The Best Bandwidth Monitoring Tools benchmarked

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Which are the best bandwidth monitoring solutions? Find out at this review

Bandwidth monitoring involves monitoring bandwidth and analyzing traffic in a network. Bandwidth monitoring tools provide for real-time data on download and upload capacity and let you break down traffic by different endpoints, ports, and protocols.

What is bandwidth monitoring? Why is bandwidth monitoring important? What are the benefits of bandwidth network monitoring?

We asked our internal consultants to put together some popular bandwidth monitoring tools and found the following eight bandwidth monitoring tools to be our favorites:

Best bandwidth monitoring tools

Paessler PRTG Network Monitor, Datadog, Progress WhatsUp Gold, ManageEngine NetFlow Analyzer, SolarWinds, ntopng, Auvik, Nagios Network Analyzer

1. Paessler PRTG Network Monitor

PRTG Network Monitor by Paessler is an all-in-one and easy-to-use tool for monitoring bandwidth as well as your entire IT infrastructure. The bandwidth monitoring software reads traffic data directly on your routers and switches to provide detailed statistics about how much bandwidth your devices and applications are using. It informs you about ingoing and outgoing traffic and how long the data transfer over your network really takes. This way, you can easily determine the quality and speed of your network and at the same time detect potential bottlenecks.

PRTG monitors bandwidth in real time with a variety of different protocols, including SNMP, WMI, packet sniffing, and flow protocols (NetFlow, sFlow, jFlow, and IPFIX). This is what makes the tool so special: it comes with several preconfigured sensors for bandwidth monitoring out of the box. This way, administrators can easily choose between monitoring bandwidth with protocols that won’t put a lot of strain on the network (like SNMP), or flow protocols, for example, that let you break down traffic by IP address, port, and protocol.

PRTG automatically alerts you about high traffic, excessive bandwidth usage, and other bandwidth-related issues via different notification methods like SMS, email, push notification, and more. You can also set individual warning and error thresholds so that you are alerted when values are above or below the specified limit. This way, you can even act before something critical happens in your network.

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PRTG is not only packed with features but is also renowned for its intuitive and user-friendly interfaces (web interface, Desktop application, and mobile apps). Thanks to its easy-to-read dashboards, you can quickly check bandwidth levels and see if a specific endpoint or network device is using up too many resources.

Paessler PRTG Bandwith analyzer
Bandwidth monitoring with Paessler PRTG Network Monitor

What’s more, PRTG is an all-in-one monitoring tool, which means that every PRTG license comes with all the software’s features. Most other tools charge for features such as flow monitoring. The price per license depends on the number of monitored aspects that you need. With a price ranging from about $ 1,485 for a max. 500 sensors to $ 14,300 for 10,000 sensors, PRTG is relatively inexpensive.

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Learn more about bandwidth monitoring with PRTG here > Download

2. Datadog

Datadog is a SaaS-based monitoring platform that offers several modules for different monitoring needs such as infrastructure, database, synthetic, or network monitoring, alongside log and incident management. For bandwidth and network traffic monitoring, Datadog offers the subscription-based Network Performance Monitoring module (NPM).

A strength of Datadog NPM is that in contrast to the more traditional and often relatively static bandwidth and traffic monitoring, it gives you real-time insights into dynamic network flows. Using tags, you can monitor and collect connection data between any two objects like applications or services, even if hosts scale up and down or IP addresses change. It is also possible to request traces to determine the actual activities that make up the respective network traffic.

Another great feature of Datadog is its visibility options. On the Network view dashboard, for example, you can view the network volume and throughput between any source and destination. With network topology maps, you can display and analyze all flows between different objects to get a detailed overview of your network traffic.

Network view dashboard in Datadog NPM
Network view dashboard in Datadog NPM

Pricing for the NPM module starts at $5 per host per month. However, to be able to use this module, you also need to purchase an Infrastructure Pro or Enterprise plan. Thus (and if you want to get more monitoring features besides bandwidth monitoring), prices will add up relatively quickly in comparison to an all-in-one-monitoring tool like PRTG Network Monitor, for example. Download

3. Progress WhatsUp Gold

WhatsUp Gold by Progress (formerly Ipswitch) is a software for monitoring network and application performance in combination with log and configuration management. Since Progress acquired the tool, it has been greatly enhanced in terms of design and usability.

