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The 6 Best Bandwidth Monitoring Tools

Network bandwidth can be defined as the maximum capacity of data that can be transmitted over an internet connection at any given amount of time, usually measured in bits per second (bps). Think of your network connection as a road. The wider the road is, the more vehicles can travel on it. Similarly, the higher your network bandwidth is, the higher the number of devices you can connect and the more data that can travel across it.

However, your network bandwidth is not safe from issues of latency, bottlenecks, and congestion. A slow internet connection can often be the result of network bandwidth issues, and these can cost your business both time and money. To keep your network running smoothly and efficiently, detect suspicious network activity, and stay ahead of network outages, you need to actively monitor your bandwidth.

Luckily, there are plenty of tools that allow you to monitor and optimize your network bandwidth in real time. Here, we'll be discussing some of the top bandwidth monitoring tools you should consider.

  1. SolarWinds Bandwidth Analyzer Pack
  2. SolarWinds NetFlow Traffic Analyzer (NTA)
  3. NetWorx
  4. PRTG Bandwidth Monitor
  5. ManageEngine NetFlow Analyzer
  6. BW Monitor

1. SolarWinds Bandwidth Analyzer Pack

SolarWinds Bandwidth Analyzer Pack(BAP) offers comprehensive network bandwidth analysis and performance monitoring. It allows IT managers to detect, diagnose, and resolve network performance issues that may be related to your bandwidth. It also allows you to view network health, see which devices are consuming the most bandwidth, and offers a comprehensive insight into network performance. As a result, you can stay ahead of network bandwidth issues, learn to allocate resources, and prevent connectivity problems.

Take a look at some of the features SolarWinds BAP has to offer given below.

  • Allows you to detect, diagnose and resolve network performance issues.
  • Comes with a SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor (NPM) that will document and search all devices connected to your network
  • Also features a NetFlow Traffic Analyzer (NTA) that allows you to monitor bandwidth use by application, protocol, and IP and analyze network traffic patterns
  • Both NPM and NTA work in tandem to monitor all aspects of your network
  • It further allows you to inspect and isolate unwanted network traffic
  • Keeps track of response time, availability, and uptime of devices
  • Critical path visualization with NetPath makes it easier to spot traffic slowdowns in network infrastructure
  • Figure out which devices or applications are using the most bandwidth
  • Notifies you of any changes in your network bandwidth and traffic flow via its alert system

The main pros of Solarwinds BAP are as follows:

  • Comes with a 30-day free trial to get started
  • Has plenty of online articles, guides, and videos to help you fully utilize all the SolarWinds features
  • Allows for device health monitoring with NPM
  • Specific vendor monitoring with network insight
  • You can easily set up basic and complex monitoring

Some cons of Solarwinds BAP are listed below:

  • NPM lags in drawing charts and historical data from the SQL database
  • Some of the more advanced features can be confusing to get by with at first
  • Only suitable for larger enterprises,

2. SolarWinds NetFlow Traffic Analyzer (NTA)

The SolarWinds NetFlow Traffic Analyzer offers a wide range of bandwidth monitoring tools that allow for comprehensive network monitoring. It uses the NetFlow network protocol to monitor traffic flow across the network. By analyzing flow records, you can optimize traffic flow across your network and therefore optimize bandwidth consumption. You can get insight into devices that are experiencing downtime or malicious network traffic. NTA alerts you if your bandwidth utilization crosses its limits, so you can address critical performance issues immediately.

Take a look at some of the features NTA has to offer given below:

  • Allows you to easily view bandwidth use across applications, protocols, and IP address groups.
  • You can collect, monitor, and analyze flow data using Cisco NetFlow, sFlow, J-Flow, IPFIX, or NetStream.
  • Get real-time updates and alerts on network bandwidth utilization to weed out network bandwidth hogs
  • NTA uses both flow data and CBQoS (Class Based Quality of Service) data to optimize bandwidth use on your network
  • Performance analysis dashboard
  • Advanced application recognition
  • Capacity planning, to determine if you're overutilizing or underutilizing your bandwidth.

