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Network Monitoring for Small Budgets

Netasyst analyzer software resembles Sniffer.

The minimum requirements to run Netasyst are a Pentium 600 MHz with 256 MB of memory running Windows 2000 or XP Professional. I tested the Cadillac Netasyst--the WLX or LAN/Wireless with Expert version--on a Windows 2000 computer in our Real-World Labs® at Syracuse University. Although the software will run using almost any network interface, NAI created enhanced drivers for a select few network cards and wireless adapters that can capture errors on the network interfaces. After installing the essential Sun Micro- systems Java 1.4.2, the software installation was a breeze.

Netasyst has the classic Sniffer look and feel--users of Sniffer products will feel right at home and new users will find the tool's interface intuitive. I started my tests on a spanned network port because I wanted to analyze and monitor traffic from many computers simultaneously. At start-up, the first view is the Dashboard, which displays the overall health of the network and supplies statistics on speed, utilization and errors on the network segment.

By clicking on topics such as application response time, host matrices and protocol distribution tables, you can drill down into the data to find abnormalities. I used these different perspectives to identify various problems on the network, including three virus-infected machines and a host creating massive amounts of spam e-mail.

I found it not only easy but also vital to define network filters to optimally capture and analyze data, including specific network protocols, application data and host-to-host network communications. To define filters, I selected computers that had been discovered by the software, and then specified the traffic I wanted to see from those computers. This was all done from a simple user interface. Despite the filters' usefulness and the ease with which they can be created, the process of creating filters is time-consuming. I'd like NAI to provide predefined filters during installation covering the basics, such as DNS, e-mail, Web and streaming media protocols. If these filters could also be modified, rather than requiring users to create their own filters from scratch, this would be top-drawer.

Packet Capture

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