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Tools of choice to monitor bandwidth and network usage in 2021

Exploring instruments for network bandwidth monitoring to ensure proper network performance

Updated: November 8, 2021 By Hamna Imran

Image showing bandwidth evaluation on a laptop

Image source − unsplash.com

Let me tell you a story of a Carlsbad resident Eddie Sanchez, who was notified of excessive internet consumption like four other TDS customers.

Have a look at this letter:

Image showing the letter Sanchez received from the internet provider TDS

 Image source - currentargus.com

The company urged him to upgrade from residential to business internet because his excessive network bandwidth consumption slowed down the network.

I think it's pretty obvious that nobody likes slow internet in today's fast-paced life, and having no idea about the root of the problem doesn't help a bit.

But, let's face it, we all have been there when end users keep complaining about slow internet though there is plenty of bandwidth available according to your calculation.

I hope that we all can agree that it's not a desirable situation and to avoid it we need to understand what causes such problems.

Keep reading to find a one-step solution to handle this issue!

What is Network Bandwidth monitoring?

Before I explain the network bandwidth monitoring process, let me tell you a bit of bandwidth to understand the process quickly.

Bandwidth refers to the maximum amount of data transmitted between devices or the internet within a given amount of time.

I think you've probably heard someone asking: "Who is monopolizing my bandwidth?" It's just someone complaining about a slow network connection, and it happens a lot in public places.

It's because public places are full of network users trying to use the internet at once, and this high-data activity causes the network speed to lag.

Now, this is where network bandwidth monitoring comes into play. It is a method for measuring the actual bandwidth available on a local system (LAN or WiFi).

The exact amount and type of bandwidth any organization requires depends mainly on the size of the business. However, any network brimming with laptops, phones, and other devices must be equipped with ample bandwidth capacity to provide a fast and efficient experience for all the users.

Why do you need a Network Bandwidth Monitoring tool?

Usually, the IT administrators only get alerted when there is a network interruption, and at that point, they are obligated to be reactive rather than proactive.

Since foresight is better than hindsight, IT administrators need to keep track of their network to handle performance issues quickly.

It's when network bandwidth monitoring comes into play. Its advantages are listed below:

Determining your network's bandwidth requirements

Network Bandwidth monitoring provides you helpful insight about the network's bandwidth requirements at the start that allows you to avoid significant overhauls down the line.

With the right network bandwidth monitoring tool, you can determine the bandwidth needs of your enterprise's local area network (LAN) or vast area network (WAN).

You can also evaluate when your company needs to upgrade bandwidth, including adding a new division of employees to your company or converting laptops from PCs.

Efficient network performance

Network monitors also come in handy to boost the performance of your network by providing you with a proper visual display of your bandwidth and network health.

This information allows you to spot bottlenecks at a glance, analyze and monitor traffic patterns, availability, track response time, switches, uptime of routers, and other SNMP-enabled devices.

Economic benefit

Investing in additional bandwidth can sometimes be an expensive undertaking, and thus, one must know how to troubleshoot slowdowns without this investment.

A bandwidth monitoring tool provides insight into granular and big-picture network usage information to head off issues instead of investing in additional bandwidth.

Extra protection

Moreover, Network Monitoring can potentially protect your company from data breaches.

Monitoring bandwidth usage empowers you to quickly detect any suspicious activity by providing a detailed snapshot of potentially malicious traffic flows.

How should you choose a Network Bandwidth monitoring tool?

Although there are a lot of advantages of using network bandwidth monitoring tools, you need to choose the right tool according to your company's requirements.

With the increase in network usage monitoring tools and bandwidth monitors, finding the perfect match for your company becomes confusing.

It' why I have provided a detailed guide of the 11 best Network Bandwidth Monitoring Tools (2021) so that you can choose the one that suits you best.

Best Network Bandwidth monitoring tools and software

The table below shows the comparison between basic features of all these tools:


Name of Tool
Platform
Business Size
Deployment
Free trial
Price
SolarWinds Real-Time Bandwidth Monitor
Windows and Linux
Small, Medium, and Large
On-Premise
30 days
Starts at $2995
Paessler PRTG Network Monitor
Windows
Small, Medium, and Large
Cloud and On-Premises
30 days
Starts at $1600
Datadog Network Performance Monitoring
Windows, Mac, Linux, Debian, Ubuntu, CentOS, RedHat, etc.
Small, Medium, and Large
On-Premise and SaaS
14 days
Starts at $5/host/month
ManageEngine OpManager
Windows, Linux, iOS, and Android
Small to Large businesses
On-Premise
30 days
Starts at $245 for 10 devices
Site24x7 Network Monitoring
Windows and Linux
Small, Medium, and Large
Cloud
30 days
$9/month
Progress WhatsUp Gold
Windows
Small, Medium, and Large
Cloud
30 days
$1100/feature
Auvik
Web-based
Small to Large businesses
Cloud-based
14 days
$150/month
SolarWinds Real-Time NetFlow Analyzer
Windows
Small to Medium
Cloud
No trial
Free
ntopng
Linux, Windows, macOS
Small
Medium
Large
Web-based
 
