As network engineers we are usually assigned various tasks related to the life-cycle of networks, starting from the initial design, procurement, installation of network equipment and then management and monitoring of existing networks.
In the latter phase (management and monitoring of networks) we are constantly faced with major or minor problems such as links going down, equipment failing, bandwidth resources depleted etc.
This is where Network Bandwidth Monitoring tools come into play. These types of monitoring software are essential in getting an overall picture and visibility into network usage.
Moreover, these tools can help in identifying high-traffic hosts/users, probable abusive behavior, possible security infections (hosts that generate a lot of traffic can be members of botnets) etc.
A bandwidth monitoring tool can also help in capacity planning. If your company’s Internet broadband link is 100Mbps and you see that is over 80-90% utilized, it is a sign of subscribing to a higher speed plan from the ISP.
In this article I have searched for the best Network Bandwidth Monitoring Software tools and listed them below with a brief description and pricing info for each one.
There are both Network-based and Host-based tools in the list below that can give you as a professional a useful insight into what “eats-up” your network bandwidth.
Note that the ranking below is in no particular order.
PRTG (by Paessler) is a popular choice for business use in terms of network management and monitoring.
One of the best things about PRTG is that it offers several pricing plans according to the number of sensors for added flexibility.
All options provide you with a perpetual license – what differs between them is the total number of sensors (from 500 to unlimited) that you may employ to track network usage in real time.
The 500-sensor license starts at $1750 and the price reaches $15,500 for unlimited sensors.
There’s also a free plan with 100 sensors, which may work fine for personal use or for small networks.
Speaking of sensors, PRTG allows you to perform network bandwidth monitoring via sensors for Packet Sniffer, Cisco ASA VPN, sFlow, Windows network cards, and more.
The way PRTG works is to monitor bandwidth usage on the network equipment directly (i.e on routers, firewalls, servers etc) using various ways such as SNMP, WMI, NetFlow etc.
Solarwinds is another vendor that goes head-to-head with Paessler in offering professional and cutting-edge software tools for network management and monitoring.
Solarwinds Free Real-Time Bandwidth monitor is not as functional and scalable as PRTG, but it is a better choice for less demanding use cases. Not only that, but since it’s free, you could get it for personal use.
This free option performs interface bandwidth polling and delivers visual performance reports. It uses SNMP to poll the bandwidth usage from device interfaces, which means that you must have SNMP enabled and configured (almost all network equipment support SNMP).
For more functionality, you may also get yourself the paid Network Performance Monitor with more detailed reports, network mapping, alerts, hop-by-hop network analysis, and some other extra useful features.
The paid software package starts cheaper than PRTG – from $1,290 euros – and has a 30-day free trial. There are several pricing plans, but Solarwinds doesn’t provide much information on them – you’ll have to get in touch with the sales team for more details.
ManageEngine is also a well-known vendor that develops fairly-priced software in the area of IT and Networking.
ManageEngine NetFlow Analyzer goes even cheaper than the previous options, offering two plans priced at $595 (Essential plan) and $1,295 (Enterprise Plan).
The “Essential Plan” supports up to 50K netflows while the “Enterprise Plan” is more suited for distributed networks and goes up to 80k flows per collector.
If you want something for personal use, then there is also a free edition that can monitor up to 2 interfaces.
A notable feature of NetFlow Analyzer is that it can monitor distributed networks, which is great for cloud-based workflows. Aside from that, you are getting tailored performance reports for Cisco AVC and WAAS along with a few other goodies.
As the name suggests, the ManageEngine option works using NetFlow technology. This means that you must enable and configure Netflow (or other flavors such as sFlow, J-Flow, IPFIX etc) on your network equipment (switches, routers etc) in ordet to send Netflow traffic to collectors for monitoring.
The Network Bandwidth Monitor from Spiceworks is a free tool with real-time network monitoring capabilities. It allows you to identify connectivity issues in your IT infrastructure and/or your websites.
This tool also shows alerts for slow applications or faulty services. Keeping track of your systems is easy too thanks to the color-coded console where you can see the condition of all your key components.
The Network Bandwidth Monitor is also fully integrated with Spiceworks Cloud Help Desk and Inventory, which is nice for those who are intending to or are already working with these tools.
This is another tool that is based on NetFlow traffic for monitoring the bandwidth of the network.
NetFlow Traffic Analyzer by Solarwinds is a little more focused on traffic analysis, but it also has rich bandwidth monitoring functionality as well.
Collecting data on a number of metrics, NetFlow Traffic Analyzer allows you to keep an eye on your trends and act quickly if there are any unusual changes. As for the bandwidth monitor, it allows you to identify resource-consuming apps and protocols and perform their optimization.
Unlike the other tool from Solarwinds discussed before, this one is a paid product starting at $1,036 but with added functionality.
ntopng is the direct successor of the original ntop. The key feature of the new ntopng is its cross-platform compatibility – it has been written portable and can run on Windows, macOS , and every Unix system.
With that said, Unix would be the best environment for this app since some of its features aren’t available elsewhere.
ntopng has four plans and allows you to monitor from 32 to 128 different interfaces – excellent for larger companies.
And to make network monitoring easier, ntopng can generate visual reports and identify specific application protocols, like Facebook or BitTorrent.
Basically you will need to install “ntopng” on the host to monitor (Linux, Mac, Windows) which will collect traffic from the NIC (network interface card). The tool does not monitor only traffic but also disk space, load, netflow etc.
7. BitMeter OS
BitMeter OS is open-source and completely free, so it is accessible to anyone. You may use this software on Windows, Linux, and macOS devices as well, so this is another host-based tool (in contrary to the first few tools discussed in this article which are network-based).
Needless to say, a free piece of software won’t provide much network bandwidth functionality, but it’s just enough for basic monitoring.
BitMeter OS offers convenient charts for bandwidth analysis in real time, and it can also accumulate historical data to let you identify trends in data usage.
You may additionally set up alerts that would notify you when your data usage exceeds some threshold value specified by you.
NetWorx is intended for not too demanding users – its licenses start from a mere $25, although there is the Site license with a $1,000 price tag. There is also a 30-day free trial that allows you to give all features of NetWorx a try.
NetWorx Home and Business plans allow you to monitor network bandwidth from 5 to 10 devices, while the Site license can track an unlimited number of devices within the same organization.
In terms of features, NetWorx is pretty nice. Aside from providing graphical reports, it supports Wi-Fi cards, ADSL, and cable modems, can automatically disconnect from the network if data usage exceeds set limits, and has a speed meter for internet testing.
Cacti is an open-source piece of software with a simple yet quite functional graphical interface. In fact, Cacti has been made with scalability in mind – its GUI stays readable even in complex networks with hundreds of devices.
Cacti can gather data from different sources, and it can also scale to a large number of data sources and graphs thanks to templates that make monitoring large networks easier.
It has a relatively hard learning curve since it requires the administrator of the tool to create pollers for data retrieval, storage and data presentation.
Finally, we have Bandwidth Monitor Pro, an extremely simplistic and cheap tool for bandwidth monitoring.
Bandwidth Monitor Pro has a minimalistic interface that may make this software deceivingly simple and low-functional. In reality, it provides separate stats for each network adapter, generates detailed transfer graphs, displays data in both bits and bytes, and does a few other things.
Bandwidth Monitor Pro is very simple, and we wouldn’t say that it’s the first network bandwidth tool that you should try out.
However, if nothing seems to cut it for you, then you may want to give this tool a try. It has a 30-day free trial, so you won’t have to pay anything to start working with the software.
A single individual license will cost you just $19.95.
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