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An Introduction to Network Monitoring Tools

written by: Brandon Levski•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 1/21/2011

Network monitoring tools are specific components required by a particular system to perform various connectivity-related operations in sync with a network hosted protocol. The main purpose of these tools is to monitor the security and utility of information incorporated in a system.

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    Understanding Network Monitoring

    The practice of using specific software packages to manage the operation of various computers and maintain the entire network’s optimal performance is called network monitoring.

    Information that is trafficked within a network consists of smaller "frames." Each frame contains the following components:

    • Data — the information that is being sent/received
    • Destination Address — address of the network adapter that will receive a frame. A destination address could also refer to a large group of network adapters
    • Source Address — the network adapter’s address from which a frame originates
    • Header Information — information delivered across a network has to be compatible with a specified protocol, which is contained in the header

    Network monitoring ensures that:

    • Authenticated users have access to the frames that are able to pass through the dedicated network adapters
    • Risk-free information is passed on to the users, in accordance with a defined protocol
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    Using Network Monitoring Tools

    These are specific software packages that can detect and report various problems within the network, such as a malfunctioning device or a connectivity-related issue. Any behavior within the host network that is not in-sync with the established protocol is immediately reported. Some tools are more progressive and even send verification requests to the host for authentication of a destination address. The reporting functions of these tools include sending warnings or alerts to various locations, which could be the main server or an e-mail address. Most of these tools perform standard monitoring functions such as checking the level of CPU usage and bandwidth utilization.

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    Simple Network Monitoring Tools

    These consist of conventional monitoring applications such as the Ping programs. This is perhaps the most commonly-used network monitoring software. It is capable of sending IP Test Messages and verifying the connection across two computers. Basic ping functions consist of three tests that are used to ensure active connectivity of systems and measuring their performance. Presently, there are many versions of Ping available, including:

    • Ping Plus 1.06
    • Ultra Ping Pro 2.1
    • Graph A Ping 1.0.10
    • Utility Ping 1.0
    • Fping 2.03

    P-Ping Tools 2.0 — a slightly advanced Ping tool that offers IP address and TCP/UDP port scanning

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    Advanced Network Monitoring Tools

    There are many sophisticated network monitoring software packages that have more features to offer. One common example of an advanced monitoring tool is the HP Openview software package. Advanced monitoring also includes network monitoring for web servers that are distributed across the globe. Most of them are used by network administrators who need to monitor large IT networks without worrying about geographical barriers.

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    Free Network Monitoring Tools

    1. BMExtreme

    It is capable of monitoring the level of bandwidth being consumed and constantly monitoring the connectivity status.

    • Displays the LAN information and the protocol that has been created by the ISP
    • Particularly recommended for systems using ADSL, satellite or cable-based connections

    2. Look@Lan

    It is capable of auto-detecting the network settings and updating the users through instantaneous reporting.

    • Offers multiple scanning options through its Scan-Ranges
    • It is touted as one of the fastest Node Discovery Scanning softwares
    • Offers both automatic and manual configuration options
    • Provides both text and HTML Profile Export and Advanced Trapping features

    3. Sysinternals CPUMon

    CPUMon is among the advanced, high- performance network monitoring/measurement softwares.

    • It works on Win2K and NT 4.0
    • Users can watch the monitoring being done via the built-in NT Perfmon and with its innovative combined GUI/Device Driver
    • Recommended for Pentium Pro/II/III/IV

    4. Process Monitor v1.37 — basically a system monitoring Sysinternals application. It will send an automated message if you choose to close the filter dialog box without having saved the saved the edits.

    5. Sysinternals TCPView for Windows v2.54

    • Provides detailed information about all the TCP/UDP endpoints
    • Lists the local/remote addresses and TCP connection status
    • On Vista, XP and Windows Server 2008 it will also report the processes from where the tracked endpoints originated

    6. Sysinternals PsTools v2.44

    • Contains numerous simple tools for administering Windows NT/2K systems including a Resource Kit
    • Allows easy access to manage local and remote connections from your system
    • The PsList tool provides instantaneous details about every process that is underperforming
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    Other Network Monitoring Tools are Freeping for Windows 2003-XP-2000-NT servers, servers live, Sysinternals Debugview, Sysinternals Diskmon, Sysinternals Filemon for Linux & Windows, Sysinternal Process Explorers, Sysinternals Pmon and many other Sysinternals suites. Also, there are numerous network monitoring platforms you can rely on depending on network specification. For Windows networks, I recommend the Sysinternals utilities.