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jackable

New Around Here
Hello,
I've been looking through the site for info on this topic, but haven't seen anything helpful so I thought I'd ask.

I currently have a 3 user, 1 file server 1Gb LAN with a cable modem with 16Mb down 1Mb up. I occasionally set-up/repair other people's computers and host a small 4-8 additional user LAN party.
My ISP is Time Warner so I figure in the next year or so, they'll start capping because it's free money for them.
Although I've never been warned, I figure that my internet usage is on the heavy side, but I'd like to know exact numbers. It seems to me the best way to monitor it would be on my router, but I have never heard of the feature. What would it be called and what consumer or SMB router under $500 does this?

Since I have a file server, it could do the monitoring as I'd rather not insist my friends have to install an app when they game with me. Also, I would think using the file server would add lag to gaming pings. All my machines run flavors of Windows as I'm a linux newb, so adding something like m0n0wall (which sounds like it would be able to do the monitoring) would be problematic because then I'd have to learn how to set up a linux file server too on the same box. The downtime for learning linux, linux security, m0n0wall, and linux to windows file serving sounds really prohibitive.

Hence I'm really looking for a router monitoring option.

Thanks for answering in advance,
Jack
 
I'm also starting to look at this myself, I'd be interested to see what everyone else does too. I run a Cisco router, which supports a technology called Netflow, but the programs that aggregate the data are either *nix based or expensive. If I get time and get it working, I'll post what I did.

Tam
 
I've used http://www.dumeter.com DU Meter for years now. The latest versions have a monitor file that loads w/ Windows. It keeps a constant record of your upload/download stats even when the main program isn't running.

When configured todo so, it can alert you to preset limits you've set. Thus preventing you from getting that OMG bill if your ISP has limits.

Quite handy for checking out why that file transfer is taking so bloody long (why I use it ;)

Sadly it's not that cheap (trialware). Family pack (upto 5 users) for $49.90, Single user $24.95


/HTML code off = dagnabit
 
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Tamarin, thanks for the reply.
which Cisco router do you use? From what I can see on the Cisco site, Netflow works with 4500 series and above, which is far more router then even a Medium business needs and costs many thousands.

Using some flavor of Linux just to aggregate the data is certainly doable for me. That's what virtual machines are for. It's totally different from setting up my windows file server as a Linux router/file-server where I'd have to become an expert in Linux system security too.

Jack
 
Thanks for the suggestion, Greebster.
I've been trying DUMeter for about a day now, and I don't think it will fit my needs.
It seems excellent for a single computer directly connected to the internet, but the problem is that it (as far as I can tell from reading the help file) can not distinguish between traffic going to the internet and traffic staying on my LAN. Daily data backups, weekly OS backups, and music and video streamed from my server gets logged as traffic just like web surfing, IMing and internet downloads do. On top of that, since I'd have to run a copy on each of my machines, everything sent to the server will get counted twice (once by the user's machine and once by the server.)
All this means that my total internet usage will be inflated by all of my local network traffic, so it will be off by many many gigabytes.

Thats why I was looking for a router that would log my traffic. Thanks for the suggestion though.
Jack
 
NetFlow is available on pretty much all Cisco routers, 800 series, 1700, 2600, 2800, 3600, 3700, 3800, etc... The 4500 is more of mid-grade switch, and the smaller switches don't support Netflow. But my 3640 certainly supports it, I just have to get something on the client side to receive the data. I know it is trying to send it, packet captures show that.

I actually was thinking if I get it working I'd give Tim a write-up for him to post. But it'll probably be a while, as I have school to contend with.

Tam
 
I actually was thinking if I get it working I'd give Tim a write-up for him to post. But it'll probably be a while, as I have school to contend with.
I'll be happy to look at this if you manage to do it, Tam!
 
NetFlow is available on pretty much all Cisco routers, 800 series, 1700, 2600, 2800, 3600, 3700, 3800, etc... The 4500 is more of mid-grade switch, and the smaller switches don't support Netflow. But my 3640 certainly supports it, I just have to get something on the client side to receive the data. I know it is trying to send it, packet captures show that.

I actually was thinking if I get it working I'd give Tim a write-up for him to post. But it'll probably be a while, as I have school to contend with.

