Startup Offers Personal Bandwidth Management Software - InformationWeek

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Startup Offers Personal Bandwidth Management Software

Propel's PBM release helps shape a PC's Internet activity and gives higher priority to more time-sensitive traffic such as VoIP and gaming.

With so many Internet-enabled applications fighting for a PC's attention these days, some vendors are offering software to help consumers manage their personal network traffic.

Startup software provider Propel on Wednesday launched what it calls its "Personal Bandwidth Management software," or PBM, as a way to actually shape the different kinds of traffic flowing in and out of a PC and help monitor for malware and bloatware.

While the conventional method requires understanding ports, protocols, and packet headers, Propel president and CEO David Murray said PBM is a lightweight alternative that is more effective than checking the Task Manager application that runs behind Microsoft Windows.

"Most people are unaware that they have multiple applications on their PC competing for the use of their personal Internet connection. In addition to browsing, VoIP, and e-mail, even operating systems are managing and using bandwidth in the background, which can lead to slowdowns," Murray told InformationWeek. We designed PBM to run as a service for helping manage this kind of traffic."

The PBM's traffic monitor also becomes more valuable over time, Murray noted, as consumers are sometimes caught off guard by their ISP's bandwidth consumption limits. "How would an honest user know how much bandwidth they use in a day?" he said.

The downloadable software provides three features that help users get the most from their personal Internet connection including:

  • Showing which applications are using the PC's Internet connection in real-time, along with their inbound and outbound transfer rates;
  • Showing how much bandwidth each application consumes over time, and total cumulative bandwidth consumption across all applications;
  • Giving higher priority to more time-sensitive traffic, dynamically allocating the available bandwidth in real-time based upon the current traffic mix.

In fact, since its debut at the DEMO '07 conference last year, PBM's traffic shaping feature has gotten the lion's share of the attention, according to Mike Samboy, Propel's VP of sales and marketing. "Initial feedback from the broadband Internet community, beta testers, and industry analysts has been overwhelmingly positive," he said. "We thought people would really enjoy the traffic monitor, but the main thing we heard about was the traffic shaping."

While it might seem logical to allow the end user to customize what kinds of traffic can take priority over others, just the opposite is true, Murray said.

This is evident when it comes to VoIP. If a user without Propel PBM receives a VoIP call while uploading a large file or sending a large e-mail attachment, the two network activities may compete for the available outbound bandwidth, which can degrade the quality of the call.

"One thing that has made Skype successful is that it uses lots of different methods," Murray said. "So if Skype traffic looks similar to browsing traffic and you are trying to make a VoIP call, while instructing the PBM to put browsing traffic low on the list, your call could be broken up."

Instead, the PBM software is based on a Waited Fair Share allocation model, which means time-sensitive data such as voice is given a very high priority followed by gaming traffic, and then video. Below that is non-time-sensitive traffic such as browsing, software-as-a-service applications, e-mail, and FTP packets such as through a Bit Torrent or a P2P application.

PBM also allows consumers to track daily Internet activity and spot potential security risks such as spyware or rogue bot traffic, Murray said

Propel's first phase is to roll out the PBM software as a direct-to-customer model. The company is also embarking on an affiliate program that allows ISPs to offer Propel PBM to their customer base.

The PBM software is normally priced at $29.95 and includes one year of free software updates and traffic-shaping policy updates. For a limited time, Propel is offering the Windows-based software for $19.95.

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