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Have you ever been in a situation where your Internet is just dragging along, while you know that you’re the only person on your network, and you’re hardly using any bandwidth?
There are plenty of tools out there that will help you with analyzing your home network and assist you with increasing your Internet speeds on that network. You could use Networx, a tool Karl covered, to measure the individual bandwidth of each PC. You could go through some of the network speed tests that Matt described. Then you could follow Tina’s tips to increase your Internet speeds.
In this article, I’m going to offer you a very cool centralized solution that you can run on a single PC (or server), which will go out and monitor your entire network for traffic and performance issues.
Monitor Your Entire Network With PRTG Monitor
If you stop and think about it, to get a true measurement about the health of your network, you really need to monitor not only the traffic going in and out of just one PC on the network. You should also be constantly monitoring each connected device for any problems. Such problems could be recognizing when the CPU goes haywire, when network bandwidth stays pegged at the max, or any other factors that indicate there could be a virus or hacking involved.
The PRTG Monitor software is a commercial tool, but there is a great freeware version available to home users that provides monitoring for up to 10 “sensors”. For most home users, this is more than sufficient.
You can run PRTG on more than one server for a “cluster” mode, but the easiest and fastest setup is to run it on one server in “standalone mode”.
The first screen you’ll see after you set up PRTG and launch the software, is the main menu where you can quickly access the major areas of the monitor software. This includes manually adding devices to monitor, reviewing status results in log files and reports, or having the software perform “network discovery” to locate any devices connected to your network.
Manually adding devices lets you configure little details that the automatic discovery won’t do, like customizing the icon for that device or giving it a name that you will recognize.
All you have to do is type in the known network IP address for that device. At the top of the Network Monitor screen is where you’ll find the quick navigation bar. This is where you can go to view the sensor statuses, view all network alarms, reports and logs.
The alarm area will show you all of the latest alarm messages for all of the devices on your network. These might include notifications that the CPU on a PC or device has gone through the roof, or the fact that the space on the C: drive is dangerously low. The system is looking for the sort of symptoms that indicate an unhealthy or infected system.
Of course, if you scroll over to the right when you view the device status, you’ll see the last measured network bandwidth for that device as well – an important indicator that there may be a problem, or that you have someone on your network that’s stealing all of your bandwidth!
The “Live Data” graphs off to the right of the main display screen are my favorite part of the software. Here you can keep an eye on the CPU load, memory use and overall health of all of the devices on your home network. And if you don’t want to sit there monitoring everything all day, the software will log the data and provide you with graphs for different time intervals, like the last few days or the last month.
The overview screen for each device is where you can get access to that information, as well as the log files, alarm notifications, and all of the realtime information for that device.
You also get cool notification icons that highlight when there’s an active alarm or notification for any device on your network. Each icon has a different meaning – informational, warning, or alarm. Just click on the icon to see those notifications.
If you want a closer view of the device behaviors, just click on any of the graphs and it’ll switch into full-screen mode. If you are the type of person that likes to have realtime statistics up on your screen (especially if you use an extended monitor) – go ahead and connect to the server remotely, and just display these graphs right on your screen (plus it looks really cool when people walk by…)
The logs will provide you with a huge volume of system state changes, alarm notifications and just status reports about what’s going on throughout your network and from each device. I’ve never seen freeware that is quite this effective and useful when it comes to getting really valuable information about a network, or remotely monitoring device like this. I’m really impressed with this software.
Try installing it on one of your more powerful home PCs and give it a try, or set up a dedicated server for monitoring your network health, and just let it run and log data. You may be surprised at what the software discovers, and what it tells you about where you may be losing bandwidth to runaway processes or infected computers.
Give it a shot and let us know how well it worked for your network. Did you learn anything new? Share your experiences with it in the comments section below.
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