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One of the duties of many Windows systems administrator is network management. That is, you may be called to detect, diagnose, troubleshoot and resolve network interface slowdowns.
As your network grows in complexity to include multiple line-of-business (LOB) Web applications, load-balancing configurations, and the like, interface troubleshooting and performance monitoring can easily become extremely cumbersome and complex.
Monitoring an interface with SolarWinds Real-Time Bandwidth Monitor
To assist us in this effort, SolarWinds gives us the Real-Time Bandwidth Monitor. This is a free utility that enables us to monitor network bandwidth utilization statistics for multiple interfaces in real time.
Setting up interface bandwidth monitoring ^
The Real-Time Bandwidth Monitor software can be installed on any modern 32- or 64-bit edition of Windows desktop and server operating systems.
However, it should be noted that because the interface polling and statistics gathering in this product relies upon Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP), you need SNMP turned on for any device you will be monitoring, which it will be by default for your network devices.
In some cases, you will prefer to have an SNMP server in place in your domain prior to using this tool.
For instance, you can fire up Server Manager in Windows Server 2008 R2 and install the SNMP Server feature, as shown in the following figure.
Windows Server 2008 R2 - Install SNMP Server feature
Once you have SNMP Server installed, you can configure SNMP-related metadata like the community name and trap destinations by modifying the properties of the SNMP Service Windows service. This process is depicted in the following screen capture.
SNMP Service Windows service
Upon first launch of the application, you are asked to create a monitor. This task includes three pieces of information:
- The IP or hostname of a device (desktop PC, server, switch, router, wireless access point, etc.)
- The SNMP version in use on your network (1,2, or 3)
- The SNMP credentials (community name for SNMPv1 and v2; username, context, and authentication method for SNMPv3)
Configuring the device
The next step in the setup process is selecting the desired interface. If you are connected to a switch, then you will be able to monitor individual port IDs; if you are connected to a Windows server, you can choose among physical and virtual network interfaces.
Selecting an interface to monitor
We are almost finished. The final step in the configuration process is setting threshold values. The percentages that you specify for warning and critical values enable the Real-Time Bandwidth Monitor to give you feedback regarding degrees of bandwidth utilization.
Note in the following screenshot that you can also limit the chart date to a particular time interval or data points (sampling is performed at the half-second rate). Click Launch Monitor to start the monitor. Yes, you can have more than one monitor running on a host computer simultaneously.
Setting threshold values
Monitoring an interface ^
As you can see in the following screenshot, the monitoring screen is a resizable dialog box that is laid out in a very easy-to-understand manner. Inbound and outbound traffic on the selected interface are color-coded, as is the data line if it exceeds a threshold value.
Monitoring an interface
The line chart is active; you can analyze data points simply by hovering your mouse over them. This is shown in the following screen capture.
Analyzing a data point
You can make use of another of SolarWinds tools (this one is not free) called WAN Killer to simulate loads through monitored network interfaces.
While we are on the subject of related SolarWinds software, the Real-Time Bandwidth Monitor is a "smaller sibling" to their enterprise Orion Network Performance Monitor (NPM) software. NPM is a one-stop solution for automatically discovering and monitoring interfaces in your LAN and WAN environments. You can download a free demo from SolarWinds if you are so interested.
In summary, the SolarWinds Real-Time Bandwidth Monitor gives us systems/network administrators the ability to visualize network bandwidth utilizations on our interfaces. This data is extremely important not only for troubleshooting speed and access problems, but also for application performance tuning and enhancing the overall health of our network. Please feel free to leave your questions in the comments portion of this post.