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I work on a small company where 4 computers are connected to the Internet through a router. (router is linked to a hub 'switcher I think' and gives all computers internet access). I want to control the internet connection, here's how

  • See the data flow of computers, this mean track all data computers send and receive through the internet
  • Check who is connected and control his bandwidth

may be other things, but that's the most important, I'm looking essentially for a third party software that just DO THAT, I don't want a huge software full of 'crap'.

Any idea how can I do that?

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I believe this could be my motto: I don't want a huge software full of 'crap'. –  kubanczyk Jun 25 '09 at 14:32

8 Answers 8

up vote 4 down vote accepted

You should look into getting untangle (http://www.untangle.com/) and get a dedicated box to run that on. It's FREE, open source, and allows you to do a lot of things to both monitor traffic, and make the internet safer for your company's network.

If you just want to monitor traffic, I'd suggest you use Wireshark, although it won't let you control that traffic, it will allow you (if you configure the network properly) to see all data in and out of the network.

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+1 for recommending an appliance-like solution –  Kevin Kuphal Jun 25 '09 at 14:53
    
+1 for Untangle. We use it, and it's great. –  phuzion Jun 25 '09 at 15:00

You can use the hardware/software combinations as the above/below stated. I have another recommendation.

There is Broadcom-based router replacement firmware called Tomato. It can do QoS and track connection information and even has some beautiful bandwidth graphs with totals, monthly usage, etc. It basically turns a $50 router into a fully managed switch that can cost $1000s.

It is installable on a number of routers, I have been using it on a WRT54G router for a while and it works great. It would work great with a small office of 4 PCs.

There is a wiki with lots of information.

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The "easiest" way to control and monitor all of this would be to eliminate the hardware router and put in a PC with multiple NICs. Use it to act as a router, and you can perform filtering, Quality of Service, bandwidth throttling, etc.

Since you're not a large company, this is much more doable. Enterprise solutions would be very expensive for you.

This will give you a start with Linux:
http://newbiedoc.sourceforge.net/networking/homegateway.html

And in case you're running Windows server:
http://articles.techrepublic.com.com/5100-10878_11-5844624.html

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I probably wouldn't call moving from a Netgear style router to a Linux firewall/router "easy" for most people. –  Kevin Kuphal Jun 25 '09 at 14:52
    
That's why I put easy in quotes. It's probably easier than finding a managed switch, configuring the switch to redirect all traffic to a specific host, and then configuring that host to automagically configure the router to throttle a specific connection (which may not even be possible). See? A linux router becomes "easy". ;-) –  Matt Simmons Jun 25 '09 at 15:01

If you want to get into content filtering, you could use something like DansGuardian. It's a free, open-source content filtering system that doesn't just block by a big list, but actually analyzes the pages as they are being served into the system. If it doesn't hit any flags, the page is served through to the user, completely transparently, but if it sees something that makes it look bad, it blocks the page.

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Netgear (and many other manufacturers) have/has some managed switches (hardware that you may already have?) that can prioritize bandwidth (through a web interface) and you can use Wireshark (free) to examine traffic.

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The easiest thing would be if the router has NetFlow support. Then you can run a netflow program on your PC. This is just for monitoring use.

Since you ask I don't think it does though.

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You didn't mention cost but there are a number of options on the hardware level. Barracuda and Sonicwall make higher end devices, but you may want to look at the Watchguard Firebox products. They start at about $600 and can provide a wide range of features like the ones you are looking for. Just add the Web Blocker to the X10e unit.

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We have an old Firebox here, which I don't have much experience using, with us moving to Untangle and Sonicwall before starting. As far as I know, they're decent devices, but since this is a very small office that the OP is asking about, I'm tempted to recommend open-source over commercial hardware appliances, for the sole reason of cost alone. $600 could be much better spent in their organization on a server, another desktop computer, or any other type of IT expense. Why spend money when you don't have to, right? –  phuzion Jun 25 '09 at 15:06
    
Cost savings is great, but depending on the experience level of the IT administrator, an open source solution may cost far more in the long run if they have to spend hours configuring, troubleshooting, or maintaining it vs a set and forget hardware appliance. –  Kevin Kuphal Jun 25 '09 at 16:13

OK here's the obligatory mention of SQUID.

SQUID is a web proxy so it can handle all web (including ftp://) access. You can restrict content in lots of ways and you can restrict by username and even by time of day, and you can analyse the logs to see exactly what your chaps have been downloading. Best of all SQUID is completely free, and courtesy of http://www.ratsauce.co.uk/notablog/squid27setup.asp easy to get working.

But SQUID isn't a general network monitor, so for example you couldn't intercept or control e-mail. It also can't control bandwidth. If what you really want to control is web access then I can strongly recommend SQUID as I use it at many of our branch offices.

JR

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