11 Best Network Traffic Analyzers for Mac, Windows & Linux in 2021

Every day, vast amounts of data are created, which businesses can use to analyze their network operations and identify security threats.

The traffic that enters and goes out of your network can provide a great deal of information to the network administrators to keep the network safe and up.

What Are Network Traffic Analyzers?

For detecting and responding to security threats, it is essential to Intercept, analyze, and record the patterns in network traffic communications, all of which are part of network traffic analysis.

There are numerous cyber threats and cybercriminals with different tactics to avoid detection, waiting to exploit your system by leveraging legitimate credentials using trusted tools. This makes them challenging to identify.

A network traffic analyzer assists the network administrators in identifying applications and protocols, identify bandwidth hogs, troubleshoot network and application performance issues, and monitor server-to-client network traffic currently running on the network.

Businesses must achieve consistency and comprehensive visibility in their network to gain an objective perspective. The network analysis tools can prove to be a great source in providing this insight.

These tools were designed to combat the constantly innovating cybercrime. They provide the companies a realistic way to thwart creating hacking events.

10 Key Features of Network Traffic Analysis Tools

The market is flooded with network traffic analysis tools being released every day. Thus, you must know what features to look for based on your company’s needs.

Here are some of the key features that you should look for:

1. Encrypted Traffic Analysis

An ideal network traffic analyzer for your organization will be the one that allows the security experts to identify the network threats and risks without the need to view complete contents, thus protecting data integrity and privacy.

2. Comprehensive Baselines

The tools can then create comprehensive baselines using entity tracking to understand the entities at source and destination and their traffic patterns. For instance, baselines for a workstation, server, camera, and IP phone will be different.

3. Create custom reports

Network traffic analysis tools usually come with pre-built dashboards and reports. Still, the best tool for you would be the one that allows users to create customized messages to make troubleshooting easier.

4. Track network activity of the user

Integrating active directory users with the network traffic analysis tool will help you with troubleshooting and network forensics activities.

5. Network forensics & security monitoring

The best network traffic analyzer comes with network forensics and network monitoring activities such as identifying ransomware attacks, detect MAC addresses, monitor unusual traffic, detect SMBv1 and similar protocols, etc.

Network Traffic Analyzer Tools Compared

Out of the numerous network traffic analysis tools available in the market, we are listing the top five network traffic analyzer tools for your benefit:

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NTAPlatformDeploymentSuitable forPrice
WiresharkWindows, Linux, macOS, Solaris, etc.On-premiseSingle use casesFree
Elastic StackWindows, Linux, and macOSOn-premise and cloudFree
NetFort LANGuardianLinuxOn-premiseSmall to large businessesPrice based on the number of users. Offers a 30-day free trial
Paessler Network AnalysisWindowsOn-premise and cloudSmall to large businessesFree trial for 30-days. The price starts from $1750 for 500 sensors.
SolarWinds NetFlow Traffic AnalyzerWindowsOn-premiseSmall to large businessesFree trial for 30-days. The price starts from $1036.

How to analyze network traffic?

The network traffic analysis tools help the network admins to analyze network traffic and capture and read flow data such as volume, bandwidth utilization, speed, and packets sent and received.

  • Many network traffic analysis tools come with a dashboard showing an overview of the network using visualizations.
  • You can identify which applications, protocols, interface, ports, and users are hogging the bandwidth on the dashboard.
  • The tools provide functionalities to generate real-time traffic reports so that you can closely monitor the monthly or hourly traffic trend to identify link utilization metrics, peak usage hours, etc.
  • The conversation details of the incoming and outgoing traffic can help identify the top applications generating traffic, thus assisting the admins in fixing the problems faster.
  • The security reports that the NetFlow analyzer tools generate information about the unusual behavior on the network and categorize them accordingly.

What are the types of traffic monitored?

Network traffic or data traffic refers to the number of packets or traffic data moving across a network at any given time.

Network traffic analyzers can be classified into four categories:

1. Non-real time traffic: It refers to the amount of bandwidth consumption during working hours.

2. Latency-sensitive traffic: It refers to traffic with insufficient response time due to bandwidth competition.

3. Busy/heavy traffic: It refers to the traffic data which consumes high bandwidth.

4. Interactive traffic: It refers to the competitive bandwidth traffic that offers slow response time because the prioritization for applications and traffic isn’t defined.

What are the metrics to be monitored when analyzing network traffic?

