10 great free downloads for your network

They're useful, easy to learn ... and don't cost a thing.

NetLimiter Monitor

There are also for-pay versions of this software available. NetLimiter Lite costs US$8.95 to US$16.95, depending on the number of licenses; and NetLimiter Pro costs US$14.95 to US$29.95, depending on the number of licenses.

What's the biggest problem on many small networks? Bandwidth hoggers -- applications that suck up all or most of the available Internet and network bandwidth. Typically, it's tough or impossible to track down which applications or PCs are using all that bandwidth and harder still to do anything about it.

That's where NetLimiter comes in. It monitors bandwidth use so that you can identify the hoggers. The free version of the software, though, won't let you actually set bandwidth limits. For that, you'll need to buy one of the paid versions. The paid versions let you set bandwidth limits, including total amount of data downloaded or uploaded, on a per-application or per-connection basis. You can fine-tune it quite a bit, for example, by setting different limits for uploading and downloading.

There's a lot more to this application as well, including a firewall, bandwidth monitor and other functions. This isn't the easiest program to use -- at first, it seems as if there's no way to limit the bandwidth for any application. To do it, you need to click the Grants tab at the bottom of the screen and then, for the application you want to limit, click the Grant column, enter a value for the bandwidth limit, and click the check box.

There are three different versions of this program, starting with the free version, which only monitors network use and won't let you limit bandwidth use. The Lite version will let you set limits but won't do much more, and the Pro version adds a slew of features, including a firewall, scheduler and more.

Network Notepad

Designing a network, or keeping a clear record of one you already have, can be an exceedingly frustrating task. Most drawing programs don't have adequate tools for creating network diagrams. And as for pencil and paper, the less said about them, the better.

If you're looking for a tool to help you design your network or keep visual track of one you already have, you'll want to get Network Notepad. With it, you can design your network and draw schematics that are more than flat documents -- they're live and include links so that you could, for example, Telnet into any device on your network just by clicking on a button on the diagram.

It comes with a palette of icons for routers, servers, printers, boxes, hubs, modems and other network devices. To design your network, choose graphics from the palette and drag them onto your diagram, and connect the devices using a set of drawing tools. You then define the properties of each device such as giving them names and IP addresses. You can also import a host file, and Network Notepad will automatically populate the devices with the right IP addresses.

You can also program five buttons to launch programs when a device is clicked upon that will then act on the device. So you could click on a device to ping it, for example. Your diagram becomes a live, interactive drawing.

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Preston Gralla

Computerworld
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