How‘s it going? If you‘re a network admin, keeping tabs on your network bandwidth usage is one of the best things you can do. When you can see your bandwidth patterns and trends, it opens up a whole new level of control and optimization. But where do you start?
There are some fantastic tools out there that make bandwidth monitoring super simple. I‘ve tested out quite a few of them myself – these 6 are the ones I‘d recommend based on my experience.
In this guide, we‘ll take a practical look at how these tools can help you take charge of your network‘s precious bandwidth.
Why You Need Bandwidth Monitoring
Before we get into the tools, let‘s briefly cover why network bandwidth monitoring matters in the first place. When you have visibility into your network traffic, some of the cool things you can do include:
Spot and limit bandwidth hogs. If certain users or applications take up too much bandwidth, you can find them and optimize their usage.
See traffic volumes by device, segment, app, user, etc. Granular reporting allows targeted tuning.
Establish alerts and limits to avoid costly overages. This is especially useful for cellular data usage.
Diagnose issues proactively. Identify abnormal usage patterns before users complain about slow speeds.
Plan network upgrades intelligently. Know when you‘re approaching capacity limits based on trends.
Validate SLAs and QoS policies are working as intended. Get data to back up any vendor claims.
According to a Spiceworks survey, 63% of organizations saw significant cost savings after implementing network monitoring tools. So the ROI can be substantial.
SolarWinds Bandwidth Analyzer Pack
SolarWinds is my go-to recommendation for full-scale network monitoring. Their Bandwidth Analyzer Pack combines two stellar products – Network Performance Monitor (NPM) and NetFlow Traffic Analyzer (NTA):
Together, these give you a powerful solution to monitor all layers of your network‘s bandwidth utilization. NPM handles the general network monitoring – watching port traffic, device health, and other infrastructure metrics. NTA layers on top deeper traffic analysis using NetFlow, sFlow, and other flow protocols. This combo allows for comprehensive visibility.
Having used SolarWinds before, I really like the flexibility it provides to analyze bandwidth how you want through custom reporting and dashboards. It‘s got all the essentials – usage breakdowns, threshold alerts, anomaly detection, and more. I will say the initial setup can take some work, but for larger networks it‘s worth the investment.
For pricing, SolarWinds uses a unique model based on the number of "elements" you need to monitor. This starts at $2,995 for up to 100 elements. While not cheap, you get incredible functionality for the cost.
Paessler‘s PRTG is another enterprise-focused monitoring solution with excellent bandwidth analysis capabilities:
I‘ve found PRTG to be one of the easiest to set up and customize. It auto-discovers devices on your network and has pre-configured sensors to start monitoring things like traffic, uptime, and device health out of the box.
PRTG‘s map dashboard is fantastic to get an overview of your network‘s health and bandwidth usage. Drilling down, you can check out bandwidth utilization at a device-level, by port, IP address, or even per user. I really like the built-in NetFlow analysis to see traffic patterns across your network.
One heads up with PRTG – it licenses based on the number of sensors you need, which can get pricey for larger deployments. But for SMBs or simple monitoring needs, you can easily run it affordably.
ManageEngine NetFlow Analyzer
If you have NetFlow-enabled devices like Cisco routers or firewalls, ManageEngine‘s NetFlow Analyzer is purpose-built with excellent capabilities for traffic analysis:
This tool visualizes bandwidth utilization through live NetFlow data, so you get a detailed breakdown of traffic by application, IP address, conversation, and other dimensions.
I like ManageEngine for its fast data aggregation abilities – it can process millions of records without breaking a sweat. For large volumes of flow data, this is crucial. The dashboard also lets you easily spot anomalies, identify top talkers, and see traffic patterns across your network devices.
At around $1,495 for 25 devices, ManageEngine NetFlow Analyzer hits a nice balance of powerful features with an affordable licensing model. I‘d recommend evaluating it if your network uses NetFlow or IPFIX.
If you just need simple, fast monitoring on a local machine, NetWorx is a good pick:
It‘s one of the most lightweight tools out there. NetWorx tracks bandwidth usage on the device it‘s installed on across all network interfaces and will break it down by application.
The real-time utilization graphs are super helpful to see your usage patterns. Although NetWorx only monitors the local device, you can quickly identify if bandwidth hogging applications or anomalies.
For $39 per PC, you can‘t beat NetWorx for basic bandwidth monitoring. It also doesn‘t require complex set up or training to use. If you need wide-scale network monitoring, it may fall short, but for a single device view, NetWorx packs a punch.
Another enterprise-scale option I recommend checking out is Nagios XI.
Nagios has been a staple IT monitoring platform for years. Nagios XI is the commercial version, which simplifies the configuration with auto-discovery, role-based access controls, and customizable dashboards.
For bandwidth monitoring, Nagios leverages SNMP and NetFlow data to provide holistic traffic analytics. You get insight into bandwidth use by application, user, protocol, and more across your network infrastructure.
I like how flexible Nagios XI is – you can monitor anything from switches to servers to services. The bandwidth and network monitoring features integrate nicely with these other components.
One word of caution – Nagios XI has steeper learning curve than other tools. But for configuring advanced monitoring across a large infrastructure, it‘s capabilities are powerful.
For per-PC monitoring, BWMonitor is one of my long-time favorites:
It‘s designed specifically for tracking bandwidth usage on Windows devices. The real-time bandwidth meter gives you an instant view into traffic volumes.
BWMonitor also breaks down usage by application and has handy built-in speed tests. You can really drill down into the data with bandwidth logs and usage reports as well.
For less than $50, BWMonitor delivers excellent bandwidth utilization insights for standalone machines. For server monitoring or understanding your PC‘s network usage, it‘s a stellar choice.
Take Control with Bandwidth Monitoring
Hopefully this overview gives you some ideas on how modern bandwidth monitoring tools can make your network management easier. My top recommendation is SolarWinds Bandwidth Analyzer Pack – for both features and flexibility, SolarWinds has always impressed me.
But depending your specific needs, the other options here all have unique strengths. Finding the right monitoring tool for your infrastructure will pay dividends through better network control, faster troubleshooting, and optimized performance.
And most importantly, with good visibility into your network bandwidth, you can identify and fix issues before users ever notice slowdowns. That‘s priceless!
Let me know if you have any other questions!