Accurately measure network bandwidth

Bandwidth isn't cheap. When you pay a premium price for your Internet connectivity, you expect to receive the optimal amount of bandwidth. But accurately measuring the megabits per second that transfer across the connection to assess bandwidth is a problem. To solve this problem, Neon Software's CyberGauge 2.0 accurately measures transfer rates over network connections. Using SNMP, CyberGauge monitors the throughput between your LAN and your connectivity provider.

The software comes on one disk. Installation was simple and uneventful. I installed the software on my server and was up and running. When I first launched the program, it prompted me for the IP address of the device that I wanted to monitor. After querying the router and hub, the program presented me with a list of interfaces to monitor (e.g., frame relay, Ethernet, Point-to-Point Protocol—PPP). After I fed CyberGauge the information to process, I was ready to go—a testament to the software's sheer design simplicity.

I could view the results as soon as the product started collecting statistics. After the program ran for a few hours, a line graph showed me how much of my link I was using. By monitoring the flow of data in and out of my network, the software gave me a more accurate bandwidth measurement than any other method I've used. Screen 1 shows two graphs indicating my bandwidth usage for each interface.

I set up CyberGauge to monitor my 2.5Mbps connection to the Internet. After watching the peak hour traffic on my connection for a few days, I noticed that my uplink reached capacity at about 60KBps, which is normal for an asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL). My downlink, however, topped out at 75KBps, which wasn't copacetic because my line has a 2.5Mbps rating.

To increase my transfer speeds, I dropped my Maximum Transmission Unit (MTU) to 576 bytes from the default 1500-byte value to prevent fragmentation, which wastes space and slows down performance. Reducing the MTU value usually results in a noticeable speed increase, but this time it didn't. When changing this setting didn't work, I called the company's tech support. I finally determined that my provider was having router problems. A few days later, I saw my connection's full 2.5Mbps potential.

CyberGauge comes with an excellent manual, which explains the more important bandwidth problems (i.e., what to monitor and why) in a clear, easy-to-understand manner. Despite the software's simplicity, CyberGauge includes several advanced features for techies. The most interesting feature is the bonding function. Let's suppose you have two T1 lines that act as the bridge between your corporate network and the Internet. You can set the software to monitor each link separately, or you can bond them together as one connection to measure the combined flow of data. Another useful function is the ability to export graphs as .jpg image files. With a bit of clever scripting, you can post the .jpg files onto a Web server and provide easy access to live network performance updates. The graphing component is customizable and lets you assign different colors for different devices.

The functionality that CyberGauge offers comes at a price. The 20-device package of the software lists for $695, which can be painful for small businesses. Fortunately, Neon Software also sells 5- and 10-device packages at the more reasonable costs of $295 and $495, respectively. This product's cost is a one-time investment that ensures an expensive network connection will live up to its full potential. For me, CyberGauge's price for that assurance is a great deal.

CyberGauge 2.0
Contact: Neon Software * 925-283-9771
Web: http://www.neon.com
Price: $295 for a 5-device license; $495 for a 10-device license; $695 for a 20-device license
System Requirements: Pentium processor, Windows NT or Windows 9x, SNMP-compatible hardware