20 Ways to Monitor Network Traffic: Steps, Tips and Tools

monitor network traffic

Businesses must recognize the importance of reliable and efficient network traffic monitoring. Network traffic is only expected to grow in the coming years as more people gain internet access.

By monitoring network traffic, you can ensure that your systems are running smoothly and identify issues before they become significant problems. Here, we will discuss 20 ways to monitor home network traffic, from the basic steps to more advanced techniques.

What Is Network Traffic Monitoring?

Network traffic monitoring is the process of gathering, analyzing, and reporting on network traffic data to troubleshoot network problems, optimize performance, or better understand overall network activity.

Network traffic monitoring is an essential part of any network administration toolkit. It can help to prevent problems from occurring and can also be used to troubleshoot existing issues. For instance, Amazon successfully mitigated a DDoS attack using their service, AWS Shield.

Organizations should consider their specific needs when defining network traffic analysis and its meaning. Some solutions may be more suitable for larger networks, while others may be more appropriate for smaller ones.

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20 Ways to Monitor Network Traffic

To effectively monitor network traffic, you need to have the right tools and know-how to use them:

1. Install a packet sniffer like Wireshark on your computer.

Packet sniffers are one of the most popular ways to monitor network traffic. They are relatively easy to use and can effectively detect unusual or suspicious activity on your network.

2. Use NetFlow or sflow data from your routers and switches.

Netflow and sFlow data can be beneficial for monitoring network traffic. They can give detailed information on who is sending and receiving data, where it is coming from, and how much data is being sent.

3. Use the built-in tools in your operating system to monitor network traffic.

Most operating systems come with a variety of tools that can be used to monitor network traffic. These tools can be practical but may not provide as much detail as other methods on this list, but they are still effective in their own right.

4. Use third-party software to monitor network traffic.

Third-party software can provide some fantastic benefits when monitoring network traffic. These solutions can give you a wealth of information about who is using your network, what they are doing, and where they are going. Third-party software can also help you identify bottlenecks in your network so that you can fix them before they cause significant problems. This can save you time and money in the long run.

5. Use a hardware device like a network tap or packet broker.

A network tap or packet broker can monitor network traffic. These devices align with the network and can provide detailed information on the data being sent and received.

6. Use a cloud-based service to monitor your network traffic.

A cloud-based network traffic monitoring service can provide your business with several benefits. Perhaps most importantly, it can give you visibility into your network traffic that wouldn’t be possible without using cloud-based resources. This enhanced visibility can help you identify potential security threats and prevent them before they cause damage.

7. Use a web proxy to monitor web traffic.

A web proxy can monitor traffic to and from a website. This can be useful for monitoring employee internet usage or blocking specific websites.

8. Use an intrusion detection or prevention system (IDS/IPS).

An IDS or IPS can detect and prevent attacks on your network. These systems are very effective at analyzing the quantity and types of cyber attacks.

9. Review logs from your firewall.

Your firewall logs can contain a lot of information about the traffic passing through your network. They allow you to filter out the ordinary traffic and focus on the unusual behavior, thus helping you detect attacks or abnormalities.

10. Review logs from your web server.

Your web server logs can provide valuable information about your website’s traffic, such as details regarding every request an application has served.

11. Use a website monitoring service.

Many services will monitor your website and send you alerts if something unusual happens. These can be beneficial, particularly when addressing concerns of DDoS attacks.

12. Monitor social media for mentions of your company or website.

Social media can be a great way to monitor attacks on your company or website.

13. Use a honeypot.

A honeypot is a trap set to lure attackers. It can collect information about an attacker or distract them from the real target.

14. Review logs from your DNS server.

DNS servers keep track of the domains accessed on your network. Reviewing these logs can help you identify which websites are being visited and by whom.

15. Use a website vulnerability scanner.

Many different scanners can be used to test your website for vulnerabilities. These scanners can be very effective at finding issues that could compromise the application or website.

16. Review logs from your web application firewall (WAF).

A WAF is a piece of hardware or software placed before your web server to protect it from attacks. Reviewing the logs from your WAF can help you identify which attacks were prevented and which ones got through.

