US 7325068 Method and system for managing data transfer over a network

ABSTRACT – A method, system, and computer-readable media are provided for managing the transfer of data over a network. In accordance with one method of the invention, the level of actual network bandwidth utilization is monitored. A timestamp indicating when the level of actual network bandwidth utilization was monitored is then provided. In addition, the quantity of data that had passed through the network interface at the time corresponding to the timestamp is determined.

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present invention relates to computer software and, more particularly, to a system and method for managing data transfer over a network such as the Internet

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

A computer system in which one or more client machines communicate with one or more servers over a network is a common arrangement. For example, there are millions of personal computers (PCs) connected to the Internet for communication with various servers. Many of these PC users acquire new or updated software on their PCs by downloading the software from a remote server over the Internet.

Conventional methods of uploading and downloading data, such as new and updated software to a PC over a network such as the Internet interfere with the PC user’s ability to browse the Internet or to otherwise communicate over the network during the download. With increased processing speeds for PCs, it is the bandwidth to the Internet that is becoming a significant bottleneck to the user’s browsing experience. Because conventional downloads typically occupy 100% of the user’s available communication bandwidth until the download is complete, the user is unable to utilize the network for other tasks during the download. Moreover, if the download is interrupted for some reason (e.g., the network connection is lost), it may be necessary to restart the download from the beginning of the file, thus wasting significant network resources. Other conventional downloading software permits the user to schedule the download for a designated time. In any event, conventional methods for downloading software over a network such as the Internet severely limit the user’s ability to engage in other network activity.

Providing software updates is beneficial to PC users because it corrects problems and improves the performance of their PCs. Additionally, the software vendor benefits from a reduction in the number of product support calls, which in turn reduces the substantial resources the vendor might otherwise allocate to handling such calls.

Microsoft Corporation provides a software update service in connection with its MICROSOFT WINDOWS family of operating system products under the mark “WINDOWS UPDATE”. By accessing the “WINDOWS UPDATE” Internet website, MICROSOFT WINDOWS users can have their system evaluated and download both critical and non-critical software updates (e.g., a fix or a patch) over the Internet. Upon determining there are updates available that are not already loaded on the user’s PC, the user is notified that such updates are available, and the user is prompted to select one or more of them for downloading over the Internet. While this is a convenient method for providing software updates to users, such downloads could interfere with other network activity. Moreover, it is likely that many users will not take the initiative to navigate to the “WINDOWS UPDATE” website and download operating system updates for their PCs. Consequently, users who have not yet downloaded critical updates are more likely to encounter problems with their PCs, and they will likely call the vendor’s product support line when a problem arises.

Accordingly, there is a need for an effective method for downloading software updates over a network so that interference with other network activity is minimized. One potential solution is simply to increase network bandwidth. However, increased bandwidth is expensive and has historically been followed by increased user demands. Thus, even as available bandwidth increases with technological advances, there will continue to be a need to eliminate interference with other network activity because of the corresponding increases in user demands.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In one aspect, the invention is directed to a method for managing data transfer over a network. The method includes the step of monitoring the level of actual network bandwidth utilization. Next, the method provides a timestamp indicating when the level of actual network bandwidth utilization was monitored. The method then determines the quantity of data that had passed through the network interface at the time corresponding to the timestamp.

Another aspect of the invention is directed to a system for managing data transfer over a network. First, the system includes a monitoring component, which monitors the level of actual network bandwidth utilization. Second, the system includes means for providing a timestamp indicating when the level of actual network bandwidth utilization was monitored. Third, the system includes means for determining the quantity of data that had passed through the network interface at the time corresponding to the timestamp.

Yet another aspect of the invention involves one or more computer-readable media having computer-usable instructions embodied thereon for performing a method. The method includes the step of monitoring the level of actual network bandwidth utilization. Next, the method includes the step of providing a timestamp indicating when the level of actual network bandwidth utilization was monitored. The method also includes the step of determining the quantity of data that had passed through the network interface at the time corresponding to the timestamp.

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