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I have a small network of Mac systems, and would like to add some internal monitoring of our internet usage, which has recently begun to climb. I would like to configure one of the machines as an internet gateway, and install some monitoring software that could provide graph indications of network usage by machine.

The machine would then double as a workstation and as the internet gateway. I can manually configure the machines on the network to use it as a gateway, and would prefer to avoid an explicit http proxy (although it is an option if necessary).

What software would serverfault users recommend to provide simple, easily configurable and maintainable network monitoring on Mac OS 10.5.7 (non-server)? The simplest requirement is monitor usage by IP Address, but additional tracking (e.g. destination, protocol, etc) would be useful.

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2 Answers 2

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Because this is kind of a sysadmin Q&A forum, one thing I'd suggest is using a dedicated machine to do this and have your clients set up to point to that machine as a gateway and on it run a bootable router distro of Unix (FreeBSD or Linux). Most of them include preconfigured graphing software to monitor usage and act as a firewall.

Search distrowatch for bootable router discs such as smoothwall or livecd router or any other distro categorized as a router.

Alternatively you can try using a virtual machine on the Mac to run a router distro and bridge it's connection to your Mac.

The benefit to getting a ~$300 machine with two NICs to do this is that you won't have traffic from other machines bottlenecked by your machine and your machine's activities, and you won't be bottlenecked when someone else is doing something more intensive on the network. You can also shut down or sleep your machine and not affect everyone else as well.

This also kind of fits into the philosophy of using the best tool for the job. You can get the Mac to proxy things and monitor it while using it as a workstation. But really getting a dedicated machine running a distro made just for routing and monitoring will be more flexible for you in the long run and save you some configuration hassles.

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hey, the internet is slow? is someone starting photoshop again.? Dedicated machine would be a good idea, for both performance, security and reliability. –  The Unix Janitor Mar 23 '10 at 16:12
    
I was trying to avoid adding a dedicated system into the network - it's definitely a small office, and the additional hardware just doesn't seem justified at this point. For now, I'll look deeper into utilising a virtual for the purpose. Thanks. –  Gareth Saul Mar 25 '10 at 6:19

To build on the comment above, on the gateway (could be OS X), you can run ntop. That will give you some pretty detailed information about what kind of traffic each system is doing. Still, it would be best to have a dedicated box act as the gateway.

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