The community version is free
Nagios XI
Windows, Linux, Mac, and UNIX
Small, Medium, and Large
Cloud and On-Premises
30 days
$1995 for a single license
Zabbix
Web-based
Small, Medium, and Large
Open API
-
Free

SolarWinds Real-Time Bandwidth Monitor


Pros
Cons
  • Real-time bandwidth monitor SolarWinds comes bundled with a real-time NetFlow traffic analyzer
  • Intuitive interface for most users
  • Available in the Windows operating system
  • Some of the functions of the apps can be difficult for non-technical users

The SolarWinds Real-Time Bandwidth Monitor is our all-time favorite network bandwidth monitoring tool and it.

Before I tell you about the valuable features of this product, let's look at a sneak-peek of how this valuable tool works:

The SolarWinds Real-Time Bandwidth Monitor uses SNMP to poll multiple network interfaces in real-time for their traffic statistics and shows the status of a chosen interface with the help of a graph.

The following steps show the working of the Real-Time Bandwidth Monitor.

  1. This tool lists the SNMP interfaces and shows primary data once provided with the IP address and SNMP parameters for the device or host.

Image showing a list of discovered interfaces by SNMP that can be monitored

Image source − solarwinds.com

  1. Upon selection of one of the interfaces from the list, the Bandwidth Monitor provides you a graphical display of bandwidth usage on that interface.

Image showing the graphical display of an interface's usage by SNMP

Image source − solarwinds.com

  1. Finally, this tool provides you the option of setting per-interface thresholds so that the graph displays an alert when usage exceeds the chosen limits.

Image showing SNMP is offering options for alerting on an interface's usage

Image source − solarwinds.com

Now let's have a look at some of the features which make this product valuable:

  • The SolarWinds Real-Time Bandwidth Monitor comes bundled with the Real-Time NetFlow Traffic Analyzer, which provides a lot of insight about devices that support NetFlow.
  • As a tool, it's elementary to learn as it has no unnecessary features or blot.
  • It is an essential tool for monitoring devices that don't support the traffic flow monitoring protocols (NetFlow).
  • It provides an accurate and precise visual representation of traffic flow with time and events.
  • It allows you to set up per-interface thresholds and flexible alerts for both large and small networks.
  • With the help of a free network, the analyzer allows the user to see traffic by conversation, app, domain, and endpoint.
  • It can be installed on Windows Operating System.

The SolarWinds Real-Time Bandwidth Monitor is a highly recommended tool for IT professionals. Still, some of its features might be overwhelming to non-technical users, such as its requirement to configure the Universal Device Poller in templates from web GUI.

Paessler PRTG Network Monitor


Pros
Cons
  • Has a dynamic setup
  • Supports custom sensors built for in-house applications
  • One must spend a lot of time learning how to use this app

The Paessler PRTG Network Monitor is a highly recommended bandwidth monitoring tool for downloading a 30-day free trial.

Here are some useful features which make this software worth the money:

  • It uses SNMP, WMI, NetFlow, sFlow, and packet sniffing for monitoring that allows a wide variety of uses and monitoring integrations.
  • It is a highly recommended option for companies looking for other monitoring solutions in the PRTG ecosystem.
  • This tool is more than just a server monitoring solution. It can monitor any IT-related resources connected to one's network, including firewalls, servers, printers, switches, routers, databases, websites, and even UPS's.
  • It functions as a Windows program that can be installed on a server with shared access.

Undoubtedly, PRTG is an inclusive platform with many valuable features, but one must spend a lot of time learning how to use it. Also, it has been observed that the enterprise console redirects to the web console.

Image showing PRTG Network Monitor Interface

Image source −  paessler.com

Datadog Network Performance Monitoring


Pros
Cons
  • It is effortless to customize and simple to use
  • It allows users to perform live network mapping and protocol analysis
  • Short trial period
  • Not intuitive interface

The Datadog Network Performance Monitoring Tool is also an excellent tool for monitoring and analytics software developers and business leaders in the cloud era. Its 14-day free trial is available to download.

Following are some valuable features of this product:

  • It is a cloud-based SaaS infrastructure monitoring service that is used to monitor network traffic flows.
  • It has over 120 integrations and a robust API which allows it to tie together metrics and events of every component in the environment to provide the users with graphing, correlation, and data analysis.
  • It supports auto-discovery that builds network topology maps on the fly.

