Sometimes, having the ability to observe the behavior of your network’s traffic (specially if you have an internet connection with a bandwidth cap) can provide you with useful insights, even if you are managing a simple network.
I might sound being too vigilant but let me share with you a recent experience of mine that proved otherwise. It all started when I upgraded to Firefox 30.0. Thanks to a live network usage graph app (that always runs on my Taskbar) & Windows Task Manager, I was able to notice that the ‘plugin-container’ process of Firefox using most of my network bandwidth at times (no it was not updating anything, it happened way too many times!). To make a long story short, now I use Chrome as a result.
But unlike in the above instance where I had to use two separate applications to identify that which was eating my network’s bandwidth, there are applications that are build for that specific purpose that one can use to achieve both tasks through a single interface. ‘Graphical Network Monitor’ is such an application that was brought to my attention by its developer (thank you ‘Kirk’).
It has a very simple interface, displays applications that are running through your network by their icon (which makes it so easy to identify them) on a world map so that you see where they are connected to, and the currently active applications gets their icons automatically highlighted.
It also features a ‘Connection list’ section (disabled by default) that once enabled shows advanced data about those applications, such as their IP address (local & remote) & the virtual ports through which they communicate, connection status, Country and the city they are connected to, and most importantly, their individual consumption of the network’s bandwidth (Up/Down speeds).
You can zoom in/out using the scroll button which (depending on the theme) shows additional details on the map (country & city names). You can run it in the Windowed mode, fullscreen or you can make it show all these data as a desktop background (‘Active Desktop’ mode) too!.
It comes with three beautiful looking themes but you can freely download one additional theme & ‘Extra Zoom’ editions of each theme freely.
It is also a portable application. It comes with a Zip file. You can extract its content to a USB thumb drive and take it anywhere (something that network administrators would appreciate). It is coded using C++ thus eliminating heavy dependencies such as having to have .NET or Java or any other framework installed. The app is relatively ‘light-weight’ as well. At its initial execution, the memory usage was around 22MB but of course it goes up on demand (while Zooming in or as more programs gets displayed on the map). Overall, I like its old-school coding approach 🙂 .
However, after saying all these nice things about it, I also have a few humble suggestions for the developers which I think could make the app more useful to the users.
*. Firstly, it would be nice if the app could automatically highlight the data under ‘Connection list’ when a user select an application icon on the map, rather than having to manually locate it, which is how it is currently.
*. It would also make sense to integrate keyboard shortcuts for enabling/disabling ‘Active Desktop’ mode & ‘Connection list’ window. It saves time & is less distracting.
*. Since it is coded in C++, how about creating a version that runs of GNU/Linux? …
It however is not available for free, but it only costs you $1.99 (a commercial license costs you $29.95 though), which is very reasonable when compared to its features and the nice & intuitive interface design. If interested, please visit this page for more information. I would also like to thank ‘Kirk’ for giving me a free license to test it out.