Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Home Network Monitoring Tools That Are Free

Many people do not know that Windows includes free network monitoring tools as part of the operating system. This leads to either wasted money because they purchase something that Windows can already do or to bloated software because they download and try several different systems unaware that most functions are already built into the Windows programming. The process to accessing these tools is not difficult, in spite the claim they are designed for those who are geeks as apposed to those who are typical parents trying to check up on their kids or what have you.

Here is an overview of the process. From the start menu select "Run". Once the "run" dialog is open and you have a box in which to type put in "perfmon" as the program name you are wanting to start ("perfmon" is short for Performance Monitor Application). It will prompt you to accept this program running so click the offered "OK" to move to the next step. The launch of the application will create a graph. Since you want to monitor more then just the overall output, off click to bring up the context menu. From here select "Add Counters" to open a new window. This is where you will run your custom monitoring counter.

On the open blank window you can easily enable network monitoring by picking the computer connected to the network via the drop down menu. This will give you monitoring ability over that machine. Nest pick what you want to keep an eye on, like processor, browser, or even base memory being used on the machine. Once you have both the computer and the factor you want to track figured out use the add button to move this onto the main graph. You can do this for each computer on the network.

This type of home network care is important for several factors. If you use wireless LAN connections to bridge several computers to a single modem there is a real risk of passwords and sensitive data being lifted from the exposed network. While Internet providers make it easy and simple to install LAN networks, they do not often mention the risks involved either, leaving the home user unaware of the security breach. They are also unaware of the built in network monitoring tools that come with Windows. Often times by the point a secondary product is purchased, the breach in security has existed so long that most sensitive information is already floating through cyberspace. All it takes for someone to steal valuable data and bandwidth from your home is finding a good spot to tap into the unsecured LAN network and if you lack monitoring for it you will never know where that is going.

Wireless Network Monitoring

Today's routers are very simple to install and the included CD should guide you in connecting your computer to the router so you can configure the important Wi-Fi settings such as the SSID, security key and encryption. Coming up with a complicated security key with solid encryption should protect your wireless connection from unauthorized usage. But if you want to make sure that nobody is secretly using your wireless connection, you should resort to using network monitoring tools. These network monitoring solutions may not seem easy to come by if you look online but you may have some in your computer already. To find out if you have them, use these network monitoring tips.

The first thing you should do is check if your router can monitor the entire wireless network. Most routers are accessible by typing their domain url into your web browser. You should then be prompted with a username or password where you need to supply the correct details. A reset may be required if you forgot the username and/or password. You may also need to consult your router's user manual if the local address does not work. The interface and monitoring features can vary depending on the router but one thing you should try to look for is the section that shows nothing but the statistics of your router. This section may have a button where you can see the list of clients connected to your network. Simply clicking that button can take you to a page where you can see what devices are using your network and possibly more information.

The router can give you a general overview of your network but it cannot really tell exactly what each connected computer is doing. This is where you have to resort to programs that run in the background to monitor wireless activities. The Task Manager can only go as far as checking the network activity of your own system. Other third-party tools are required to monitor the rest of the network. But if you just want to see if there are unknown devices using the wireless network, consider checking your virus scanner or Internet security suite. Many modern security applications come with wireless network monitors to ensure that malware doesn't spread across the network. Try exploring those programs and see how effective they are in monitoring your network. Just take note that Windows Defender does not feature any wireless monitoring capabilities.

If you still cannot figure out a way to monitor your network, you can try looking for network monitoring tools using your favorite search engine. WirelessNetView by NirSoft is one example of a simple and portable program. Many of these programs are free so look for those before you try out any commercial solutions.