Top 5 Best Bandwidth Monitoring Software and Tools for Network Traffic Usage

bandwidth monitors – The Best Free Network Traffic monitoring Tools

Marc Wilson

A Network Traffic (Bandwidth) Monitor is a tool that will assist you in keeping an eye on inbound and outbound bandwidth within your network and help you identify which hosts are using the most bandwidth.

Bandwidth Monitoring is important in every network and should be a top priority for all Network engineers and administrators in order to know exactly what is going on in your network at all times.

In many instances, utilizing tools to keep tabs on your network allows for oversight into what is going on in your LAN and potentially catching high-traffic processes, programs and more importantly, users who are abusing precious network resources.

Here is our list of the top bandwidth monitoring software:

  1. SolarWinds NetFlow Traffic Analyzer – EDITOR’S CHOICE This monitoring tool tracks live traffic patterns and also stores throughput data for later time-series performance analysis. This tool includes mechanisms to resolve bandwidth issues through traffic shaping. Runs on Windows Server. Start a 30-day free trial.
  2. Paessler PRTG Bandwidth Monitor – FREE TRIAL A series of traffic sensors are included in this larger collection of system monitors. Installs on Windows Server. Access a 30-day free trial.
  3. ManageEngine NetFlow Analyzer – FREE TRIAL A network traffic analyzer that can identify applications, sources, and destinations of traffic and spot peak traffic times. Available for Windows Server and Linux. Start a 30-day free trial.
  4. BitMeter OS A free, open-source network monitor that is a little out of date but shows some very useful traffic throughput graphs. Available for Windows, Linux, and macOS.
  5. SoftPerfect NetWorx A free network monitor that uses SNMP to detect network performance. Available for Windows and Windows Server.

We've all been in that position where an end-user storms into your office and says the internet or network is almost unusable and all programs and files are taking “Forever” to open up.

The cause can be one of many things, but if you've exhausted all possible end-user remedies (such as diagnosing issues on that individual's actual machine and drilling down into their processes and programs that are running) and the problem still has not been fixed, then its time to take a step back and see if the network has a bottleneck and bandwidth consumption is really the culprit of the issue.

As your Local Networks become more congested with the advent of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) cultures and policies, we're seeing higher consumption on every end of our LAN and are taking further action into seeing what's really going on in our network and who are the top talkers and abusers.

streaming usage bandwidth report
via Sandvine.com Global Internet Phenomena Report – Sandvine

Surprisingly enough, many times Network engineers can spot not only programs that are consuming way too much bandwidth, but users who are taking advantage of lax content filtering policies and using free time in the office to watch streaming videos, browse Youtube, Netflix, Facebook, streaming mp3 websites and much more.

On top of end-users, network admins can also trace odd outbound IP traffic to potentially catch botnets, viruses, and potential security breaches that made their way into the network already.

What should you look for in bandwidth monitoring tools?

We reviewed the market for network traffic monitoring software and analyzed the tools based on the following criteria:

  • A system that is able to communicate with switches and routers from all vendors
  • Utilities for traffic shaping
  • VLAN analysis and management
  • The option to select specific conversations
  • A top traffic generator report
  • An opportunity for a cost-free assessment period through a free trial or a demo
  • A good deal that represents a suitable price for the functions offered

With these selection criteria in mind, here's a list of the top bandwidth monitoring software and tools for Windows/Linux we recommend all network engineers, admins, and IT Professional's use within their Perimeter to gain a greater insight into usage of their network resources.

The Top Software for Monitoring your Bandwidth Usage:

1. SolarWinds NetFlow Traffic Analyzer – FREE TRIAL

SolarWinds NetFlow Traffic Analyzer

SolarWinds NetFlow Traffic Analyzer is a comprehensive package for examining bandwidth provision on a network and it can also watch over VMWare vSphere activity. This service offers network flow monitoring, application identification, wireless network monitoring, performance analysis, bottleneck identification, problem alerting, and traffic shaping.

The analyzer sets itself up by searching the network as soon as it is installed on a connected server. The system can communicate with NetFlow, IPFIX, J-Flow, sFlow, and NetStream. All of those messaging protocols are very similar and the original system in the group is NetFlow, which is why this tool is called the NetFlow Traffic Analyzer, even though it isn’t limited to communicating with that system.

