Monitoring network bandwidth is important. It allows admins to identify bottlenecks, understand the actual speed of the connection versus what is being paid for (helping to plan for additional hardware or bandwidth purchases) as well as separate legitimate network usage from malicious or suspicious network usage.
Here is our choice of 10 of the best free tools for monitoring network bandwidth.
These free tools offer some elementary features that will give you a visual representation of how much data is passing up and down the wire and help you to determine the source of Internet usage from within your network.
01 BitMeter OS
BitMeter OS sits quietly in the background gathering information on how much data is being downloaded and uploaded. Using the web interface you are able to view the results on a graph and see the current, average and peak bandwidth usage.
Once installed, open the BitMeter OS Web Interface shortcut from the Start Menu. This will launch a web browser session and immediately show the real-time monitor page. You can view a more in-depth breakdown and export results to a CSV file from the History tab. The Alerts tab allows you to set notifications for when BitMeter OS reaches given limits.
02 FreeMeter Bandwidth Monitor
FreeMeter Bandwidth Monitor is a lightweight portable tool that shows you a real-time view of downloaded and uploaded data. It automatically binds to all network interfaces that it finds on the system on which it is running. FreeMeter comes bundled with useful networking tools such as ping and traceroute as well as a feature for IMAP/POP3 e-mail notifications.
Once installed, it sits in the icon tray and can be accessed by right clicking on the icon and selecting an option or double clicking the icon to open the main window.
BandwidthD runs discretely as a background service, monitoring TCP/IP network usage and displaying the results in graphs and tables. Each protocol is colour coded for easier reading.
BandwidthD requires Winpcap version 3.0 or above to be installed. Before you can start viewing bandwidth statistics from the index.html page, you will need to unzip BandwidthD, edit the ../etc/bandwidthd.conf file, execute the ‘Install Service’ batch file and then start the BandwidthD service from the services.msc console.
04 PRTG Bandwidth Monitor
PRTG Bandwidth Monitor is a feature that forms part of PRTG Network Monitor and is free for up to 30 sensors. A sensor is an entity such as a website, network interface, router, etc. that you configure to be monitored. Once you set up a sensor to monitor a given network interface, information will immediately begin to be collected.
To view the bandwidth monitor page for the given sensor you have set up, go to Devices > All from the top menu and select the sensor in question. This will bring you to the Overview page for that sensor where you can view graphs, charts and tables showing information about incoming and outgoing traffic.
NetWorx is a lightweight tool that can be run as a portable application or installed on a Windows OS. Features include support for a variety of network interfaces, a notifier to alert you when network activity exceeds a certain level, and usage reports that can be exported in a number of file formats including CSV, RTF and HTM.
When you launch NetWorx, you are presented with a configuration wizard that asks you to select the connection(s) to bind to. Once you do this, an icon is placed on the icon tray and NetWorx begins monitoring. Right click on the NetWorx icon to choose an option such as display the graph, launch the usage report or change settings.
06 SolarWinds Real-Time Bandwidth Monitor
SolarWinds Real-Time Bandwidth Monitor is a simple tool for monitoring SNMP-enabled devices in real-time and displaying the results on a user-friendly graph.
When you launch SolarWinds Real-Time Bandwidth Monitor, enter the details of the SNMP-enabled device and press Next. You will then be asked to choose which interfaces to bind to and which thresholds should be set before the graph is launched. In the example above, I am binding to the interface of my SNMP-enabled network printer – the green lines in the above image show traffic into the device when I sent two separate print jobs.
07 Rokario Bandwidth Monitor
Rokario Bandwidth Monitor is a lightweight application for monitoring network bandwidth. The free edition includes a real-time bandwidth graph and bandwidth logging.
When you launch Rokario Bandwidth Monitor you are immediately asked which interface to bind to. The graph then launches on the desktop and starts displaying bandwidth information. To change settings related to the interface, data or appearance, right click on the tray icon and select Settings.
08 ManageEngine Bandwidth Monitor
The ManageEngine Bandwidth Monitor forms part of the OpUtils suite of 16 network tools. The free edition permits two interfaces of any network device that supports SNMP to be monitored. Features include alerting, the ability to export to XLS format, and an agentless model of operation.
When you launch the web interface and login, you will need to go to the Bandwidth Monitor tab and add an SNMP device and its corresponding interfaces to begin monitoring. You can then click on the interface to drill down and view graphs and statistics in real-time or on a daily, monthly or yearly basis.
tbbMeter is a bandwidth monitor solely for monitoring Internet usage. It includes a real-time view of download and upload speeds, the ability to set alarms to warn you when usage allowance is nearing its limit and background tests to help measure performance. It also records statistics for a historical view of bandwidth information.
Once installed, launch the interface from the tray icon or Start Menu. Right click anywhere on the graph to bring up the options menu where you can change the visual style, launch download tests, change the graph update rate, view statistics and set alarms as required.
NetSpeedMonitor is a lightweight utility that sits in the Windows Taskbar and monitors the speed and amount of data that is being uploaded and downloaded on the selected network interface. It keeps track of the information for reporting purposes.
Once you install NetSpeedMonitor, add it to the Taskbar by right clicking the Taskbar and selecting Toolbars > NetSpeedMonitor. If you then right click on the NetSpeedMonitor toolbar itself, a menu pops up allowing you to manage connections, display connection details and reports, and customize the UI.