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Open source monitoring tools provide administrators with important information and feedback about computer networks. Unlike traditional applications, open source tools can be freely modified. This allows computer experts to adapt a tool to meet specific needs. Common types of open source monitoring tools are bandwidth monitoring, network packet monitoring, and system resource usage applications.
Normal software is "closed source." This means that the end user cannot see or modify the programming of an application. Open source software, on the other hand, allows and even encourages users to study and change the structure of a program. People using open source tools can add features, fix problems, and adapt software without the assistance of the original publisher.
Open source software is available for a wide range of uses, including network monitoring. A network monitoring tool enables personnel to check the status of computer connections without being physically present at the network location. Monitoring tools are helpful for tracking the state of a computer network after normal business hours, and can alert users if a major problem occurs. Many open source monitoring tools are even able to send alerts to administrators automatically using text messages or e-mails.
An open source bandwidth monitoring tool tracks the amount of data that is sent over a communication line. Excessive bandwidth usage can slow down a network, and create problems for users. Open source bandwidth monitoring tools allow administrators to observe data transfer in a visual format, such as a graph. Large jumps in bandwidth seen on a graph can indicate that the network is being used improperly by a hacker or virus.
Network packet tracking is another common use for open source monitoring tools. This type of software reports information regarding the data that moves through a network. Traffic does not flow continuously over a network, but instead is delivered in chunks or "packets" of data. Each packet includes details such as the source and destination Internet protocol (IP) address. An open source packet monitoring program is useful for locating trouble spots or malicious attacks in a network.
Open source system resource monitoring tools are applications that track vital hardware statistics. The information monitored by these tools includes central processing unit (CPU) usage and file sizes on a server computer. If these important measurements are too high, a network server can become slow or even crash. Monitoring applications permit administrators to fix these problems before a critical error occurs.