The main pros of Solarwinds NTA are as follows:

  • Comes with a 30-day free trial to get started
  • Detailed instructional videos and guide sources to get you started
  • Offers network traffic overviews
  • Customizable alerts and activity reports
  • Graphical representations of data
  • Quality of service management
  • Fully scalable

Some cons of Solarwinds NTA are given below:

  • Not available as a standalone product must be purchased and integrated into the complete NPM product.
  • No cloud-based version is available

3. NetWorx

Next up on our list is NetWorx. We recommend it most for users who are looking for a basic monitoring and alert system. This system is incredibly simple and user-friendly, while also offering several competitive features. For instance, it offers logs and traffic reports on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. It further allows you to perform network tests and get customizable alerts on network bandwidth issues. However, note that this tool is meant to monitor bandwidth for individual local machines or smaller networks using SNMP protocols.

Take a look at some of the features NetWorx has to offer given below:

  • Usage reports and logs on a day-by-day, weekly, or monthly basis
  • Supervision of uploads/downloads in real time
  • Monitor application access to the internet.
  • Speed meter and internet speed testing
  • Detection of suspicious network activity on your computer through Netstat
  • Monitor connection quality through downtime tracking and ping.
  • Supports local network adapters, remote SNMP, and UPnP devices.

The primary pros of NetWorx are listed below:

  • Comes with a 30-day free trial to get started
  • Exportable usage reports in Excel, MS Word, and HTML formats
  • Clear graphics and numeric displays
  • Notifies the user when network activity exceeds capacity or disconnects from the internet
  • Simplified user interface
  • Affordable for most users

The main cons of NetWorx are listed below:

  • Only carries limited features
  • Better suited for smaller networks or devices, not larger enterprises

4. PRTG Bandwidth Monitor

The Paessler PRTG bandwidth monitor defines itself as an "all-in-one bandwidth monitoring solution" that helps you analyze the bandwidth occupied by devices and applications in the network. It further allows you to identify bottlenecks hogging your network traffic. You can detect and diagnose disruption in your bandwidth and take appropriate measures before they exacerbate.

You can use protocols like SNMP, NetFlow, or WMI to monitor bandwidth usage across your entire network. PRTG essentially reads traffic data from your router and then display the data in graphs and top lists. These display net bandwidth usage based on port, IP, protocols, etc. However, note that PRTG offers licensing based on sensors. A sensor is used to calculate a single metric on a device. So the more information you want to see, the more sensors you'll need to buy.

Take a look at some of the features PRTG has to offer given below:

  • Helps monitor uptimes, downtimes, system health of hardware devices, and slow servers
  • Can also classify network traffic and content by source
  • Allows you to measure QoS and VoIP parameters
  • Detect unusual network activity and take preventive measures
  • Collect hardware system information
  • Customizable alerts

The primary pros of PRTG are listed below:

  • Comes with a 30-day free trial to get started
  • A free version is available with 100 sensors after the first month

Some cons of PRTG are listed below:

  • Sensor-based licensing can prove to be expensive
  • No cloud service deployment model needs to be installed on physical hardware

5. ManageEngine NetFlow Analyzer

ManageEngine NetFlow Analyzer is a web-based bandwidth monitoring tool that allows you to evaluate data flow in real-time. It provides you with an overview of your network bandwidth usage and traffic patterns. These reports further tell you which applications or hosts are taking up too much bandwidth, so you can take measures to optimize bandwidth consumption.

Take a look at some of the features ManageEngine NetFlow Analyzer has to offer given below:

  • It allows for network bandwidth monitoring and traffic analysis
  • Provides capacity planning reports, so you can measure the bandwidth growth over time
  • Uses Continuous Seam Mining Engine Technology to detect internal and external security threats or network anomalies
  • Collect and analyze data flows from major devices, including Cisco, 3COM, Juniper, Foundry Networks, and so on
  • Recognize applications that hog network bandwidth and create policies

The primary pros of MangeEndine NetFlow Analyzer are listed below:

  • Free 30-day trial available
  • A free version is available, capable of monitoring up to 2 interfaces
  • Provides detailed insight into traffic
  • Offers real-time alerts in case bandwidth usage crosses its threshold value
  • Customizable dashboard
  • User-friendly interface
  • Evaluation of bandwidth usage by department

The primary cons of MangeEndine NetFlow Analyzer are listed below

  • Must be installed on a server with sufficient processing capacity and memory, not suitable for installation on computers.

