How many ways can you watch network traffic flow through your Mac? I have a few favorites because I’m a bit bit of a sucker for all that glitters. It may not be gold, but a little color goes a long way toward telling the truth; and the truth is I’m dazzled by charts and graphs, more so if they’re showing real time data.
Here’s the basic scenario. Your Mac is connected to the internet through a modem or router somewhere in the house or office (probably with a number of other devices connected, too). How can you find out how much bandwidth you or others on the network are using, and which devices use the most? How can you tell if your Mac’s network connection is working OK? Here are three apps that help.
Visualize, Analyze, Realize
One of my favorite Mac Menubar utilities is called PeakHour. The latest version tracks your Mac’s network connection, stores bandwidth and performance data, and gives you a quick and dirty snapshot of your network. One click to the Mac’s Menubar reveals current and past network performance to and from your Mac. A quick glance to the Menubar lets you know how much data has been coming in or going out.
PeakHour’s realtime view lets you zoom in to specific times, zoom, display various connected network devices, and, if you’re on a metered connection, send you usage notices to make sure you don’t use more bandwidth than you want.
Setting up PeakHour takes a few minutes but isn’t difficult. Tracking begins immediately and works with multiple devices. One benefit of tracking data, incoming and outgoing, is to make sure you’re getting what you pay for.
Take a look.
The only caveat to using PeakHour is your router or modem; whether DSL or cable, must be capable of collecting the right data. PeakHour requires a modern UPnP (plug and play) or SNMP capable device to gather and record data. Fortunately, there’s a Compatibility Check app (free), and the app itself, though available from the Mac App Store, also comes with a 10-day try-before-you-buy trial.
There’s a healthy amount of eye candy flowing through your Mac’s internet connection. Why not take a bite?
What if PeakHour is overkill for your or you don’t have a compatible router that captures all that data?
First on my list is one dear to my heart because it’s so simple and because I use an ethernet cable from my modem to my iMac– no Wi-Fi. Ethernet Status is a simple Menubar icon which displays the Mac’s internet connection status. The Mac has a built-in Wi-Fi connection icon in the Menubar, but if you’re in an office with ethernet instead, there’s not a corresponding Menubar icon. Ethernet Status displays multiple ethernet interfaces, monitors changes and updates accordingly, and can’t be cheaper.
Second on my list is a simple network utility called NetWorker which displays network speed and traffic from the Menubar. One click switches between One Line Speed, One Line Traffic, and Two Line Speed and Traffic, or both. The pop down window displays about everything you can get from such data.
Not bad for 99-cents.