By examining the port number in the headers of traveling packets, the NetFlow Traffic Analyzer can segment throughput data by protocol and, therefore, application. This is a useful insight into network activity because it lets you see the growth in traffic be application. With this categorization, you can see whether there is a growth trend in the activity on the network that is created by a specific application. It is also interesting to look at what times of the day each application is most active.

With the knowledge gained from the NetFlow Traffic Analyzer, you can start taking steps to ensure that trend growth in traffic is accounted for and implement changes in hardware layout. Another approach would be to move tasks that are not time-sensitive to out-of-hours processing. You could also implement queueing at switches to ensure that priority, interactive traffic always gets through unhindered.

Pros:

  • Simple, accurate real-time monitor with no unnecessary features or bloat
  • Easy graphing can help visualize traffic flow with time and events
  • Threshold-based alerts are flexible for networks both large and small
  • Comes bundled with SolarWinds Network Analyzer

Cons:

  • Designed for networking professionals, non-technical users may struggle using its features and monitors

EDITOR'S CHOICE

SolarWinds NetFlow Traffic Analyzer is our top pick for a bandwidth monitoring tool because it can communicate with network devices that are provided by many manufacturers and extract categorized traffic statistics. The data stored by the tool can be used within the dashboard for historic analysis, identifying traffic growth trends and the peaks and troughs in different types of traffic. With this knowledge, you can re-plan your physical infrastructure and introduce traffic shaping to reduce the risk of overloading.

Official Site: https://www.solarwinds.com/netflow-traffic-analyzer/registration

OS: Windows Server

2. PRTG Bandwidth Monitor – FREE TRIAL

prtg bandwidth monitor interface screenshot

PRTG is very well known in the Tech industry as providing great tools for pretty good prices. We've included their free version of the tool that allows up to 100 Sensors for Free at no additional cost.

PRTG has a great table detailing what their software is good at and where it lacks in terms of features.

We'll summarize this quickly to show you exactly what the strengths and weaknesses of this software are: Using WMI and SNMP, you can get a good indication of the volume or amount of traffic at the IP level (layer 3 level) and give you a good indication of layer 2 and layer 3 counters and events, including errors and broadcasts you have.

On the flip side, it also acts as a packet sniffer which will give you a good overview of Layer 4 services.

Pros:

  • Free trial that converts to a limited freeware version after expiration
  • Uses multiple protocols for monitoring allowing for a wide variety of uses and monitoring integrations
  • Supports custom sensors to be built for in house applications
  • Great option for companies looking for other monitoring solutions in the PRTG ecosystem

Cons:

  • Is a very comprehensive platform with many features and moving parts that require time to learn

PRTG is a great tool if you looking to really scale up due to their vast list of sensors, alerts and alarms that are built into the program itself. Setup is a little more involved than our Top pick, be aware of that, but nonetheless, it's a great option. You can download a 30-day free trial. The download is free to use indefinitely for up to 100 sensors!

Download: https://www.paessler.com/bandwidth-monitoring-tool

Download PRTG

3. ManageEngine Netflow Analyzer – FREE TRIAL

ManageEngine has a great little Bandwidth Monitor add-on tool that can be added to their software package to further monitor traffic on your network and monitor bandwidth usage within your perimeter.

The Free version of this tool give you the ability to monitor any 2 Interfaces from a Device, which is bit limited, but will give you the data your are looking for from your router ports.

The add-on gives you the ability to fetch data uses SNMP and see usage details on both Device and Interfaces, instead of only off of Interfaces.

With its agent-less design, there's not need to install anything on your SNMP-enabled devices to interface with the program.

As with other software packages from above, this one also gives you the ability to setup Alerts based on certain thresholds you specify and generate reports based on several parameters, including:

  • Volume Utilization
  • Interface Speed
  • and Packet Transfers

Pros:

  • Features a host of additional network management tools to compliment bandwidth monitoring
  • Offers a clean interface that combines visualizations with a trailing log of real-time reports
  • Makes charting traffic patterns and high usage times easy with flexible visualization and alerting tools

Cons:

  • NetFlow Analyzer is part of the ManageEngine suite of networking tools that takes time to fully learn and explore

Overall it's a great tool that adds additional value to the OpManager platform, just remember you'll need to have that installed before you can use this free add-on and as we mentioned early, the Free Version only allows capturing data on 2 Interfaces on a device. You can access the 30-day free trial.