While choosing the ideal network traffic analyzer for your organization, there are some metrics used by network performance monitor that are important to examine, such as:

1. Throughput: It measures the actual flow data transmission rate of the network.

2. Retransmission: It allows the IT admins to know the drop rate of packets that indicates network congestion.

3. Connectivity: It checks the connection between network nodes and their performance.

4. Packet loss: It shows the number of packets lost during transmission.

5. Latency: The delay between the node or device requesting data and the time of data delivery.

What to look for in Network Traffic Analysis Tools?

From easy-to-use packet sniffers to complex systems sampling multiple network points simultaneously, every network traffic analysis tool is available in the market.

However, the tool best suited for your needs would offer maximum usable functionalities within your budget.

The ideal tool for you will have functionalities such as packet capture, data storage, etc. Some of these tools offer a deep protocol stack, automated network mapping, threat analysis, etc.

List of Network Traffic Analysis Tools

1. ManageEngine OpManager Plus

Network Flow Analyzer - ManageEngine OpManager Plus

Website: ManageEngine OpManager Plus

OpManager Plus, offered by ManageEngine, is a complete infrastructure monitoring package that provides a comprehensive range of monitoring capabilities, including traffic flow analysis and network device health monitoring.

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The tool comes with a traffic flow capture system that can communicate with network devices to display real-time network metrics on a dynamic dashboard.

You can gain immediate insight into the network using regular scanning, device inventory, and creating topology maps. The alerts for issues can be sent via SMS or email.

ManageEngine OpManager Plus comes with a 30-day trial and can integrate with cloud servers. It is supported by Windows and Linux servers.

2. The Elastic Stack

Network Flow Analyzer - Elastic Stack

Website: The Elastic Stack

The Elastic Stack offers the companies a flexible way to buy software without any restrictions to get an all-inclusive monitoring and analysis system.

The companies can select the best network analysis functions that they desire for their Elastic Stack that helps in better capturing, analyzing, and displaying results from packets.

The network traffic analysis tool offers Kibana a front end that can interact with many back-end data gathering and interpolation systems featuring customizable dashboards and dynamic data visualizations.

Elastic Stack also offers a cloud-based service called Elastic cloud, and both versions are free and are compatible with Linux, Windows, and macOS.

3. Paessler Network Traffic Analysis

Network Flow Analyzer - Paessler network monitor

Website: Paessler Network Traffic Analysis

Suitable for small to large businesses, Paessler PRTG Network Traffic Analyzer is a user-friendly and powerful tool to analyze network elements.

It allows the users to troubleshoot the network and avoid bottlenecks using efficient resources and capacity planning, SNMP, WMI, and packet analysis.

The Netflow analyzer provides a clear overview of the network devices and applications using tables and diagrams.

The reporting system of Paessler can automatically send individual reports and understand network capabilities using a clear and customizable dashboard.

It comes with a 30 days trial post which price starts from $1750 for 500 sensors.

4. SolarWinds NTA

Network Flow Analyzer - SolarWinds NTA

Website: SolarWinds NTA

The NetFlow Analyzer offered by SolarWinds is a tool that can capture data and convert it into charts and tables to facilitate readability and visualization.

This allows the IT admins to quickly understand the company’s network, who is using it, and what applications are running on it.

This tool, combined with the SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor, provides the organizations a comprehensive analysis and monitoring solution.

SolarWinds NetFlow Analyzer offers a 30-day trial and comes with features such as Bandwidth usage by applications, bandwidth utilization monitoring, network traffic monitoring, forensics, and flow-based monitoring and reporting.

5. NetFort LANGuardian

Network Flow Analyzer - Netfort LANGuardian

Website: NetFort LANGuardian

The LANGuardian network traffic analysis software offered by NetFort is a deep packet inspection tool that can monitor network and user activities using a single point of reference.

LANGuardian is perfect for multiple network security due to its deep packet inspection and operational use cases. 

NetFort is easy to use and does not require any significant changes to the network.

The tool allows you to search the reports and critical data using the search bar by typing in the file name, IP address, username, etc.

NetFort LANGuardian comes with a real-time dashboard, historical reporting, user activity analysis, and network troubleshooting to enhance the poor network performance and identify its root cause.

6. Pixer Scrutinizer

Network Flow Analyzer - Pixer Scrutinizer

Website: Pixer Scrutinizer

The Scrutinizer Incident Response System offered by Pixer is a stand-alone NetFlow analyzer available on-premises, cloud-based services, or as a virtual appliance.