17. Use a network security monitoring system.

A network security monitoring system can monitor traffic passing through your network in real-time. These systems are helpful for quickly identifying and responding to cyber-attacks.

18. Use a packet analyzer.

A packet analyzer can examine the data packets passing through your network. This can be useful for identifying which devices are communicating with each other and troubleshooting network problems.

19. Review logs from your email server.

Email servers keep track of the emails sent and received on your network. Reviewing these logs can help you identify which users are sending or receiving suspicious emails. Some user activity and endpoint monitoring solutions provide network and email monitoring, making viewing all logs convenient in one place.

20. Use a file integrity monitoring system.

A file integrity monitoring system can be used to monitor the files on your server for changes. This can be useful for identifying which files have been modified or deleted and determining whether an authorized user made those changes.

Why Should You Monitor Network Traffic?

The saying goes, “The best offense is a good defense.” The same can be said for network security. By monitoring your network traffic, you can proactively identify potential threats and take steps to mitigate them before they cause any damage.

There are many reasons why you should monitor internet activity on wireless networks. Here are just a couple:

  • Troubleshoot networking problems: When something goes wrong with your network, monitoring traffic can help you pinpoint the source of the problem so you can fix it more quickly. CISCO recently integrated two new monitoring tools for IT teams to manage daily issues that affect their networking environments.
  • To ensure compliance with regulatory requirements: If your business is subject to specific regulations, such as HIPAA or PCI DSS, you may be required to monitor your network traffic to ensure compliance. Monitoring solutions must give management actionable steps to correct the non-compliance risks. IBM has multiple monitoring templates that offer security policies to ensure compliance.
  • To protect against malware and other threats, monitor traffic to identify unusual activity that may indicate a malware infection or other security threat.The FBI stated that ransomware complaints increased by 82% from 2019 to 2021. One specific attack on the Oregon Anesthesiology Group led them to employ around-the-clock monitoring to prevent further attacks.

The 3 Types of Network Traffic

The types of network traffic can be classified according to the data being exchanged:

  • Voice traffic uses the public switched telephone network (PSTN) and carries digitized voice conversations. The most common type of voice traffic is regular phone calls, but voice traffic also includes VoIP (voice over IP) and other digital voice services.
  • Video traffic uses the Internet to carry digitized video signals. Video traffic includes streaming, video on demand, and other video services. According to Cisco, video traffic will account for 82% of all internet traffic.
  • Data traffic is network traffic that uses the Internet to carry all non-voice data. Data traffic includes email, Web browsing, file transfers, and other types of data exchange.

4 Best Network Traffic Monitoring Tools & Software

There are several ways to monitor network data usage, and the method you choose will depend on your network’s size and complexity.

You can use a free tool like PRTG Network Monitor to monitor your traffic if you have a small network. PRTG is an easy-to-use tool that monitors company network traffic, including incoming and outgoing traffic.

You may need a more sophisticated solution like SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor for more extensive networks. SolarWinds NPM provides detailed visibility into your network traffic, including which devices generate the most traffic and where bottlenecks occur.

Below, we’ll discuss the top 4 traffic monitoring tools and software:

Teramind Network Monitoring

Teramind is one of the best network traffic monitoring tools and software available today. One of the most important features is its ability to monitor all network IP address activity, including the users connected, exact IP ports used, applications, and identity location. Through its intuitive interface, users can also access complete reports that display the amount of bandwidth used by individual employees.

Key Features:

  • Smart Rules & Automated Alerts
  • Application Monitoring
  • Keystroke Logger
  • RDP Session Recording

Best Fit For: Teramind is perfect for businesses of all sizes.

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Paessler PRTG Network Monitor

PRTG Network Monitor is a powerful tool for monitoring network traffic. It is easy to use and provides users with all the information they need about their network traffic. The user interface is simple, making it easy for inexperienced users to understand and use.

Key Features:

  • Traffic analysis
  • Bandwidth management
  • Traffic monitoring

Best Fit For: PRTG Network Monitor is an excellent choice for businesses of all sizes.

