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Bandwidth Monitoring

The network is slow. Who is hogging all of the bandwidth? By using a good bandwidth monitoring tool, you can easily determine the source of spam and virus flooding problems. Such tools can also help you to plan for future capacity as the network users outgrow the available pipe. These tools will give you a visual representation of how trafficis flowing throughout your network, including traffic coming from a particular machine or service.

  • MRTG (people.ee.ethz.ch/~oetiker/webtools/mrtg/). Most network administrators have encountered MRTG at some point in their travels. Originally written in 1995, MRTG is possibly the most widely used bandwidth monitoring application. Using Perl and C, it builds a web page full of graphs detailing the inbound and outbound traffic used on a particular network device. MRTG makes it simple to query network switches, access points, servers, and other devices and display the results as graphs that change over time.

  • RRDtool (people.ee.ethz.ch/~oetiker/webtools/rrdtool). Developed by the same people who wrote mrtg, rrdtool is a more powerful generic monitoring application. RRD is short for “round-robin database”. It is a generic data format that allows you to easily track any particular data point as a set averaged over time. While rrdtool does not directly monitor interfaces or devices, many monitoring packages rely on it to store and display the data they collect. With a few simple shell scripts, you can easily monitor your network switches and access points, and plot the bandwidth used as a graph on a web page.

  • ntop (www.ntop.org). For historical traffic analysis and usage, you will want to investigate ntop. This program builds a detailed real-time report on observed network traffic, displayed in your web browser. It integrates with rrdtool, and makes graphs and charts visually depicting how the network is being used. On very busy networks, ntop can use a lot of CPU and disk space, but it gives you extensive insight into how your network is being used. It runs on Linux, BSD, Mac OS X, and Windows.

  • iptraf (iptraf.seul.org). If you need to instantly take a snapshot of network activity on a Linux system, give iptraf a try. It is a command-line utility that gives you an up-to-the-second look at connections and network flows, including ports and protocols. It can be very handy for determining who is using a particular wireless link, and how heavily it is loaded. For example, by showing the detailed statistical breakdown for an interface, you can instantly find peer-to-peer client users, and determine exactly how much bandwidth they are currently using.

Last Update: 2007-01-24