header banner

Our funding comes from our readers, and we may earn a commission if you make a purchase through the links on our website.

The Best Bandwidth Monitoring Software and Tools for Network Traffic Usage

bandwidth monitors – The Best Free Network Traffic monitoring Tools

Marc Wilson UPDATED: November 21, 2023

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 best 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. Site24x7 Network Monitoring – FREE TRIAL A SaaS platform component that provides SNMP device monitoring plus traffic analysis protocols with discovery and network mapping. Start a 30-day free trial.
  5. BitMeter OS A free, open-source network monitor that is a little out of date but shows some very useful traffic throughput graphs.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.
  6. 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 to see 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 Best Software for Monitoring Your Bandwidth Usage

Our methodology for selecting network monitoring tools and software:

We reviewed the bandwidth monitoring tools and software market and analyzed the options based on the following criteria:

  • An autodiscovery system to log all network devices
  • Alerts and automation features
  • Level of detail reported
  • Graphical interpretation of data, such as charts and graphs
  • A free trial period, a demo, or a money-back guarantee for no-risk assessment
  • A good price that reflects value for money when compared to the functions offered

With these selection criteria in mind, we have defined a list of the best bandwidth monitoring software and tools for network traffic 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.

Key Features:

  • Automation and scheduling for network monitoring
  • Performance analysis tools and reporting
  • Traffic shaping and network planning tools

Unique Feature

SolarWinds NetFlow Traffic Analyzer’s unique feature is its ability to give you a deep and detailed look at your network traffic patterns. Additionally, the tool also allows you to customize the reports and analytics to fit your specific needs, which is great if you have specific monitoring or reporting requirements.

Why do we recommend it?

We recommend SolarWinds NetFlow Traffic Analyzer because it is easy to set up and use, and it provides a wealth of information about what's going on on your network. You can use it to identify bandwidth usage, potential bottlenecks, and more. It also makes it easy to visualize your network traffic data in charts and tables.

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.

Who is it recommended for?

SolarWinds NetFlow Traffic Analyzer is recommended for companies in all industries and sizes. The tool is built for network and systems admins who need a breadth of information on the network.

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.

Key Features:

  • Flexible sensors that support a variety of monitoring methods
  • Highly customizable
  • Supports performance, application, and infrastructure monitoring

Unique Feature

The standout feature of PRTG Network Monitor is its flexible and cost-effective license. Additionally, it is also worth mentioning its compatibility. You can use this tool with various protocols and technologies.

Why do we recommend it?

PRTG Network Monitor is recommended for its ease of use, comprehensive features, and flexible licensing. It provides a great structure and overview of devices, systems, load, usage, availability, and traffic. It also offers customizable alerting.

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 levels) 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.

Who is it recommended for?

PRTG Network Monitor is recommended for any IT professional, especially network administrators and engineers. Its flexible licensing model based on sensors makes it suitable for businesses within any industry and size.

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 its 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!

PRTG Bandwidth Monitor Start a 30-day FREE Trial

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.

Key Features:

  • Supports all major forms of NetFlow
  • Provides granular details regarding traffic
  • Makes it easy to limit or shape traffic

Unique Feature

ManageEngine NetFlow Analyzer stands out because of its amazing APIs that let you customize and integrate it in all sorts of ways. This makes it really valuable for organizations that have specific network monitoring needs.

Why do we recommend it?

​​ManageEngine NetFlow Analyzer is recommended for several reasons including its competitive pricing, integration capabilities, rich functionality, and ease of administration. But the one feature that pops up pretty often in user reviews is its outstanding API.

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

Who is it recommended for?

ManageEngine NetFlow Analyzer is a powerful network monitoring tool for IT professionals, particularly network admins. The tool is a great fit for organizations that already use other ManageEngine products, and for businesses that are looking to save money.

Pros:

  • Features a host of additional network management tools to complement 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.

ManageEngine Netflow Analyzer Start a 30-day FREE Trial

Related Post: Best Netflow Analyzers and Collectors for Windows

4. Site24x7 Network Monitoring- FREE TRIAL

Site24x7 Network Performance Monitor

Site24x7 is a cloud platform of monitoring systems and the Network Monitoring module is one of its units. This covers both device monitoring and traffic analysis. The bandwidth monitoring features of the tool use NetFlow, sFlow, J-Flow, CFlow, IPFIX, AppFlow, and NetStream to extract traffic statistics from network devices.

Key Features:

  • Full stack monitoring
  • Network device and traffic monitoring
  • Device discovery and network mapping

Why do we recommend it?

We recommend Site24x7 for several reasons. The monitoring tool is quite comprehensive, affordable, and easy to use. Among its wide range of features, it is worth mentioning Site24x7’s valuable alerts and detailed metrics.

Alongside its traffic analysis services, this package also uses SNMP to constantly monitor device availability and statuses. This mechanism enables the system to discover all of the devices on a network. It creates a network inventory and a network topology map.

Who is it recommended for?

We recommend Site24x7 for businesses of any size looking for a cost-effective solution to monitor bandwidth. Although the tool is especially useful for IT professionals, since it is quite easy to use, it can also be used by non-technical users.

Pros:

  • SaaS package delivered from the cloud
  • Storage for traffic data
  • Automated and manual traffic analysis utilities

Cons:

  • No on-premises version

Site24x7 creates packages of modules that include network monitoring along with server and application monitoring. Some packages also include website monitoring and log management. You can examine this system with a 30-day free trial.

Site24x7 Network Monitoring Start a 30-day FREE Trial

5. 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.

Key Features:

  • Completely free and open-source
  • Compatible with Windows, Linux, and macOS operating systems
  • Supports native graphing

Why do we recommend it?

We recommend BitMeter OS because it is a lightweight and open-source tool. It is completely capable of monitoring data usage in real time and also setting alerts.

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.

Who is it recommended for?

BitMeter OS is recommended for individuals (IT pros or non-IT pros) who want to track their data consumption and avoid exceeding usage limits. It can do some basic monitoring and alerting, but it won't tell how much data each app is using.

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

Related Post: All About Network Throughput

6. SoftPerfect NetWorx

NetWorx monitor

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

Key Features:

  • Completely free
  • Lightweight installation
  • Easy to use in small environments

Why do we recommend it?

NetWorx is recommended for its versatility and powerful features. Aside from helping you monitor and manage bandwidth usage, it can also help identify network issues, ensure compliance with ISP limits, and detect suspicious activity.

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. It's 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.

Who is it recommended for?

NetWorx is an ideal network monitoring tool suitable for technical and non-technical users. It is perfect for business looking to assess bandwidth usage, identify network problems, and prevent security breaches.

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

Conclusion

Finding the right network traffic monitor for examining what's 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

Editors Rating

Overall Rating
footer banner
X