Many Internet service providers (ISPs) put hard limits on bandwidth usage, on top of standard upload and download limits, so paying attention to network bandwidth is important. Monitoring bandwidth is a two-part process: making sure the paid-for amount of bandwidth is available and keeping track of usage over-time. Users can find help with the first part by searching the Internet for "network bandwidth test." These sites can send test information to a computer and then report back on the overall speed. The second step to monitoring network bandwidth usage involves installing a third party program to monitor usage and alert a user as he or she approaches the contracted limit. There are free version of this software available for download from the Internet, but business users may want to consider purchasing a professional version for more measurement options.
ISPs are like any other business—they market their products by playing up the good points and downplaying the bad ones. When it comes to network bandwidth, there is often a great deal in the fine print that influences how and when a user can use an Internet connection. Sometimes companies will impose a monthly limit on the connection, or restrict the times of day when the connection is available at the full upload and download speed. Before looking into a network's bandwidth usage, a consumer may want to review their ISP contract details to know what results should be returned from the testing.
The first recommended test checks upload and download speeds. These two values can help determine if the actual bandwidth equals the bandwidth in the ISP's contract. A simple Web search for "network bandwidth test" in any search engine should offer links to a number of different Web sites that can perform this task. Consumers may wish to choose two or three different sites and check them several times per day to compile result averages. It isn't uncommon for Internet connections to slow down a small amount at certain times.
Sometimes ISPs limit the amount of data a user can access during a month. If that limit is surpassed, overage charges may be applied to the bill. In this case, it is important to find a program that will monitor real-time network bandwidth usage and sound an alert if the limit is approaching. There are a wide variety of these programs available on the Internet. For most users, there are several freeware options from which to choose. Corporate or home business users may opt to buy a professional program that monitors more types of information.