Auvik

Auvik Networks is a network traffic monitoring tool that uses SNMP to collect data from devices on your network. Auvik gives you visibility into how much bandwidth is used, where it’s used, and who uses it. With Auvik, you can quickly identify anomalies, diagnose problems, and resolve issues before they cause downtime.

Key Features:

  • Uses SNMP to collect data from devices on your network
  • It gives you visibility into how much bandwidth is being used, where it’s being used, and who is using it
  • It helps you quickly identify anomalies, diagnose problems, and resolve issues before they cause downtime

Best Fit For: Network administrators who need to monitor bandwidth usage and identify potential problems.

Datadog Network Monitoring

Datadog is a cloud-based monitoring platform that provides visibility into your entire infrastructure. It’s easy to set up and use and offers many features and integrations.

Datadog’s network monitoring tools give you real-time insight into your network traffic. You can see how much data is being transferred, where it’s going, and its impact on your network.

Key Features:

  • Monitor network traffic in real-time
  • View detailed statistics and graphs
  • Set up alerts to notify you of potential problems
  • Integrate with a variety of other tools and platforms

Best Fit For: Datadog is a great fit for small to medium-sized businesses that need comprehensive infrastructure monitoring.

How To Implement Traffic Monitoring In a Company

Most businesses, large or small, have some form of traffic monitoring in place. This is often done to improve customer service or catch potential network problems before they cause significant disruptions. Traffic monitoring can also help you understand how your employees are using the Internet and where potential bottlenecks are forming.

There are several different ways to implement traffic monitoring in your company. The most common is to use a hardware-based solution, such as a router with built-in traffic monitoring capabilities. Alternatively, you can use a software-based solution on your server or a dedicated computer.

Once you have the right tools, setting up traffic monitoring is relatively straightforward. In most cases, you must configure your router or software to log all incoming and outgoing traffic. Depending on your needs, this information can be viewed in several different ways.

How To Read & Analyze Traffic Monitoring Reports

The first thing to understand about traffic monitoring reports is that they come in different types. The most common are web server logs, bandwidth utilization, and analytics data.

Web server logs contain a wealth of information about your website traffic, including the date and time of each visit, the visitor’s IP address, the pages they visited, and how long they stayed on each page.

Analytics data provides similar information, but often in more detail. It can also show you what keywords visitors used to find your site, what links they clicked on, and what browsers and devices they used.

FAQs

How can I monitor traffic on my network?

To monitor traffic on your network, you can use hardware-based solutions like routers with built-in traffic monitoring capabilities or software-based solutions that run on servers or dedicated computers. Configure the tools to log all incoming and outgoing traffic, and you’ll be able to analyze the data and gain insights into your network’s performance and usage.

What is the method of monitoring network traffic?

The method of monitoring network traffic can be done through various approaches, such as hardware-based solutions like routers with built-in traffic monitoring capabilities or software-based solutions that run on servers or dedicated computers. By configuring these tools to log all incoming and outgoing traffic, you can effectively monitor and analyze the data to gain insights into your network’s performance and usage.

Can Internet traffic be monitored?

Internet traffic can be monitored using hardware or software-based solutions that log incoming and outgoing traffic. Analyzing this data lets you gain insights into your network’s performance and usage.

How do I capture network traffic?

You can use network monitoring tools such as Teramind or tcpdump to capture network traffic. These tools allow you to capture and analyze packets of data flowing through your network, providing valuable insights into network performance and potential issues.

Does Windows have a network monitoring tool?

Yes, Windows has a network monitoring tool called Microsoft Message Analyzer. It lets you capture, view, and analyze network traffic on Windows-based systems, providing valuable insights into network performance and potential issues.

Network Traffic Visibility is Critical for All Organizations

Proper network traffic monitoring is essential for businesses of all sizes. By understanding the different ways to monitor Wi-Fi traffic and utilizing the best tools and software available, companies can ensure that their networks are running smoothly and they are getting the most value from their Internet connection.

Network traffic visibility is critical for all organizations, as it allows businesses to proactively identify and address any potential security threats, network performance issues, or usage bottlenecks. By monitoring network traffic, organizations can gain valuable insights into their network’s behavior, identify abnormalities, and optimize their network infrastructure for efficient and secure operations.

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