You are now shaped -- try not to kill yourself

One of the disadvantages of living so far from the rest of the world is that the data we want has to travel huge distances across very expensive undersea data cables before it gets to us. The charges for this data have to be paid by ISPs to Telstra, and that's where part of our monthly ISP bill goes. It's also why ISPs have a limit as to how much you can download every month, which can be a headache to manage and which can lead to physical violence between roommates, as well as intimidating status changes on Facebook when the quota is chewed through and the Internet speed is shaped.

The problem with shaping is that ISPs shape to low speeds that are often no better than a dial-up connection. You can forget about comfortably browsing the Web, let alone streaming media. In fact, once you get shaped, you may as well switch off your PC and go and read a book or have a go at inventing a new type of wheel.

But there are ways to stay on top of your data usage rather than waiting for a delayed e-mail reminder from your ISP, which, by the time you receive it, means you are probably already over the limit. The easiest way to keep track of your data usage is to download a program that keeps track of it for you, so you can see, simply by glancing at your system tray, for example, exactly where you are up to everyday.

For popular ISPs such as iiNet, Internode, TPG, AAPT, iPrimus, Optus, and BigPond, users have taken it upon themselves to provide these essential tools. Here are links to the most popular usage meters:

iiNet: iiUsage has long been a favourite among iiNet users.

Internode: Select from a range of usage meters, which are located on a single page on Internode's site.

TPG: This user has assembled a handy list of usage meter tools for TPG users.

AAPT: Check out this blog for links to AAPT usage meters.

Optus: OptusNet Usage Meter can be downloaded from here.

BigPond: BigPond actually supplies a toolbar utility for keeping track of usage, but this user-created tool is also available, and probably does a better job.

Or you could try this meter, which reportedly works with the above-mentioned ISPs, as well as many others.

As well as keeping an eye on your usage, you can implement schedulers within your torrent programs and your router (if it supports it), which can stop downloading at a particular time of day. This is especially helpful for managing peak and off-peak quota. But be sure to test the schedulers after you enable them. You don't want to schedule some downloads for 12-8am before you get to bed, only to find that the scheduler wasn't properly enabled and that nothing has been downloaded.

You could also try a bandwidth throttling program, so that you can curb your usage by slowing down your connection yourself. This should only be done as a proactive measure if you know that you will go overboard with your new 22Mbps connection and end up with dial-up speeds by the second week into the month. This Whirlpool sticky has plenty of info in this area.

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