However, this software has a steep learning curve, and you might need an expert developer to configure and run it. It also has a shorter trial period for testing as compared to the other tools on the list.

Image showing Datadog Network Performance Monitoring Interface

Image source − datafoghq.com

ManageEngine OpManager


Pros
Cons
  • Available on the many platforms
  • Equipped with an inventory lab, which allows the users to check the status of the interfaces of the devices
  • Only local installs

The ManageEngine OpManager is an excellent tool for monitoring network usage, and its 30-day free trial is available to download.

Some of its helpful features are listed below:

  • It is an SNMP-based network monitoring tool, and its free edition supports monitoring 10 devices and their interfaces.
  • It allows the users to visualize graphs and tables of network usage, speed, bandwidth, and device hardware metrics, either rolled up at the device level or drilling down to a particular interface.
  • It can be installed on Windows, iOS, Android, or Linux.

Although ManageEngine OpManager has a lot of qualities, it wouldn't be fair to say that it doesn't have any flaws. This tool will make your life easier only if you invest a lot of time and energy to learn its use correctly, and it also requires on-premises installation.

Image showing Manage Engine OpManager Interface

Image source − manageengine.com

Site24x7 Network Monitoring


Pros
Cons
  • An SNMP-based monitoring solution that helps to monitor the availability, health, and performance of network devices.
  • Supports on the Windows and Linux
  • Only a 30-day free trial

The Site24x7 Network Monitoring is a cloud-based monitoring system available to download on a 30-day free trial.

Some of its helpful features are listed below:

  • It allows the automatic discovery with support for 10,000 device templates from different vendors.
  • This tool provides a clear picture of network traffic to the user by analyzing NetFlow.
  • It is equipped with a custom health dashboard.
  • The processed SNMP traps allow the users to receive instant alerts via email, voice calls, SMS, and third-party applications.
  • It is equipped with Out-of-the-box VPN and Cisco IPSLA based VoIP monitoring for remote working needs.
  • It can be installed on Windows and Linux Operating Systems.

However, since Site24x7 is a very detailed platform, the user needs to spend a lot of time learning its usage, which might not be desirable for everyone.

Image showing Site24x7 Network Monitoring Interface

Image source − site24x7.com

Progress WhatsUp Gold


Pros
Cons
  • Performance monitors use SSH, SNMP or WMI, to track CPU, disk, memory, and network usage
  • Allows the users to monitor network traffic, servers, virtual servers, cloud services, and applications troubleshoot issues, so they don't affect user experience
  • Only a 30-day trial period
  • More expensive than other apps

The Progress WhatsUp Gold is a well-known network usage monitoring tool from Progress and is also available to download on a 30-day free trial.

Some of the valuable features of this product are listed below:

  • The user interface provides the users with multiple views with an interactive network map and the ability to drill down to investigate issues.
  • It is equipped with easily customizable dashboards that allow users to design customized reports for bandwidth and utilization.
  • This tool has active monitors that display device status in real-time and passive monitors for Syslog, SNMP traps, Windows event logs, and Syslogs.
  • An option to receive an early warning when users are experiencing poor response times is available. It allows you to fix these issues before users experience complete downtime. These warnings can be sent via email, SMS, and web.
  • One of this tool's best performance management features has an action policy that detects a state change. If a router goes down suddenly, the log entry is written immediately, pr an action script aimed at rebooting the system is run several minutes later. An email notifies promptly.
  • It can be installed on Windows Operating System.

Despite having all these advanced features, the WhatsUp Gold might be a bit expensive than other tools on the list. The tool also offers modular upgrades that might not suit those who want to utilize all the aspects of a networking monitor.

Image showing WhatsUp Gold Interface

Image source − whatsupgold.com

Auvik


Pros
Cons
  • Easy to use and simplifies network performance monitoring and troubleshooting
  • Provides a visual display of everything on the network to get an idea of what they have to deal with
  • Only a 14-day trial period
  • There is just a single package offered

Auvik is another robust network monitoring and management software available to download on a 14-day free trial.

The following are some of the features of this valuable product:

  • This tool proactively manages and monitors multi-vendor network gear allowing the user to detect issues before affecting the user experience.
  • Auvik can quickly identify and troubleshoot the cause of network issues which shortens time to resolution.
  • It can automatically backup configurations whenever there is a change and instantly restore things to the way they were.
  • It can be installed on a Windows server.

Auvik is an excellent tool for monitoring your network, but there is just a single package offered. Thus there are no other options of services to add on, meaning that the system is not expandable with any other Auvik modules.