6. BW Monitor

Last on our list is BW Monitor (Bandwidth Monitor), a piece of software that helps monitor bandwidth usage on the computer it is installed on. It then allows you to monitor real-time download/upload speeds, log bandwidth usage, and provide bandwidth usage reports. These reports are further available on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. It further offers several utilities such as a network speed tracker, transfer rate recorder, and bandwidth usage notifications that will notify you if bandwidth usage crosses a certain threshold.

Take a look at some of the features BW Monitor has to offer given below:

  • It allows you to view the traffic flow of your network connection in real time
  • Allows for internet bandwidth monitoring
  • View upload/download speeds in real time
  • Get bandwidth usage notifications for when you exceed a certain amount of bandwidth usage
  • Test network connection speeds
  • Provides daily, weekly, and monthly summary bandwidth usage reports

Some pros of BW Monitor are given below:

  • No extra drivers needed
  • A simple, easy-to-use interface that uses very low memory resources
  • 30-day trial periods with full features

Some cons of BW Monitor are given below:

  • Not suitable for enterprises

Which is the Best Network Bandwidth Monitoring Tool?

SolarWinds Network Analyzer Pack is the best network bandwidth monitoring tool you'll find today. It is ranked as the best solution for network bandwidth monitoring. Essentially, it allows you to monitor network traffic flow, keep records of traffic flow, discover traffic patterns, and avoid bandwidth hogs.

It has plenty of useful features that help you monitor and optimize your bandwidth usage. Furthermore, it is available for a free trial period of 30 days, so you can test it before you make any purchases. You find it to be incredibly easy to use, and plenty of resources are available online to guide you.

Here are a few characteristics that set SolarWinds Network Analyzer Pack apart from other network bandwidth monitoring tools:

  • Bandwidth monitoring
  • Application traffic monitoring
  • Network traffic analysis
  • Malicious traffic detection
  • Performance analysis
  • Error root cause analysis
  • Customizable traffic reports and alerts

You can further monitor bandwidth use by application, protocol, and IP address group. It allows you to analyze data coming in from multiple vendors at a time. You can further see network traffic pattern records over months, weeks, days, or even minutes.

Which Network Bandwidth Monitoring Tool is Free?

PRTG bandwidth monitor is regarded as one of the best tools to monitor your network bandwidth. After offering a 30-day trial, it is also available as a freeware edition for use. You can choose to upgrade to a paid license at any time, but the free version is still pretty decent at bandwidth monitoring.

Here are some of the features that make PRTG stand out:

  • A free version of the PRTG offers 100 sensors, with each sensor used to monitor one individual entity
  • Allows you to monitor bandwidth usage rate
  • Supports a variety of protocols, including SNMP, packet sniffer, WMI, NetFlow, and others
  • Easy-to-use dashboard
  • Allows you to use custom sensors for in-house applications
  • Monitor uptime and downtime
  • Detect unusual network activity
  • Customizable alerts

Are free network bandwidth monitoring tools effective?

Yes, network bandwidth monitoring tools that are free, such as the PRTG bandwidth monitor, are quite effective. They offer many basic features that allows you to effectively monitor your bandwidth usage and traffic flow to optimize its usage and weed out unusual network activity. However, for more competitive features, you will have to rely on a licensed product.

We would recommend using free network bandwidth monitoring tools for users who want to monitor small networks or a single computer. For mid-sized to large businesses and enterprises, should instead invest in a paid bandwidth monitoring tool.

What is Network Bandwidth Monitoring?

Bandwidth refers to the maximum amount of data that can be transmitted over an internet connection at any given time. The higher the bandwidth your data connection has, the more data it is capable of sending or receiving.

Through this overview, we now realize that bandwidth is limited. For all networks, there is a limit to the amount of data they can send or receive at any given time. You want to make sure you don't cross this capacity since there is a limit to this capacity. Your network slows down considerably if you cross the bandwidth capacity. For businesses that need to stay online 24/7, a lagging network means a lot of time and money.

Bandwidth monitoring helps make sure this doesn't happen. Bandwidth monitoring, as the name suggests, allows you to oversee how bandwidth is utilized by devices in your network at any given time. By monitoring your network bandwidth, you can stay one step ahead of potential issues before they slow you down. You can track devices that are hogging up too much bandwidth or get alerts when bandwidth usage has crossed its limits. You can take preventative measures to optimize this usage.

