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Monitoring your home network traffic may seem like overkill for most users, but it can be a useful tool if you have download caps from your provider. Traffic monitoring can also be an effective way of monitoring the security of a wireless network. Unless you catch someone in the act of using your connection, you have no way of knowing whether you’re secure or not. With lawyers chomping at the bit to prosecute anyone who illegally downloads music, ensuring your connection isn’t used without your permission is now a lot more important.
Fortunately there are a variety of tools available to help. We are going to look at three different ones that are popular that offer quite different features to the user. The first is Network Traffic Monitor, the second is NetWorx 5.0.3 and the third is Ethereal. All are Windows based utilities, although Ethereal has Linux and Mac flavors too.
Network Traffic Monitor by Nico Cuppen Software is a commercial network monitoring tool ($39.95) that offers more information about your network than you could possibly need.
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This little program can show you how much network traffic is being generated, from which machine and even which process. It provides information on all active IP ports and which remote IP addresses they are connected to. It can even access the WHOIS information on the addresses.
It also includes a comprehensive reporting tool which can export to Excel or a text file. This allows you to check out what has been going on while you weren’t around. It is useful in finding out how secure your wireless network is.
NetWorx is a freeware tool that offers a great deal to the home user. It is a utility for measuring bandwidth and the connection speed of all your network connections in one little package.
It also has the ability to measure throughput, and maintains records of average use in order for users to keep on top of any allowances, or generally manage their network
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This tool monitors both in real time and as a report, which can be read as a daily, weekly, or monthly graph. While it doesn’t have many of the features of professional tools, it offers just the right amount of information and granularity for the home user.
The program sits quietly in the tool bar, not taking up too many resources and is quick to react to input. Networx also has the standard ping and traceroute tools, but not the WHOIS or extra information of Network Traffic Monitor.
The last application in the list is Ethereal. The sharp eyed amongst you may recognize it as an evolution of Wireshark, an open source application of some fame. All that has changed is the name, the program works just as well, if not better than before and is the network geeks dream tool.
This is a professional standard utility that is free and open source. It may be a bit much for some users, but it is recommended throughout the IT industry as one of the best tools of its kind. Ethereal is a protocol analyzer which takes a copy of everything that goes through a selected network port and takes it apart in a nice GUI. It analyzes the packets and provides every conceivable piece of information on every one.
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If you want to dig deeper into your network then this is a great place to start. The Ethereal website has plenty of documentation to support the tool, and it is surprisingly easy to pick up once you have used it for a while.
Monitoring your network isn’t just for system administrators. There are many reasons why you would want to do it, including those listed in this article. These three tools are ideal for studying everything your network gets up to when you’re not around.