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An Internet usage meter is a type of Internet monitoring software that tells network administrators and individual Internet subscribers how much bandwidth they are using. Most Internet service plans are subject to certain bandwidth caps, or limits. For individuals, exceeding the limits may lead to service degradation and steep additional fees. Companies who manage their own networks may also experience network slowing or stalling if one or more employees are exceeding the network’s bandwidth limits. An Internet usage meter can keep track of an individual computer’s bandwidth use, and can also map the use of all networked computers.
Internet bandwidth is not an inexhaustible resource. Commercial Internet service providers that market Internet connections for personal home use generally have huge bandwidth capacity, but if every computer connected tried to use the maximum amount of bandwidth, the system would be so slowed that no one would likely be able to get through at all. The same is true in corporate settings: although a corporation may own its own network, the bandwidth must be shared between all computers. One user’s excessive use can slow things down for everyone else. An Internet usage meter is a tool that can keep track of and compare usage statistics.
Most Internet service providers attempt to solve the limited bandwidth problem by restricting how much bandwidth individual subscribers can monopolize without paying additional usage fees. Individuals sometimes elect to download Internet usage meter software programs in order to monitor their own usage and stay within their allotted amount. Companies will also use Internet usage meter applications to identify computers that are using disproportionate amounts of bandwidth. The employees assigned to those computers will usually be subject to website monitoring and productivity questioning.
Typical Internet browsing, e-mail, and search functions take up only minimal bandwidth, and do not usually even come close to reaching monthly allotments. It is activities like watching streaming videos, downloading movie and music files, and engaging in bulk file-sharing that take up all the space. An Internet usage meter can be used to warn individuals to back off of these activities if they are nearing their limit, and can alert corporate managers about employees who might not be using their computers for strictly work-related purposes.
The majority of Internet usage meter applications are free to download, and are available from a variety of web monitoring sites. Internet meters can give network owners and subscribers ideas about use patterns, but they cannot usually identify what, specifically, caused the usages they clock. An Internet usage meter is not Internet monitoring software, nor is it the kind of tool that can provide IP address tracking, identify specific websites visited, or in any way monitor the net. Separate tools exist for those purposes.