Depending on who your Internet Service Provider (ISP) is, you could be limited to the amount of data that is uploaded and downloaded every month. I’m lucky enough to be on an unlimited and uncapped service, but that same ISP also offers free broadband where the bandwidth is capped at 2GB each month which is mainly for light users. The trouble is it wouldn’t take much effort to go over a low usage limit these days and possibly incur extra charges.
With that in mind, if you have some sort of usage limit on your broadband connection or would just like to keep track of what is using the bandwidth, a tool that could be of great use is something to monitor what programs on your PC are using the internet and how much data they’re consuming.
As you might expect, there are a few bandwidth monitor programs around and one or two have been covered here before. A few days ago I came across another piece of software to monitor your internet traffic called Cucusoft Net Guard. While Net Guard is primarily a program that watches how much internet data is going in and out of your computer and notifies you if specified limits are being reached, it can also be used as a basic security monitoring tool allowing any process or service accessing the internet to be monitored, and if necessary, terminated.
Although Net Guard is freeware, it does require you to register for a serial number with your email address. But that’s not a problem if you don’t want to give away your personal email, simply use a disposable mail service. I did and the serial was received with 20 seconds. Just a small note; the serial number I was sent had a comma on the end which as it turns out, was part of the serial number.
When you first run the program after install, the settings window will appear and ask you to enter a monthly bandwidth limit if you want to set one accompanied by a visual alarm which can be set to trigger at a certain threshold. Then when the settings have been confirmed a small meter will be displayed on the desktop showing the current upload/download speed. This meter can be dragged anywhere, made translucent or disabled by using it’s right click context menu.
Hover on the meter and you will be presented with a popup window that shows the daily usage statistics including programs that have downloaded or uploaded the most, their current activity and the total bandwidth consumed in the day so far.
Double clicking on the activity bar or choosing “show main window” from the icon will open the main interface. Although it might not be as advanced and full of options as some other monitoring software, it is presented in an easy to use and functional way.
The Net Usage tab gives the current information about the bandwidth limits including current usage and even projected usage. The lower half of the window is a weekly/monthly/yearly chart which shows the usage for any given period. Hover over a bar to get the process and total traffic stats for that date.
The Net Monitor tab is where you can get a more detailed look at which processes and services are accessing, or have accessed the internet. It’s from here you can find out if certain programs are, or have been using the internet connection when they shouldn’t, or which processes are sucking up too much precious bandwidth. Any running process or service can be terminated by right clicking on it and clicking the only option available, Kill. Trying to kill anything like svchost.exe will throw up a warning that killing the process could have unforeseen consequences. Take note…
The Connections window displays the current processes and established connections along with ports information and the local and remote IP address. This window is for display only, there is no user interaction in here.
The Speed test tab is pretty obvious and will simply run a quick broadband speed test. It takes around 20-30 seconds but I wouldn’t put much trust in the results as the speed it gave me was around 1/3 of what it should have. Speed tests need to be run from a location as close to you as possible, but a quick trace showed this test was being performed from Houston, Texas in the U.S. so is never going to be very accurate for the rest of the world.
The last tab is Statements and produces very detailed PDF document reports for the date periods either listed in dated order or through a custom date range. The report is pretty good with totals, averages, most active downloads and uploads, and complete process usage. You obviously need a PDF reader to view the document.
A small thing to note is perhaps memory usage is a little on the high side sometimes, fluctuating between 20MB and 40MB but unless you’re a bit low on RAM, it’s not really a major issue.
Cucusoft Net Guard works on Windows XP, Vista, 2003, Windows 7 and 8.