The tool collects packets and metrics using IPFIX, sFlow, J-Flow, NetFlow, and NetStream. This data from j-flow, sflow, etc., is shown in live graphs and stored for security analysis, such as identifying bottlenecks and traffic patterns.

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Scrutinizer comes with an interpolation engine to handle the large volumes of data using a sliding window, thus giving a near-live capability to spot security breaches immediately.

Pixer Scrutinizer offers a 30-day trial and provides three services based on a subscription basis: Free, SCR, and SSVR. The free version has a limited data storage limit and fewer utilities.

7. Nagios

Network Flow Analyzer - Nagios

Website: Nagios

Suitable for small to large businesses, Nagios is a network traffic analysis, network traffic monitoring, and server & application monitoring software that can identify overload issues and network connection problems.

This open-source tool comes with a powerful and intuitive web-based interface, advanced and automated alerting and reporting capabilities, and a bandwidth usage calculator.

The tool is not free and comes for $1995 for a single license. Nagios Network Analyzer helps network admins get high-level information on the network and gains in-depth network security threats and traffic sources.

8. Observium Community

Network Flow Analyzer - Observium Community

Website: Observium Community

Observium Community is suitable for ISPs, home labs, and small to large businesses for auto-discovering their network using various platforms, devices, and OS such as DellNet App, HP, Windows, and Linux.

The tool automatically collects and displays information about various protocols and services and provides a long-term network metric collection and intuitive visual representations.

Observium provides a powerful and intuitive interface to check the network’s health and get all network-related information proactively.

The software comes in three versions: Enterprise for large enterprises priced at $1300/year, Professional for SMEs and ISPs priced at $260/year, and Community for free home labs.

9. Wireshark

Network Flow Analyzer - Wireshark

Website: Wireshark

Wireshark is one of the best network traffic analysis tools available for small to large businesses that provide detailed information about the network.

Wireshark is an open-source and free tool that offers deep inspection of hundreds of protocols and has become a de-facto standard for most educational institutions, government agencies, commercial and non-profit organizations.

Wireshark reads and writes the captured network data in file formats such as Pcap NG, Tcpdump, etc., to allow users to browse the captured data via the GUI or TTY mode.

Wireshark provides decryption support for various protocols such as Kerberos, ISAKMP, IPsec, etc., and allows network admins to export data in plain text, XML, CSV, or PostScript.

10. Cacti

Network Flow Analyzer - Cacti

Website: Cacti

Suitable for small to large businesses, Cacti is a web-based open-source graphing tool that uses the power of the front-end RRDTool to store data and graph it.

It is a free tool that offers data gathering, graph display, graphs, templates, etc., and offers multi-data acquisition methods and user management features.

Cacti uses MySQL database to store necessary information and create and maintain graphs, round-robin archives, and different data sources in the database.

Cacti can be used for LAN-sized installations and complex networks as it offers advanced graph templates and fast poller.

11. Openwips-NG

Network traffic analyzer - OpenWIPS-NG

Website: Openwips-NG

WIPS-NG is a free intrusion prevention tool for wireless networks. It is a sister-product to Aircrack-NG, a hacker utility.

OpenWIPS-NG offers intrusion detection and automated response generation abilities using three elements: a data processor, an interface, and a sensor.

WIPS-NG sensor is a wireless packet sniffer for packet capture and acts as a two-way communication channel to become an implementer of mitigation strategies against malicious activity.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a network traffic analyzer?

The Network traffic analyzers provide a comprehensive view of the network, monitor network traffic, and identify threats to an organization’s network.

How do I check my network traffic?

Traffic analyzers such as Wireshark, Icinga, Paessler, SolarWinds NTA, NetFort LANGuardian, and ManageEngine OpManager can monitor network traffic.

How can I monitor live traffic on my network?

There are multiple NetFlow tools available in the market that can help monitor the network in real-time such as SolarWinds Network Traffic Analyzer, ManageEngine OpManager, Elastic Stack, Paessler PRTG NTA, Wireshark, Observium, Cacti, etc.

What is a NetFlow Analyzer?

The tool used by IT professionals to monitor, troubleshoot, and perform in-depth interpretation, inspection, and synthesis of an organization’s network is called a NetFlow Analyzer. NetFlow allows the network admins to perform efficient capacity planning to improve network availability to support the organization’s goals.

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