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I need a network monitoring program that I can run from my computer, but that monitors my entire network for my house. My ISP imposes a data cap of 300GB per month. Due to finances some of my family members had to move in with me, and last month we exceeded the data cap. Since this is for my home, free would probably be my only option. In case it helps, my home network is composed of two hardwired Windows desktops and, on average, 5 to 7 wireless devices from phones to laptops to game consoles.

The program must be able to do the following:

  1. Monitor the entire network from one Windows or Linux desktop.
  2. Either send an email alert or turn off internet access for the network when a specified amount of internet data has been used. Both is preferable, but either will work independently.

There are three things that would be nice for the program to have, but are by no means requirements:

  1. If the program can keep track of how much data is being used by each device, it would be nice.
  2. If the program can terminate an individual wireless device's network connection after it uses a certain amount of data, it would be great.
  3. If the program can put devices into a group and terminate the network connection of all devices in a group after a group has collectively used a certain amount of data, that would allow me to put each family member's devices into a group and allot each person an amount of data to use.

I realize these features are pretty much a wishlist and I probably won't find such features in a free program.

I have already tried every program on this list, but none of them did what I needed. I also have tried a program called Networx, but I have two problems with it. The first is that I feel like it is reading more data than is actually moving to and from the internet. The second is that for it to work in the situation I need it to, I would have to have it running on a computer in between my modem and my wireless router, and I don't have a spare pc to do that with. It has an option to monitor the modem directly, but I have been unable to get it to work with my modem, and I am certain it was monitoring more data than was moving to and from the internet when I tried it at a friend's house.

migrated from superuser.com Dec 4 '15 at 3:18

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  • Agree with @DavidPostill - but there is a fundamental problem with the question - you can't get software running on computer to do this - unless its done on each device. You need to monitor the traffic through the router - It may be a good idea to state the router make and model and look at firmware solutions for that, if its an option. – davidgo Dec 4 '15 at 1:29
  • @davidgo how about with a hub – barlop Dec 4 '15 at 3:11
  • @davidgo Unfortunately a firmware change isn't an option. My ISP provides my modem, which is currently also my wireless router. Thanks for your input, though. – zgraytech Dec 4 '15 at 3:11
  • You Can Try Buying A Hub (though if you aren't even willing to change the modem your ISP provided, then you probably won't) – barlop Dec 4 '15 at 3:25
  • @Nicolas Thanks for your help with the edit. – zgraytech Dec 4 '15 at 13:36
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First step is to establish what control and data you have available on your modem/router - your ISP should be able to help on this but there is often the relevant information for logging on to the router on the backplane or underside of the router - some of them are very sophisticated these days. Depending on the brand you should be able to do some or all of the following but you may need to turn up the logging level for a day or two to get the information,:

  • Identify which users are using the most data access on the network
  • Possibly either cap or rate limit those users/machines - games consoles are often the major culprit
  • Do the same for specific applications, to two major culprits are media streaming and games.

If the router does not provide the information & rules that you require you should at least be able to turn off the WiFi and connect to the ISP router by a single cable from either a bought in router/hub that does provide what you need or from a Linux machine acting as your router. If you go for the latter the machine will need at least 2 wired network connections and a wireless connection and need to be running as a network server with logging and rules in place, this is the only software solution in this answer and very generalised as to detail all of the options that this offers would be a book.

Update Note that a RaspberryPi with a WiFi dongle could act as your WiFi hub with logging and the cost would be minimal.

The last option should provide all of the capabilities that you require and the machine will be available for other tasks but would need to stay powered on all of the time, (another expense). The software to do this is free but learning to set it all up will take some time and effort - it may lead to a new career though.

Possibly the cheapest options are:

  1. Pay your ISP for a plan with a bigger data allowance commercial option - possibly asking your new "guests" to contribute to the added cost.
  2. Switch ISPs to get the same commercial option 2 - may even save you money
  3. Watch your data usage as a household via the ISPs web pages and when it is getting very near to the cap switch off & unplug the modem likely to be unpopular Dictator Option 1
  4. Warn your family members that you are doing the above and which applications are likely to push you over the limit and ask them to refrain from using them. Wetware option
  5. Daily check on your usage, graph it, and warn everybody of the predicted date of the data usage reaching the limit you have set yourself for doing 3 above - e.g.: telling everybody "if you all carry on as you have been we will stop having the internet next Tuesday for the rest of the month" may have an effect. Social-ware Option
  6. Turn off WiFi for specific time periods Dictator Option 2
  7. Turn off WiFi altogether and inform your guests that if they need to update their phones they should find a free WiFi spot in one of the many commercial outlets that offer it. "not a mug"-ware option
  • After we passed the data cap last month, option 6 went into effect. They weren't happy about, but it was the only way to keep from paying even more. We I get home tonight I will see if my modem has the logging capabilities you mentioned, but as for the Linux system doing the logging, I don't have a spare pc to use for that. Thanks for your help. – zgraytech Dec 4 '15 at 13:41
  • I just checked in the GUI of my modem and the logging is very limited. It looks like it only logs when a device connects or disconnects and when something happens with the modem itself, such as when it turns on or when I turned off the WiFi. I think I'm stuck with option 7 for now. I appreciate your help. – zgraytech Dec 4 '15 at 21:38
  • The good news is that there are a lot of free WiFi spots about these days - and of course while they are updating the house will be quieter - win-win! – Steve Barnes Dec 5 '15 at 6:02
  • Just a thought though - a machine acting as a central logger does not need to be a PC - A RaspberryPi with a WiFi dongle could probably do the job. – Steve Barnes Dec 5 '15 at 6:08
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    I was never able to implement a solution, but this answer covers what seems to be every possible angle. I think I'm just looking for the impossible. Thanks for your help @Steve. – zgraytech Dec 10 '15 at 18:44
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Another option would be to take some snapshots of network traffic so as to establish most likely culprits by IP address - depending on your network configuration, operating system and hardware Scapy or Wireshark may be able to put your WiFi card into monitor or promiscuous mode. You will then be able to capture all of the WiFi traffic.

  • Wireshark has a nice GUI, is simpler to install and has some nice analysis tools
  • Scapy is command line/shell but you may find it easier to extract the data you need as it is all script-able in python.
  • Both are available for various platforms
  • Both are free
  • In both cases you may or may not be able to put a specific network/WiFi card into promiscuous mode.
  • I've seen Wireshark used before by the tech guys where I used to work. It's an awesome tool. We all agreed that everyone in the house, including myself, probably used about the same amount. We each have our own Netflix account and with three of those going at the same time, data runs out pretty quick. Thanks for the suggestion though. – zgraytech Dec 6 '15 at 14:15

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