The monitoring software offers the classic features that make up bandwidth monitoring and network traffic analysis. You can track real-time bandwidth usage over devices, servers, applications, connections etc., and identify top talkers, applications, and protocols that use up the available bandwidth. Historical traffic data analysis helps you to identify trends in bandwidth usage. WhatsUp Gold offers out-of-the-box network traffic reports that give you more detailed information about, for example, top senders, receivers, and conversations.

With the Progress Flowmon NPMD/NDR integration (needs a full Flowmon license), you can even make use of AI-powered traffic analysis and advanced security features to analyze, for example, encrypted traffic and to better detect threats in your network.

Traffic analysis dashboard in Progress WhatsUp Gold
Traffic analysis dashboard in Progress WhatsUp Gold

The Premium edition of WhatsUp Gold supports basic bandwidth monitoring via SNMP. For comprehensive network traffic monitoring and analysis via NetFlow, jFlow, sFlow, and IPFIX, however, you need to purchase an add-on or the Total Plus edition. Licensing is quote based and thus unfortunately, not very transparent. Download

4. ManageEngine NetFlow Analyzer

ManageEngine NetFlow Analyzer is a web-based bandwidth monitoring and traffic analytics tool that monitors network flows and collects, analyzes, and reports on network traffic data. It supports leading flow technologies such as NetFlow, sFlow, jFlow, IPFIX, NetStream, or AppFlow.

The NetFlow Analyzer dashboard provides you with overview graphs that show ingoing and outgoing traffic in real time as well as the users, applications, protocols, and ports that put the most strain on the available bandwidth. Adding customizable widgets, you can further enhance the dashboard with bandwidth and traffic data that is most important for your business.

NetFlow Analyzer offers network traffic analysis based on detailed bandwidth reports. You can not only create historical traffic data reports, but also generate forecast reports to predict future traffic. Capacity planning reports, which are only available in the Enterprise edition, help you make informed decisions on your bandwidth capacity needs.

What’s more: ManageEngine’s network traffic tool provides a basic, automated threat detection using a predefined algorithm that detects suspicious network activity. For an in-depth analysis of security issues, however, you need the Advanced Security Analytics Module that is again only available in the Enterprise edition.

Traffic monitoring dashboard in ManageEngine NetFlow Analyzer
Traffic monitoring dashboard in ManageEngine NetFlow Analyzer

NetFlow Analyzer’s Pro edition starts at $595 and the Enterprise edition at $1,295 for 10 interfaces. Compared to an all-in-one-monitoring tool like PRTG Network Monito, this is quite expensive, not to mention the extra costs if you want to do more than bandwidth monitoring.

5. SolarWinds Network Bandwidth Analyzer Pack

SolarWinds provides for comprehensive bandwidth monitoring and network traffic analysis by way of its Network Bandwidth Analyzer Pack. This pack includes licenses for the Network Performance Monitor (NPM) and the NetFlow Traffic Analyzer (NTA).

With the Bandwidth Analyzer Pack (BAP), you can identify applications that consume most of the available bandwidth and get insights into ingoing and outgoing traffic from ports, source and destination IP addresses, and protocols. It is also possible to view network traffic as you need it by creating your own IP address groups.

Next to SNMP, the BAP supports a range of flow protocols such as NetFlow, jFlow, sFlow, NetStream, and IPFIX. You can display the collected traffic data in customizable charts and tables to identify overall traffic patterns or specific bandwidth utilization by application, for example. However, these dashboards look quite old-fashioned in comparison to other monitoring software like Datadog.

Network analysis dashboard in SolarWinds
Network analysis dashboard in SolarWinds

Pricing for a perpetual license of Network Performance Monitor starts at around $2,800. A license for NetFlow Traffic Analyzer starts at $895, although for both licenses, it is not transparent on which elements (that is, monitored aspects or devices) the pricing is based. If you add up both license fees, pricing is already way more expensive than, for example, a license of PRTG Network Monitor.

6. ntopng

ntopng, which stands for “ntop next generation”, is a web-based traffic analysis and flow collection tool that, in its most basic form, uses libpcap for packet capture and transmission. The light-weight network traffic probe runs on Linux/Unix, macOS, and Windows.

ntopng comes as an open-source Community version; however, for SMEs and larger organizations, we strongly recommend the Pro or even Enterprise versions. Only these versions offer the features that you need for more in-depth bandwidth and traffic monitoring as provided by the other tools discussed. For example, you need the Enterprise version to be able to monitor and analyze traffic via SNMP. Protocols like NetFlow and IPFIX are only supported with the additional nProbe™.

