Monitoring Network Performance with PRTG free edition

by [Published on 2 April 2009 / Last Updated on 2 April 2009]

How to download, install, and use the free PRTG Network Monitor to Monitor and Troubleshoot Windows Networking Issues.

Introduction

It has been years since I used Paessler’s PRTG Traffic Grapher. PRTG Traffic Grapher is a simple Windows utility that can monitor and graph network traffic collected using SNMP, Netflow, and other methods.  Paessler also offers another version of PRTG called Network Monitor. It offers not local networking & performance monitoring for your local PC but also network and performance monitoring for your entire enterprise. PRTG Network Monitor can do this through about 10+ different types of sensors including SNMP, WMI, & Netflow. I wanted to see how PRTG Network Monitor could help monitor my local Windows PC and Windows network so I decided to give PRTG Network Monitor, version 7, for a try.

What is PRTG, where do I get it, and how do I install it?

Paessler is a German company whose primary product is PRTG. As I mentioned, there are two versions of PRTG – Network Monitor and Traffic Grapher. Both products are available in free and commercial versions. The free version is limited to 10 sensors (commercial trial editions are also offered). PRTG Network Monitor offers the following:

  • Monitoring of bandwidth, usage, uptime, and availability
  • Reporting & Alerting
  • Web interface

Network Monitor supports monitoring of networks up to 30,000 sensors and can report on whether network connections are meeting SLAs.

Windows devices can be monitored using SNMP, ping, and WMI. For non-Windows devices, you can monitor them using packet sniffing, NetFlow (for Cisco devices), SMTP (for email servers), HTTP (for web servers) and a number of other types of monitoring technologies.

I downloaded the 27MB free PRTG Networking Monitor and began the installation.


Figure 1: Starting the Installation of PRTG

You can choose to install either Core Server or the Remote Probe. Unless you are installing a remote probe, you could choose the core server.


Figure 2:  Choosing your Installation – Server or Remote Probe

I chose to use the free edition.


Figure 3:  Installing the Free Edition

PRTG Network Monitor will install a web server and database. As you see in Figure 4, you will want to choose a username, password, your administrator email address, interface that PRTG web server will run on, and a port number. You can also name your server. In my case, I chose to install it only on my local host interface and to use port 81.


Figure 4:  Essential Network Monitor Settings

Soon after that, PRTG was installed.

Using PRTG Network Monitor

I logged into PRTG Network Monitor using my web browser to the interface IP and port number specified in the installation.


Figure 5:  Logging into PRTG

The first thing you will want to do is to add network devices to PRTG. The easiest way to do that is to use the Auto Discovery feature.


Figure 6: Running AutoDiscovery

PRTG found the devices on my network and began collecting statistics on them. Depending on the type of devices, you may or may not need to do some extra work to provide SNMP community strings, Windows usernames & passwords for WMI, or other more specific credentials to get more detailed statistics.


Figure 7

Notice that in Figure 7 above, the 12 different network devices that were automatically discovered and added to PRTG. Even without any configuration, different devices are now being monitored in different ways, based on their capabilities. For example, some devices are just being monitored using ping. Other devices are being monitored by ping and http, if they have a web interface. My local host is being monitored using not only ping but also diskspace, memory, pagefile, processor, and networking. Finally, my HP printer is being monitored using ping, http, and even the number of pages printed.

How can PRTG Network Monitor help resolve my Windows Networking Issues?

Here are 5 ways that PRTG Network Monitor can help resolve my Windows Networking Issues:

1.       Monitor local and remote CPU, Memory, Page File, Disk, and Network Performance

As a Windows Network Administrator, you are going to want to monitor all of these stats, both locally and remotely, because if there is a strain on any of these, you could suffer poor local system performance or poor performance across your entire Windows Infrastructure. It surprises me when I talk to a Windows Admin, suffering from performance issues, who does not have a performance tool in place. Windows built-in performance monitoring tools just do not “cut it”.

In Figure 8 below, you see the CPU performance for my local Vista workstation over the past 2 days (for both of the cores of my CPU).  From here, I can tell that I do not have a CPU bottleneck as the max utilization was 62%.


Figure 8:  CPU Performance for my local system over 2 days

I can create these same type of graphs for %disk free, memory, and much more. The graphs can be real-time, over 2 days, a month, or even over a year. As I mention in #4 below, I can configure alerts based on whatever criteria I choose.

Of course, this is just an example on my local system, I can monitor any Windows system that I have access to, as well as non-Windows system (like Cisco routers, VMware servers, and others).

2.       Monitor less-common (but very important) statistics like disk capacity free, processes, services, and the event log.

As you see in Figure 9 below, I can add many different types of sensors. I created a red circle around some that would be of particular interest to Windows Network Administrators. They are- Windows Services, Processes, Files, Event Log Entries, and other vital Windows data.

As you can see, you can also monitor so many other types of your infrastructure like VMware ESX Servers, web server, mail servers, network devices, SQL servers, file servers, and even things like printers.


Figure 9:  Adding various types of sensors

3.       View all network devices on a single graph

PRTG Network Monitor can be used to organize and categories your network devices into a single view (or other groupings if you choose to set them up). Thus, in a single graph, you could get an instant view of your Windows Network showing alarms, traffic index, CPU load, and response time, for all devices.


Figure 10:  All devices in your network on a single graph

4.       Be alerted using email or SMS

Configure email or SMS alerts for many different types of notification triggers. In Figure 11, you can see that you can create state, speed, volume, threshold, and change notification triggers.


Figure 11:  Creating Notification Triggers

5.       Monitor applications and other servers on your network such as SMTP, HTTP, VMware, and others.

Again, PRTG Network Monitor is not just a “Windows Tool”, it is a network monitor that can serve your entire infrastructure, supporting all types of devices.

As I mentioned before, PRTG Network Monitor is available in a free version and the commercial version starts at only $295 or €195. And finally, one more reason to use PRTG Network Monitor is that it is now iPhone Compatible (as you see in Figure 12).


Figure 12: iPhone monitoring using PRTG Network Monitor

Conclusion

In this article, you learned how to download, install, and use the free PRTG Network Monitor to Monitor and Troubleshoot Windows Networking Issues. We found out that PRTG can help monitor not only your local Windows computer but also your Windows Infrastructure servers, and your entire network.

I hope that you will try out PRTG Network Monitor on your own network to learn how it can help you.

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