Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Who is using up all of my bandwidth...?

If this were the UK or the USA, we would have no need to worry about internet usage in the workplace - an extra gig here and there would be no big deal.
This is South Africa, though, which means that (until recently, at least) we have had to deal with the very real dilemma of data capping on our broadband internet usage. That said, only time will tell how good the latest uncapped ADSL offerings really are... (holding thumbs!!)

So what do you do if you are a small business and you find that you are frequently hitting your cap?
Or maybe you just want to know what your staff are up to when you are out... what websites they are visiting and what they are downloading...

Well there are several "packet-sniffer" utilities that will do the job for you, for the most part at least.
Over the years I have worked my way through a lot of them, on a quest to find out which one does the best job.
One that stood out for me was Network Probe - even their free version offers decent features, but the results need a bit of deciphering to understand them properly.
That's pretty much the biggest problem I found with a lot of the software I tried out - it was a mission to get it running correctly, and the results resembled ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics...

What you really need is a simple, foolproof program that can present reliable and accurate stats in a format that the layperson can easily understand.

Enter TupSight.
TupSight is just that - it installs on an XP / Vista / 7 / SBS / Server PC, and acts as a network gateway for  internet traffic. It is not a packet sniffer - rather, all internet traffic passes directly through it.

To quote the manufacturer's website:

"Unlike many other packet sniffing programs that use WinPcap library (www.winpcap.org) as the driver to capture live network data, TupSight is an NAT router technology-based EIM (Employee Internet Management) product realizing direct and reliable web monitoring and control at the Internet gateway.
TupSight can be installed on one of the computer hosts on any LAN infrastructures (i.e., no matter whether they are switched or wireless); and is NIC (network interface card)-independent"

For most configurations, there is a 3-step process to set it up:

- install TupSight on the gateway PC;
- change the Default Gateway setting on the PC's to be monitored, to point to the PC that TupSight is installed on;
- open TupSight, scan the LAN and select the PC's you want to monitor.
- Voila - you are good to go (unless your configuration requires some additional tweaking or special setup).

Personally, I have found that TupSight produces the most useful and easy to read results, out of all the monitoring software that I have ever used.
It reports total traffic by user, and then breaks it down into which sites were visted, and how much data was used at each site. It can produce reports for a specific day, or for a customizable period of time (e.g. 01 April - 15 April, by a single user or for all users).

You can also track activity produced by chat software and FTP, as well as request mail logs - the program is able to track all activity on Ports 110 (incoming mail) and 25 (outgoing mail), thus keeping a complete record of all mail activity (including mail content) for the hosts being monitored.
TupSight is a seriously powerful tool, and I have found it to be a hugely useful in tracking down areas of unacceptably high internet usage in a LAN environment.

Don't take my word for it though - rather head on over to http://www.tupsoft.com/ to find out more.
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