Throughput vs. Bandwidth—Understanding the Differences

When it comes to network management and analysis, throughput and bandwidth are often confused by beginners. Both tell us about how a network is performing. Having a thorough understanding of both throughput and bandwidth is vital as they help identify the reasons for network slowdowns. Let’s understand what these terms mean and how they differ.

What Is the Throughput of a Network?

Throughput is the amount of data sent and received within a specific time frame in a network. In other words, it’s the rate at which data packets arrive at their destination. Throughput is usually measured in the following units:

  • Bits per second (bps)
  • Kilobit per second (Kbps)
  • Megabits per second (Mbps)

Most networks are designed as per the throughput needs of an organization. However, over time, as network complexity and scale grows, throughput starts getting affected by different factors such as network congestion, latency, jitter, and packet loss. To ensure a network performs optimally, IT teams need advanced network monitoring tools to keep track of such issues in a network.

What Is Bandwidth?

The bandwidth of a network is also measured in similar units as throughout. However, bandwidth is the maximum theoretical data transfer capacity of a network link. A higher bandwidth network allows you to transfer more data. However, if you’re measuring the speed or performance of a network, use throughput. A high bandwidth network can still have latency issues, leading to lower throughput rates.

Top Tools to Monitor Bandwidth and Throughput

  1. SolarWinds® Network Bandwidth Analyzer Pack
  2. SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor
  3. SolarWinds NetFlow Traffic Analyzer
  4. Paessler PRTG Bandwidth Monitor
  5. ManageEngine Network Flow Analyzer

1. SolarWinds® Network Bandwidth Analyzer Pack

screenshot of solarwinds network bandwidth analyzer pack showing bandwidth utilization

Network Bandwidth Analyzer Pack is a bundle of SolarWinds network monitoring tools. It includes Network Performance Monitor (NPM) and NetFlow Traffic Analyzer (NTA). With this bundle, you can conveniently use both these tools to analyze, monitor, and resolve network performance issues. Learn more about the features and benefits of both these tools in more detail below.

2. SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor

screenshot of network performance monitor showing interfaces with high bandwidth utilization

SolarWinds NPM is designed to monitor and scale your network using advanced reporting, topology-aware network alerts, and intelligent mapping. Using this tool, IT teams can quickly find the root cause of problems such as network slowdowns, increased bandwidth usage, and more. NPM is basically a network throughput monitor with a wide variety of tools such as Wi-Fi Network Analyzer, SNMP and LAN monitoring, Deep Packet Analysis, and Visual Traceroute Tool. All these tools have their own USPs; however, most of them primarily focus on diagnosing bandwidth usage and traffic patterns.

NPM offers NetPath and PerfStack features for quick and easy network troubleshooting. NetPath performs a hop-by-hop analysis of cloud and on-premises applications/devices, and PerfStack provides immediate visualization of cross-stack network data. The NPM tool offers a highly intuitive interface to help you get a detailed summary of events like network activity, alerts, and device status.

3. SolarWinds NetFlow Traffic Analyzer

screenshot of solarwinds netflow traffic analyzer showing top 10 applications by bandwidth utilization

SolarWinds NetFlow Traffic Analyzer is specifically for bandwidth monitoring. With this simple yet advanced tool, you get a detailed understanding of packet loss, throughput, and bandwidth issues. SolarWinds NTA boosts your monitoring capabilities with its robust features such as custom dashboards, application recognition, and traffic alerts. It also gives clear visibility of bandwidth hogs using J-Flow, sFlow, NetFlow, NetStream, and IPFIX data on various routers.

You can easily find the applications using the most bandwidth with Cisco NBAR2 support. Along with applications network analysis, NTA effectively monitors wireless networks using the WLC traffic monitoring feature. Another exciting feature of NTA is CBQoS policy optimization. It gives you the idea of pre- and post-traffic levels and planned QoS policies. Once you’ve completed your detailed network analysis, get a complete overview of historical data in network summary graphs to identify and improve bandwidth lags.

4. Paessler PRTG Bandwidth Monitor

screenshot of paessler prtg network monitor showing bandwidth utilization

PRTG network monitor is a powerful tool to prevent network congestion and other issues. It quickly detects bandwidth overloads by displaying real-time data of download and upload speed. The tool supports monitoring sensors such as SNMP, WMI, J-Flow, Cisco ADSL, and NetFlow to help efficiently monitor the entire network. Moreover, it logs traffic by capturing high volumes of data as packets flowing across networks. The process is known as Packet Sniffing. Configuring devices is a hectic process. Therefore, to save time, PRTG includes an auto-discovery feature to ping specific IP addresses and scan your network. The PRTG tool then recognizes all the connected devices and creates custom sensors. For better understanding, it displays all the bandwidth and network data as charts and graphs.

5. ManageEngine Network Flow Analyzer

screenshot of manageengine network flow analyzer showing interfaces and bandwidth utilization

ManageEngine Network Flow Analyzer is among the top network monitoring tools for understanding bandwidth patterns. It measures bandwidth usage in real-time, identifies lags, and generates customized reports to avoid delays. It also includes some advanced features such as deep packet inspection, protocol monitoring, user-specific dashboards, IP SLA, and WLC monitoring. With Network Flow Analyzer, you can classify and categorize traffic coming from various networks, devices, and protocols.

How to Choose the Right Bandwidth Analyzer

Application performance highly depends on the health of your network. Using the above tools, IT teams can easily understand the factors affecting their network throughput and leading to network slowdowns. Although you get multiple bandwidth monitoring tools, for comprehensive analysis of throughput and bandwidth related issues, SolarWinds Network Bandwidth Analyzer Pack is among the best solutions in the market. You can download a free trial of the pack offering full functionality for 30 days.