How is the network installation monitored

Network tools

Network tools: Monitor data traffic with free programs

Whether at home or in a company: As soon as several computers, printers and other devices are connected to one another and to the Internet, data is sent and received continuously. Keeping an overview here can be at least useful, sometimes necessary, for example to quickly identify and remedy transmission problems or security gaps. It doesn't always have to be a paid solution: With a free network tool like Wireshark, you can monitor data traffic, manage releases for various devices and connections, and collect and evaluate further information.

Download network software free of charge from COMPUTER BILD

The downloads presented online at COMPUTER BILD are not only interesting for private individuals who connect several computers and printers in their household and want to monitor and manage the connection to the Internet - also IT professionals who set up and monitor the company network easily and securely want to get their money's worth with Wireshark and other useful tools. In most cases, the network scanners are free and suitable for all common operating systems. To make sure that a freeware is compatible with all computers in the network, we have summarized all suitable systems and possibly other system requirements for you on the detail pages. In addition to a more detailed functional description, you will also find screenshots of the network software so that you can get a first impression of the program.

Find and rate the best monitoring software

The downloads are sorted by popularity - by default according to the overall charts. If you only want to see the most popular network downloads from the last week or month, you can adjust the view using the selection above the list. The evaluation is carried out by the users. If you have downloaded free monitoring software and tried it out for a while, we would be happy to receive a rating: from one star for "not recommended" to five stars for "very recommendable". When interpreting the star rating, you should also take into account the download numbers that are right next to the rating - a high number suggests that a relatively large number of users have rated a freeware and the rating is correspondingly meaningful. If you want to know exactly, you will find a list of all ratings according to the number of stars on the detail page.

Network monitoring: Wireshark and Co. can do that.

Data is continuously sent and received within a network - between two computers, a computer and a server, a PC and a printer, etc. The more devices are involved, the more complex the fine mesh of data streams and different protocols becomes. At the latest when one or more devices are connected to the Internet, it becomes completely confusing - not only for laypeople. As long as all printers, scanners and computers work smoothly, this may not be a big problem - however, regardless of a malfunction, in many cases it can be interesting to see which data is exchanged, sent and received. For example, Wireshark and other (free) alternatives record the following data:

  • IP address including additional information, for example whether it is an internal / known IP address
  • Device name, (logged in) user and location
  • Connection quality (to the Internet and / or other devices within the network)
  • Status: on or off, user logged in or logged out, print and other jobs on hold, connected to the Internet via WLAN or LAN, etc.
  • Information on data traffic: What data is sent and received? For example, the protocol used, data size and transmission speed
  • Active programs: Which programs are actually active - send and receive data, where does this data come from?

All this network information is usually clearly listed within the monitoring software. As an administrator or user, you have the option of viewing and recording this data and, in many cases, evaluating it. For example, various filters enable the display to be restricted or individualized, and any transmission problems can be easily identified. With the help of different colors and flags, you can specifically highlight selected data traffic and monitor it permanently. Wireshark and other freeware often also allow the recorded data to be exported, for example as an XML file, PostScript or CSV file. Irregularities or clear problems are highlighted if necessary.

Good to know: There are many different ways to send and receive data - so-called protocols describe these types and how the data is packaged for transmission. There are several hundred different transmission protocols. If you have special requirements here, pay attention to whether a freeware supports the respective protocol. Wireshark and other well-known network tools usually support all common protocols such as TCP / IP, HTTP or Ethernet.
A separate protocol was once developed for monitoring network components with the help of a central tool - the Simple Network Management Protocol, or SNMP for short. The protocol regulates the communication between the respective devices and the central monitoring station, SNMP itself describes the structure of the data packets.

Additional functions of the network scanner

In addition to monitoring networks, you can of course also set up a network with the help of the software. As a rule, the tools guide you clearly through the setup process, whereby you have to make sure that the program is not a pure monitoring software for the connection between the computer and the Internet. You also benefit from the following functions with selected freeware:

  • Manage shares: Decide for each individual computer and other devices which connections, accesses and data transfers are allowed. For example, you can manage the assignment of rights for certain drives and folders within the network software, but also set which PC in the company network can access which printer.
  • Remote function: The remote function is particularly useful for administrators in larger company networks. You can make various settings on a PC or Mac without having to sit in front of the computer. For example, you can use a ping test to check whether a computer at the other end of the building is connected to the Internet, initiate a data transfer or a print job, contact the user via an integrated messaging function or configure various utilities. The remote-controlled start-up and shut-down of the respective device is also possible. Some network programs also allow the router to be configured centrally.

Particularly practical: if you install the appropriate network scanner app on your iPhone or Android smartphone, you don't even have to be near your own computer to monitor the devices in your home or company network and to check the data traffic. Here, too, there are often various remote functions available, as well as monitoring functions and evaluations optimized for the small screen.

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