The tool lets you break down network traffic into IP address, port, application protocols, throughput, and more. It shows you real-time and historical traffic data for any host, interface, or network. You can also generate in-depth, total traffic and activity reports or graphical reports including top talkers, protocols, or autonomous systems, among others.

Historical traffic data graph in ntopng
Historical traffic data graph in ntopng

ntopng is a great traffic analysis software if you’re looking for a standalone tool. With ntopng, Pro and Enterprise licenses are even free of charge for nonprofit and educational organizations. If you want to do more than just bandwidth monitoring and network traffic analysis, however, we recommend an all-in-one monitoring solution like PRTG Network Monitor. Download

7. Nagios Network Analyzer

Nagios is a popular open-source network monitoring software based on Linux. It can be configured in countless different ways, which makes it perfect for do-it-yourselfers. However, this is also one of the biggest disadvantages of Nagios. It can take days to set up, and often that leaves only one person in the company with the know-how associated with the specific configuration.

For bandwidth monitoring and network traffic analysis, you need Nagios Network Analyzer, Nagios’s NetFlow analysis, monitoring, and bandwidth utilization software. Its feature set includes dashboards for a central overview of bandwidth data and network traffic such as critical NetFlow or sFlow data sources, unusual network behavior, or bandwidth usage of specific applications. A bandwidth utilization calculator, which is fully customizable, creates reports that break down traffic by IP address, source, and more.

Network Analyzer integrates with Nagios XI, which is strongly recommended if you want to have more in-depth traffic analysis and be able to set up individual alerts and notifications.

Nagios Network Analyzer integration with Nagios XI
Nagios Network Analyzer integration with Nagios XI

A license of Nagios Network Analyzer costs §1,995 in addition to the Standard edition of Nagios XI that starts at $1,995. If you consider the work that goes into setting up and configuring the tools, too, an all-in-one, easy-to-use commercial monitoring software might be the better choice. Download

8. Auvik

Auvik is a cloud-based network monitoring software for Managed Service Providers (MSPs) that also provides various network management features. For bandwidth monitoring and network traffic analysis, Auvik TrafficInsights™ collects ingoing and outgoing traffic data from network devices that support NetFlow, jFlow, sFlow, or IPFIX. This also works for encrypted traffic.

Bandwidth monitoring with TrafficInsights™ is quite straightforward. Its easy-to-read dashboards show you, for example, the applications and protocols that use up most of the available bandwidth. To analyze traffic on a more detailed level, you can have a look at charts that display, for example, top talkers, source and destination IP addresses, and ports. For even more granular analysis, you can go through sampled flow records lists.

A nice little visualization option is the geolocation map with which you can detect traffic that comes from or goes to an unauthorized country.

Network traffic analysis with Auvik TrafficInsights™
Network traffic analysis with Auvik TrafficInsights™

Pricing for Auvik is quote based and offers two commercial subscriptions: Essentials and Performance. While the number of users and monitored endpoints is unlimited, you pay for the scope of the features you need. To monitor bandwidth and analyze your network traffic, the Performance subscription is necessary. Download

What is bandwidth monitoring?

Bandwidth monitoring measures the capacity of a communications channel to transfer data (for example, in KB or GB) via a network connection in a specific amount of time. This way, IT administrators can determine which applications, services, or devices, for example, are real bandwidth hogs. This is particularly important if they want to make sure that business-critical applications are highly available at all times.

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Why is bandwidth monitoring important?

Without a professional monitoring tool, IT professionals run the risk of being more reactive than proactive when faced with downtime or dips in performance. By monitoring bandwidth, they can quickly identify and eliminate the bottlenecks that may be plaguing the network.

A comprehensive bandwidth monitoring tool shows administrators at a glance which users and applications are consuming the most bandwidth at a given time. They can also determine if specific times of the day are more bandwidth-intensive than others.

Bandwidth monitoring enables IT admins to make smart decisions when upgrading their network – or they can avoid having to shell out money for more bandwidth in the first place. And when they have no other choice but to upgrade, they can justify the increased need with convincing data.

What are the benefits of bandwidth monitoring?

Here’s a short summary of the main advantages of bandwidth monitoring:

  • You get an overview of the bandwidth consumption of users, applications, services, and network devices
  • You identify bandwidth hogs and bottlenecks
  • You improve network security by discovering network attacks (like DoS)
  • You enhance the overall performance of your network and the availability of your devices and services
  • You save money and only upgrade your bandwidth when you really need to
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