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10 must-have utilities for small networks

Preston Gralla, PC World | April 13, 2011
If you have a small network at your business or at home, you need help--and lots of it.

Netbrute Scanner

Raw Logic Software's Netbrute Scanner (free) is an extremely useful tool for people who want to test their network's security. It scans all of the computers on a network, and then looks for security holes such as open TCP ports, installed software such as servers and FTP software, and shared folders and resources. Based on what you find, you can reconfigure each PC. Though the vendor's site doesn't list this software as working with Windows 7, I was able to run it on Windows 7 without a hitch.

Test Network Speed

Probably the most common complaint people who use networks have is that the network is too slow. But gauging how fast they really are can be difficult. Also, you might want to know which computers use the most bandwidth. The following tools are great for helping solve these mysteries.

Bandwidth Monitor 2 Lite Edition

Once you've installed Rokario's free Bandwidth Monitor 2 Lite Edition on any PC on your network, it will track bandwidth use in real time. The program displays download bandwidth use, upload bandwidth use, and total bandwidth. It also keeps logs of bandwidth use, so you can retain a historical record.

Install it on every PC on your network and then check the results--especially the historical records of bandwidth use--regularly on each PC. That way, you can see whether any bandwidth hogs are wallowing on your network. Based on that, you can try to reduce its excess demand...maybe too much YouTube?

LAN Speed Test

Another useful bandwidth-and-speed tool, Totusoft's LAN Speed Test checks the real upload and download speeds of the network on the PC where it is installed. Load it on every PC on your network, and run it regularly on each one. That way, you can see whether any PCs are having speed problems that may require intervention.

Help With Your Wireless Network

Troubleshooting a wireless network can be one of the most frustrating tasks known to man or woman. But these two tools promise to make it somewhat easier.

InSSIDer 2

Wireless networks are notoriously flaky, and often bedeviled by dead spots--areas where a wireless signal is always or intermittently weak, or where the signal doesn't reach at all. You'll find this problem especially vexing if you have a rambling house or office; but even if you have a relatively compact network workspace, things like metal office furniture can wreak havoc on the network's receptivity.


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