Understanding and tracking Data Usage

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We frequently see subscribers posting in the Community topics related to missing data.

In response I'm going to post as a topic a reply I had posted earlier.

To me the answer is found in understanding the "shape" of your Network and monitoring all the connection paths therein.

There are a number of key points within a network, lets define them:

POINT A: The Exede Modem, Every bit and byte of data (other than command and control) will be counted against your data allowance and will pass this point.

POINT B: All of the traffic that travels along the Ethernet cable between each wired device and either the Modem LAN port (in the case of a single connected device) or one of the Routers LAN ports. It is important to note that there can be multiple Point B's

POINT C: The Routers internal Firmware and any internal "services" such as cloud based DNS and IP filtering can use massive amounts of data if enabled:

(Examples from my router)

Cloud based internal protection services:

Cloud based internal filtering services:

Routers can also use and lose data through auto firmware update/fail/fall-back loops as well as vulnerabilities related to remote account access.

POINT D:  Every wireless device on every available frequency. This is the hardest to track because it involves potentially a very large number of devices and includes things such as WPS vulnerabilities, router GUI security, wireless encryption standards selected and number of other items.

POINT E: Point E would be that point that is central to all traffic that passes through the Network on its way to the Modem ... that is the Router itself  IF it has the ability to track data by several criteria:

When: The ability to view data used in a defined period of time.

Whom: The ability to view how much data was used per device.

Where: The ability to see what programs, applications and processes used data.

If you have the above information you can direct your efforts towards the devices that have the greatest return in controlling data use.

If the Network is very simple .... a single Windows computer connected directly to a non-Wifi Modem the answer is simple .... monitor both ends of the single connection path that exists ... POINT A as the Exede measuring point and Point B as the single path Ethernet cable ... we can then install the free version of GlassWire on that single computer.

Our "Network" would look like this:

Exede "claims" their use on one end of the path: Point A

You can monitor your usage with GlassWire across the other end of the path Point B

GlassWire set to exclude "local" traffic:

Example of how to define a period of usage:

The problem with the above is that most of us have a much more complex Network ... looking more like this:

The above has many more "connection paths" and all need to be monitored if we are to KNOW where ALL of our data is going.

ISP's don't steal data. Data is consumed by devices ... software in the form of "programs" and "processes"  and by hardware by way of firmware.

There is just so many hidden things these days .... Nvidia graphics card drivers that collect data and "call home" are one thing that comes to mind. There are many others.

We have a much more complex network shown above, many more "connection paths". We can monitor each on the Point B's if we install GlassWire on each Windows based computer but that still leaves many paths unmonitored .... Network printers, overlooked Guest Networks .... so many things, so easy to miss one or more items.

Here is the central point of our Network, our Router in the case of us that have non-WiFi Modems:

We need to establish a POINT E.

Everything that is going to run through the Modem also has to run past Point E, our Router.

If you have a problem with data usage, if you disagree with how much your ISP is charging against your allowance you have to have something more than suspicion, something more than "they are stealing!.

If your Router has the capacity to track data, use it.

See if data tracking can be added to your present router through a firmware update.

We have take a moment to look at the network view for those that have a Wifi router.

Rather than what we have in the above graphic, we have this:

There is only one way to establish a central POINT E if we have a WiFi Modem or a personal Router that lacks the ability to track data and that is:

Purchase a Router that has that capability and install it.

In the case of those with WiFi Modems simply disable the wireless "radios" and install a capable Router to the Modems LAN port and now all connection paths can be monitored.

Before you can fix the problem, you have to know where the problem is.

So lets look at a Router that does track data and how we can use it to zero in on When (the data was used overall) What device(s) used the data, When data usage occurred on an individual device and what applications on that device specifically used the data.

There are a number of Router brands that have the ability to track data. Carefully research your choices to make sure your choice will fill your needs.

I have an Asus RT-AC3100

The 3100 is a bit costly. It, as well as other Asus models that have the ability to track data out of the box can sometimes be found as "factory Refurbs" with full warranties from places such as Newegg.

Here is a list of Asus model numbers that have the Traffic Analyzer. That function can be enhanced by installing the Merlin firmware update:


Here are some screenshots showing the Traffic Analyzer function:

Traffic for a defined two day period. It shows traffic total per day as well as all devices that used data:

Next we have overall Statistics showing hours of operation in the upper blue graph and a pie chart below depicting use per device:

Next we can single out the hours of operation of a single device:

From there we can see what applications within that device used data:

You will find it much easier, much faster to find and control your usage after you KNOW when the data was used, which device used it and what programs/processes within the device were active.

The Asus 3100 was recently on Newegg as a factory refurb for $110.00

Other models, as stated, are less costly and can also be found as factory refurbs at considerable savings if cost is an issue.

If choosing an Asus be sure to consult the model list posted above to insure that it has the Traffic Analyzer function.

Photo of Gwalk900

Gwalk900, Champion

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Posted 12 months ago

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Photo of Claudia Anderson

Claudia Anderson

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I, too question my data use.  I have taken the time to read this explanation and find it technical and confusing.  Are there more simple techniques?  IE:  does it make a difference to turn the device OFF instead of letting it sleep?  Where do I access background use?  And how can I turn them off.  For instance, I don't need Parental Controls, but don't know whre to access that.  Do you have a checklist for apps etc that may be sucking data?  
Photo of Bev

Bev, Champion

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Claudia, the tutorial I posted earlier may help you, it isn't as easy to read or accurate as Gwalk's method but, it can give you an idea of what is using data at any given moment.