Tam

Well thanks for the info. Seeing how I'm an IOS and Cisco newb, I've got A LOT of reading to do before I can make sense of their product lines and the differences between them.
If you have Netflow all set up, here's a list of free netflow tools that work in *nix, Windows and even Java.
http://www.networkuptime.com/tools/netflow/
I obviously haven't tested any of them, but one of them might fit your needs or atleast give you quick and dirty network analysis.

thanks for all your help
Jack
 
Most of the *nix router distros have some built in traffic graphing..often a twist on MRTG. This gives you basic info at the least..on overall traffic, in several charts..often current, hourly, several hour periods, daily, weekly, monthly, total, etc.

I've tried quite a few *nix distros, I currently run PFSense at home. I encourage you to take the time to look at the below screenies. Chart 6 gives you an idea of one of the traffic charts.
http://www.pfsense.org/screenshots/

There is also an open sourced plugin called BandwidthD. http://bandwidthd.sourceforge.net/
I installed this into PFSense..gives even more detail, look as individual nodes behind your router.

Regarding "learning linux". Nope..don't have to. I don't know *nix at all, but I've tried many different *nix router distros at home...IPCop, m0n0wall, Smoothwall, PFSense, Untangle, Endian,...I can't think if any others at the moment. You don't need to know *nix to install and manage them. Have you used a traditional home grade router, such as a Linksys or a Netgear? If you've used them..you can use a *nix router. You download the distro ISO file..burn to CD. You take a computer with 2x network cards, of a relatively common brand chipset that *nix will support, boot from the CD...follow the easy to follow handholding install guide. Once done...you log into the router using your browser just like any other home grade router.

Most of the common distros don't need a lot of horsepower to run on. My PFSense box, I'm running on an old IBM Thinkpad T23 laptop, some mid-range P3 800 something, 256 megs of RAM.

With most of the *nix distros...you'll get features and performance that will rival (if not surpass) most enterprise grade routers that cost over 5 grand.


The downtime for learning linux, linux security, m0n0wall, and linux to windows file serving sounds really prohibitive.

Hence I'm really looking for a router monitoring option.

Thanks for answering in advance,
Jack
 
Most of the *nix router distros have some built in traffic graphing..often a twist on MRTG. This gives you basic info at the least..on overall traffic, in several charts..often current, hourly, several hour periods, daily, weekly, monthly, total, etc.

Regarding "learning linux". Nope..don't have to. I don't know *nix at all, but I've tried many different *nix router distros at home...IPCop, m0n0wall, Smoothwall, PFSense, Untangle, Endian,...I can't think if any others at the moment. You don't need to know *nix to install and manage them. Have you used a traditional home grade router, such as a Linksys or a Netgear? If you've used them..you can use a *nix router. You download the distro ISO file..burn to CD. You take a computer with 2x network cards, of a relatively common brand chipset that *nix will support, boot from the CD...follow the easy to follow handholding install guide. Once done...you log into the router using your browser just like any other home grade router.

Most of the common distros don't need a lot of horsepower to run on. My PFSense box, I'm running on an old IBM Thinkpad T23 laptop, some mid-range P3 800 something, 256 megs of RAM.

With most of the *nix distros...you'll get features and performance that will rival (if not surpass) most enterprise grade routers that cost over 5 grand.

Thanks for the detailed reply, YeOldeStonecat, but there are some problems:
1) I don't have room to permanently add another machine. All the machines I currently have already have a specific purpose that requires windows. And dual booting one of them to get network access is not do-able.
2) It makes the most sense both space-wise and economically to turn my server into a linux based router/server for my windows machines. But that adds the whole can of worms that I mentioned about learning linux, and more importantly linux system security. And I can't have my server down long enough to get everything working and make sure it's secure.
3) I've been building/repairing computers long enough to know that appliances last much longer than any computer, and would prefer my router to be an appliance. Appliances are generally more secure too.

If the cisco & netflow don't pan out for me, building a picoITX or something in a SFF case with a router distro that boots off some type of flash ram is definitely my second option. It's as close to embedded as I can get, especially if I use some memory card with a write protect tab.
The only problem with this is that every time I consider it, my mind runs back around to: well as long as you are doing all of this, why not make it the server too.
 
if you are getting a canned firewall such as ipcop or it relatives. there is no more to learn than any other firewall/router. Actually people I have shown linux find it easier, faster, and more useful than Gatesware. Ipcop was easy to install and easy to manage with it's web page. The best part is you do not have to run special software on a client machine. All you need is a browser.
 
The problem isn't that jackable isn't aware of zero knowledge/appliance distros, but that there's not really one to suit his needs.

NAS? FreeNAS.
Router/firewall? pfSense, Smoothwall, Untangle, etc.
Both? I don't know of any that stand out when the zero knowledge requirement comes into play.
 
