July 30, 2010

Network bandwidth monitors

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 Though I have unlimited usage account on my home internet connection, its not really unlimited in sense that I get 1Mbps speed up to 25GB transfer and thereafter it drops to 256kbps for rest of the month. Sometimes this happens within days and sometimes lasts a month. That of course depends on what I have been downloading.. (e.g.. I downloaded a copy of MS Office 2010 from my MSDN account). I wanted to keep track on how much I was downloading and also which applications were downloading the most. I searched the net for applications and came across BitMeter. While BitMeter displayed a graph of current network activity, it didn't really provide the customization and history of downloads. So after using it for a couple of days, I started looking for other tool and came across two different and complementary tools.

1.  NetWorx

NetWorx is a bandwidth monitoring tool which provides a host of features which help you to effectively control the amount of network transfer. As expected, it provide a system tray icon so that you can keep an eye on the downloads. If the system tray is too small to be able to judge the network transfer rate, you can pop up a small window on your desktop which updates a graph of data transfer. To make this pop up window unobtrusive, you can make it semi transparent and also make it click-thru so that you can continue working with the window below while you are able to keep an eye on the download graph.
Apart from this basic feature which most network monitors provide, Networx provides a host of other features like quota control, usage reports for daily, weekly, monthly or for any given period of time. The reports show received, sent and total transfer for the given period and any dialup durations, if used. It can display these report for the current user or all users combined. The Usage reports can be exported to Excel for further processing or even backed up and restored in XML format.  There are usual network tools like Ping, Trace, Netstat thrown in for good measure. 

quotaOne way to control your data transfer is to use quota for  daily, week and monthly usage and save you from spiralling bills. It would also be good for controlling internet usage of you kids as it can block usage once you exceed the quota. It has a password control mechanism which protects the quota system and also prevents the application from being exited. This should keep the newbie users from circumventing the quota lockdown and other restrictions. But in modern homes you have more than one computers connecting thru the same wifi or internet router. Rather than trying to configure the router and wifi AP, use Networx built in synchronization with other computers. This way you can see a consolidated usage from all systems.
However, one feature that I was hoping to see in Networx was the ability to display which application was consuming how much bandwidth. While NetStat feature of NetWorx provides list of application and the sites they are accessing in real time, it does not provider a summary or usage data for each application. To control utilization effectively, we need to know which application is downloading how much data. This led my search to another tool.

2. NetBalancer

NetBalancer is a network monitor tool which works are much deeper level than Networx, in sense that it installs as a driver and can monitor network traffic from lower levels in the operating system. NetBalancer shows real-time statistics of which application is online and uploading/downloading from the net. It shows current upload/download as well as cumulative transfers. It display a traffic graph along with information about the selected application and its connections.

However, NetBalancer does not show daily, weekly, monthly graphs like NetWorx and does not have features to show quota and control usage. By combining these two application, you can get a handle on your internet usage, figure out which applications consume higher bandwidth and track your hourly usage.

If you have come across good bandwidth monitor tools, drop me a line to update me.


  1. How does Bandwidth Meter Pro compare to these tools?

  2. Doc, the difference is about $20 with no additional features between NetWorx (Free) and Bandwidth Meter Pro ($19). Neither of them give the information NetBalancer provides.