Image showing Auvik Network Monitoring Interface

Image source − auvik.com

SolarWinds Real-Time NetFlow Analyzer


Pros
Cons
  • Free app
  • It allows the users to track the traffic on the NetFlow interface of any given device on the network as it traces all the gadgets and lists them in a left-hand menu panel in the interface
  • Graphing charts only describe the essential elements
  • Only for Windows

The SolarWinds Real-Time NetFlow Analyzer is a completely free network monitoring tool available to download along with an enterprise version.

Some of its valuable features are listed below:

  • It is a lightweight tool and has a layout that enables the users to see everything on the home screen, avoiding the hassle of switching between screens.
  • This tool offers unique licensing options for nonprofits and educational institutions.
  • It can be installed on the Windows Operating system.

This free tool's flaws include the graphing charts, which only describe the essential elements and do not provide a detailed network analysis. Moreover, this tool can only be installed on the Windows Operating system.

Image showing SolarWinds Real-Time NetFlow Analyzer Interface

Image source − solarwinds.com

ntopng


Pros
Cons
  • Shows real-time data about network traffic, including information about host data flows and host connections in real-time
  • It includes an API for the Lua scripting language, which can be used to support extensions
  • Not suitable for large multi-site networks

"ntopng" is an open-source web-based traffic analysis tool with a completely free community version, whereas its professional and enterprise versions require buying a license.

Some valuable features of this tool are listed below:

  • It provides graphs and tables that display current and past network traffic, including the protocol, source, purpose, and history of specific transactions.
  • It has a modular architecture that allows one to wire up a massive number of add-ons.
  • It is also specialized to control traffic in a specific location. For instance, you can use ntopng when some of your network channels are highlighted in red. The ntopng will provide a per-minute report about the problematic network segment and quickly detect which hosts are responsible for the issue.

Although ntopng has many valuable features, it is safe to say that it's not a good option for large multi-site networks and its packet capture features are limited. Its user interface is easy to use, but it could be improved.

Image showing ntopng Interface

Image source − ntop.org

Nagios XI


Pros
Cons
  • Has a high-speed and intuitive web interface, and its server part is highly reliable
  • This tool has thousands of free plug-ins available for a wide variety of hardware and software
  • Only for Linux
  • Limited capacity for scheduled reports

The Nagios XI is a powerful network monitoring tool available free of cost for monitoring small environments based on the free Nagios Core.

Several unique features are listed below:

  • It allows you to monitor the status of servers, services, network channels, and anything with an IP address. For example, you can watch the use of disk space on the server, RAM and CPU usage, server air temperature, WAN, FLEXIm license usage (software license manager tool), internet connection latencies, and much more.
  • Its complex configuration allows it to be adapted for any monitoring task.
  • It also offers a customizable mechanism for notifications via email, SMS, and instant messaging through the most popular internet messengers.
  • The display function of this tool shows all the monitored devices in the logical representation of their placement on the network, with color-coding that highlights problems as they arise.
  • It can be installed on Linux Operating System.

Despite having these great features, the installation of Nagios XI might be overwhelming for non-technical users, and its open-source version lacks the quality and support found in paid products. It also has a limited capacity for scheduled reports.

Image showing Nagios XI Interface

Image source −  nagios.com

Zabbix


Pros
Cons
  • Free app
  • Full-scale tool for network and system monitoring that combines a variety of options in a single web console
  • Supports on many platforms
  • it hogs many system resources
  • Not intuitive users’ interface

Zabbix is free of cost network monitoring tool that has a lot of valuable features listed below:

  • It enables the users to monitor servers and networks with a wide range of technologies, including virtualization hypervisors and web application stacks.
  • It supports VMware, Hyper-V, and other virtualization hypervisors, providing detailed information about the performance and availability of the hypervisor and its activity.
  • This tool must be installed and configured manually on a Linux system or a virtual machine on a hypervisor.
  • It can be installed on Linux, UNIX, and Mac Operating Systems.

Zabbix can use various metric collection methods and protocols like SNMP, IPMI, etc., but it hogs many system resources. Moreover, it doesn't have an intuitive interface like some other tools mentioned in this list.

Image showing Zabbix Interface

Image source − zabbix.com

Conclusion

Network Bandwidth Monitoring is a crucial need of proper network functioning, and it must be practiced in all organizations regardless of their size or budget.

It has a lot of advantages, including getting an idea about the company's network bandwidth needs, boosting network performance, and it can save you a lot of time and money.

It can also protect you from potential data breaches and help ensure proper network performance in all companies.

Choosing a network bandwidth monitoring tool is also an important step and must be done carefully according to your company's requirements.

By reading the guide above, you can get an idea about the best tools available on the market right now.

Keep evolving!

Tags: 
Technology
Author
Hamna Imran
Cyber Security student and keen learner, writing articles for several other websites.

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