How to Use Network Bandwidth Monitoring?

You can use network bandwidth monitoring in several ways. Most network performance monitors will be able to oversee how much bandwidth is being utilized at any given time and determine where bottlenecks are occurring. If you notice any bottlenecks, you can then take action. Here, we've discussed some of the basic ways you can use network bandwidth monitoring tools.

  • Some network performance monitors allow you to perform network traffic analysis to uncover malware that may be taking over the available bandwidth. The network performance monitor scans for malware and eliminates it as required.
  • A network bandwidth monitor allows you to keep track of QoS, in this case, the lowest possible amount of available bandwidth that the devices on the network can use. For businesses, your devices that demand more bandwidth will be allocated accordingly, so they can operate smoothly.
  • As a user, you can limit the types of files and websites that can take up bandwidth on your network. For instance, large files that are hogging up resources may be restricted entirely.
  • Another useful tool bandwidth monitors offer is the ability to track down devices that use the most bandwidth on your network, even when it is not needed.

What are the Benefits of Network Bandwidth Monitoring Tools?

Network bandwidth monitoring tools have a number of benefits listed below:

  • They allow you to have a comprehensive view of how your bandwidth is allocated among connected devices. Businesses can see which applications are taking over bandwidth unnecessarily and which applications should be given more bandwidth to run smoothly.
  • Network bandwidth monitoring offers you all the resources needed to perform this optimization. Where resources are already limited, you need to make sure bandwidth allocation is efficient.

That's not all network bandwidth monitoring tools do.

They also allow you to uncover malware or unusual network activity that may be taking over network bandwidth. If too many devices are hogging up bandwidth, your internet speed will drop considerably. And since more organizations now rely on the internet for their business-critical operations, this needs to be taken care of. It's important to understand how much bandwidth you need to run your day-to-day operations smoothly. Network bandwidth monitoring tools allow you to do exactly that.

What are the Risks of Network Bandwidth Monitoring Tools?

Network bandwidth monitoring tools are not always easy to operate, they have their challenges and risks. As a network admin, you can expect to have your fair share of these challenges.

For instance, finding the root cause of bandwidth issues. Not all bandwidth monitoring tools allow for deep packet-level analysis to get to the core of the issue. Sometimes troubleshooting alone can be too time-consuming. For others, knowing your bandwidth utilization and determining the correct allocations across departments, branch offices, and sites can be difficult if your software provides inadequate insight. Finally, not all bandwidth monitoring tools offer network behavior anomaly detection or protection against zero-day attacks. Effective threat detection remains a challenge for bandwidth monitoring tools.

What is the Importance of Network Bandwidth Monitoring Tools?

Here's why it's so important to use a network bandwidth monitoring tool:

  1. Determine your bandwidth requirements: Determining your network bandwidth requirements is now considered an essential part of any business management plan. IT admins often oversee how departments and offices should utilize bandwidth for optimized usage. The bandwidth you end up with also correlates to your networking costs. But budgeting too little bandwidth could lead to slower productivity, laggy networking, and lost clients. You can use network bandwidth monitoring tools to determine how many workstations are connected to your business, how many applications are running on your devices, and how much bandwidth each one is allocated. You can then optimize this allocation to fit your business needs. Critical applications are therefore given higher bandwidth allocation.
  1. Improve network performance: If your network is running consistently slowly, and you can't seem to pinpoint the root cause. Your bandwidth is likely running low. Network bandwidth monitoring tools allow you to analyze bandwidth usage and discover which factors are causing insufficient bandwidth consumption. You can then take action to improve network performance. This is particularly important if your business is scaling upwards. You should have sufficient bandwidth available to support the onset of new users on your network.
  1. Spend less money: A network bandwidth monitor will allow you to figure out how much bandwidth capacity your business needs. You may not know this, but some ISPs enforce a limit on the bandwidth your company can use. Exceeding this limit means getting billed with additional charges. Network bandwidth monitoring tools won't just help prevent your company from crossing this limit; they will also uncover any excess bandwidth you aren't using but are still paying for.
  1. Improve security: Finally, bandwidth monitoring tools are excellent at uncovering malicious network activity. Any malware that is present on your network will be taking up bandwidth and such tools will reveal this consumption. They can scan for malware and take preventative measures to ensure they are dealt with before they wreak havoc on your network.