 MB per hour. The more popular the content is on our platform, the more sources it can be pulled from and the less redundant data we send; that number can be as low as 220MB per hour of viewing.¨

  19. Breaking the 40GB is most definitely doable. In South Africa we have caps. The standard cap is a 3GB international / 30GB local. And the fastest line we get is a 4Mb/s. Here is a real users real usage, and it is considered high use here:

    2008-February 186GB
    2008-March 154GB
    2008-April 154GB
    2008-May 119GB
    2008-June 146GB
    2008-July 153GB
    2008-August 168GB

  20. Breaking 40GB for me is a no-brainer. I’ll just have to revert user accounts backups to my home server (instead of separate dedicated box). Each day there’s about 2.3GB * 30 days = 70GB per month easily – that’s just the backups.

    Add Pandora radio, about 500 big fat emails per day (yes, I’m old-fashioned and use Outlook for all of my 12 e-mail accounts), some YouTube and RedTube videos me and my girlfriend enjoy now and then and I am almost at 100… And I am NOT downloading movies, videos or anything like that AT ALL… Don’t know, maybe I should start…

  21. I don’t think that there are any tools that separate payload from data, and Comcast has not commented whether they are charging for the raw stream, or just the payload.

    See, they are setting up a situation where the wireless Broadband carriers and FIOS will just walk over them. Might take three years or so, and they can revoke their caps at any time, but it is very strange how far removed these cable providers are from the sentiments of their clients.

  22. I just hit up my local Westell router through the browser and see that there is some monitoring data for my Verizon DSL line. Looks like I’ve used 20.4 GB of bandwidth (up & down) in the past 7 days and 3 hours. I’m an at-home web-worker, so I’m constantly online for RSS, writing, podcast uploads, social networks, e-mail, music streaming even some Hulu watching. Also using this connection in the house is a Vudu box and an Xbox 360. This past week I didn’t rent any movies from either Vudu or Xbox Live, but I did do some online gaming. Past experience tells me that HD movie rentals on my Xbox are around 4 GB per title.

    This scenario gets me to around 10% of Comcast’s cap through 25% of a month. So, mathematically, I’d be OK. I’m still not sold that any cap is a good idea though. As we shift more of our content consumption to online venues and explore more cloud computing / online backup solutions, our needs will grow.