So, I went and have been playing with NetFlow some more, one of the links you sent me has a windows/web 30 full, past that limited version that has been reasonably impressive. If all you need to monitor are two interfaces the free/limited version supports that. I want to play with a few more things before I finalize any write-ups, but I like what I see so far.

Tam
 

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The problem isn't that jackable isn't aware of zero knowledge/appliance distros, but that there's not really one to suit his needs.

NAS? FreeNAS.
Router/firewall? pfSense, Smoothwall, Untangle, etc.
Both? I don't know of any that stand out when the zero knowledge requirement comes into play.

Combine 'em all! :D
http://ebox-platform.com/
http://www.clarkconnect.com/

Jackable...I know what you mean by "don't have the space". I always used to have some fire breathing dragon monster box running for some sort of server..whatever I wanted to fiddle with that particular month. But gets to heat up the office, and crank the 'lectric bill.

With many of these basic *nix distros...they don't need much power to run. I run my PFSense on an old P3 Thinkpad T23 laptop I had sitting unused. Small, low 'lectric draw, not much heat output, sits nice 'n quite barely taking up space on a bureau up in my office.

Encourage you to look at the graphics native to many *nix distros, also checkout a popular add-on, called BandwidthD
http://bandwidthd.sourceforge.net/
 
I didn't disappear, I spent the weekend doing lots of research on Cisco and build-my-own options.

After learning much, including the fact that a router/NAS is considered poor security (which you would think I know having passed the CISSP exam), I decided that a router/NAS is "secure enough" for my needs. I am going to repurpose my fileserver with clarkconnect.

I want to thank everyone for all their help and ideas. And unfortunately, I am sure that others will have bandwidth monitoring questions in the future since there are no beginner solutions available for the average joe who has a few machines and comcast. Hopefully they will come here where you can expertly help them.

Jackable
 
I know what you mean by "don't have the space". I always used to have some fire breathing dragon monster box running for some sort of server..whatever I wanted to fiddle with that particular month. But gets to heat up the office, and crank the 'lectric bill.

With many of these basic *nix distros...they don't need much power to run. I run my PFSense on an old P3 Thinkpad T23 laptop I had sitting unused. Small, low 'lectric draw, not much heat output, sits nice 'n quite barely taking up space on a bureau up in my office.
http://bandwidthd.sourceforge.net/

YeOldeStonecat, clarkconnect seems to be exactly what I am looking for. All the router distros I had heard of didn't have NAS included. So that meant either adding it, or taking a stock linux distro and turning it into a router. Either way would have a steep learning curve of linux and linux specific security.

I only tend to have 1 monster box at a time, but the whole home-office when I work and play tends to spin the kilowatt meter. Space IS at a premium because I tend to favor full tower cases for work machines because digging in them is so much easier with my clumsy paws.
My fileserver is the slowest machine I have -- an old (and loved) asus a7n8x deluxe with an athlon 1GHz T-bird and even then it still hardly ever sees more than 10% CPU usage with my 1000Mbps network transferring files at full bore. It should be pretty sweet with clarkconnect and a few nic cards.

If clarkconnect allows the machine to wake on lan then I should save some power each month because my router appliance is currently always on.

I have enough parts lying around that I can build a test rig for minimal $ and try it out even though it won't be identical to my current server hw. But building a pc is always fun. :D

Now I have a project for after next week's lan party.

Jackable
 
Enjoy exploring them Jackable.....
I know you mentioned above that you worry about some learning curve with *nix. I wish to add....even though I'm a small biz network consultant, I really have little to no knowledge of *nix.

The people who have contributed to these open sourced *nix distros have done fantastic jobs on them, they've made them very easy to setup and manage. Just take notes as you run through the install routine, remember the LAN IP you assigned them, whether you enabled DHCP or not, and hit 'em via https:// in yer browser.

I know over the years, I've found very few people (even those who work in the IT world) seem to know about these various *nix distros, but when turned onto them...they don't look back, they enjoy the performance, stability, and features. There are a lot out there, many with their own special feature set, many different from others. If you don't like the first one you try...don't let that discourage you...there are many more out there, keep trying them til you find one that best suits your needs. They really take so little time to download, burn to CD, boot 'n try. Really the only cost is a blank CD, and some of your time.
 
We can put a remote controlled craft on Mars or send a probe into Deep Space, but to find a 2.4GHz 802.11n gigabit router with jumbo packets and WAN monitor is IMPOSSIBLE!! :rolleyes:
 
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