Download: https://www.manageengine.com/products/netflow/index-new.html

Download Now!

Related Post: Best Netflow Analyzers and Collectors for Windows

4. BitMeter OS

bitMeter-Os screenshot

BitMeter OS is an open-source solution that works for Windows, Linux and Mac OSX and is useful for keeping track of all network usage on your LAN. You can monitor bandwidth information either through the Web-Interface or Command-Line tools that they offer.

One of the only downsides to this program is that you'll need to have Python installed on your Machine before you install the desktop version of the tool. The program was last updated in August 2014, but many are still using it to monitor usage of bandwidth in their networks.

Pros:

  • Open-source networking monitor, great for building your own tools and features on top of
  • Cross-platform – available for Windows, Linux, and Unix
  • Interface and data visualizations are minimalist and easy to read

Cons:

  • Is fairly outdated, receives little support and limited updates

Download: https://codebox.net/pages/bitmeteros

Related Post: All About Network Throughput

5. SoftPerfect NetWorx

NetWorx monitor

NetWorx is a fairly straight forward tool that we've recently reviewed and are including in this list.

This little Windows tool can run on Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2012 – 32 bit and 64 Bit versions.

It has a FREEWare License and has a nifty interface that shows the very basics of monitoring your network traffic locally, along with viewing traffic of networked devices, which can be configured under the “Monitored Interfaces” portion of the Settings section.

This program is meant to monitor your Local Machine, but digging a little further into the documentation, you can see it has the ability to monitor traffic from a router or gateway that uses SNMP or uPnP protocols.

NetWorx will Poll these devices every 1 second to plot all the data on a graph, and if your a home-user and are using a consumer-grade network device, chances are the device will not support polling at that frequent of an interval, but it's still worth a try.

Business Grade routers and gateways will however have the ability send SNMP data that often. Its not a Fully-featured tool, but has the bones to get some good data, especially if you are trying to diagnose a particular machine or application.

Pros:

  • Lightweight tool, uses little system resources
  • Easy to use, great for junior admins and non-technical users
  • Supports endpoint monitoring as well as infrastructure monitoring through SNMP/uPnP

Cons:

  • Better suited for smaller networks and one-off troubleshooting
  • Could use better monitors and alerts for continuous network monitoring

Download: https://www.softperfect.com/products/networx/

Conclusion

Finding the right network traffic monitor for examining whats coming in and going out of your network is a good way of having full control over it.

We recommend you grab one of these Free downloads and test to see which one works the best for your needs.

Some have more options than others, but all-in-all, a good network traffic and bandwidth monitoring software is going to show you the data you need to know – Which Device, Application or User is using the most bandwidth.

Bandwidth monitoring FAQs

How do I monitor bandwidth usage per device?

The basic way to see bandwidth usage on a device is to connect to the administration console on that device and read off its statistics. Connecting to each device in this manner is time consuming and only gives you a snapshot on each visit. So, it is more convenient to get a bandwidth monitor that repeatedly queries each device to provide live device-by-device traffic data.

How do I monitor bandwidth usage on my router?

You can connect to the management console on your router, find the Traffic Meter function in the management console menu, and look for bandwidth usage data. The exact location of this option in the menu varies according to the device model. You need to look in the user manual for your router in order to get exact instructions.

How can I monitor my network traffic for free?

There are some excellent free network monitoring tools available. Try: PRTG, Free Nagios Core, Zabbix, Cacti, Icinga2, OpenNMS

What is a bandwidth monitor?

Bandwidth monitoring tracks traffic patterns on a network and is able to produce traffic volume data segmented in several ways, such as per user, per device, per application, or per source (such as external). Bandwidth monitoring tools can spot devices that are overloaded and causing packets to be lost. Other assistance includes capacity planning and historical analysis to quantify traffic trend growth.

Check out other related articles:

Network Traffic Generator and Stress Testing Tools for LAN & WAN Bandwidth

Best Router Monitoring Software & Tools for Bandwidth & Traffic Analysis

Top 25 WiFi Tools for Analysis, Security, and Monitoring of Wireless Networks

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