by March 14, 2002 0 comments

PlexusWatch is a network-monitoring tool. It’s simple to install, but is available only for Win NT 4.0 and Linux. We reviewed the NT version.

The tool requires the Java VM to run. You can either use it with an existing VM or the PlexusWatch installation will install one specifically for the application. It provides useful information about your network traffic for troubleshooting. It gives a summary of packets as well as protocol level information about them. You can also see all the devices on your network, and what services they are running. There’s also a packet decryptor, a filter to view specific information and an injector to throw packets on your network. All this information can be called from the toolbar. 


Price: Rs 48,000
Meant for: Network administrators
Features: Real-time packet capture and decoding, storage of packet data, real-time graphical analysis of network statistics
Pros: Simple to install and use, comprehensive data display, covers most network protocols
Contact: Prudente Solution. Bangalore. Tel: 080-3205391 

The summary of packet capturing is displayed in the network synopsis. It can provide real-time information on the number of packets flowing across the network within a user-definable time duration. It can be useful to determine the average bandwidth utilization on your network, and show the amount of broadcast and multicast packets flowing on your network over a certain time period. You can also have a graph-view, which is useful if done in real-time, as it plots it against bandwidth utilization on the Y-axis. The Y-axis can show utilization of up to 100% in increments of 10. Unfortunately you can’t change the number of increments here. It would’ve been better if this scale adjusted according to the readings.

The network and transport layer protocol view is very useful, as it displays the total number of protocols captured, and the break-up either as a bar or pie-chart. You can also view the total number of packets being sent by each protocol. It recognizes certain protocols, and for the ones it doesn’t, it puts them in the Other category. 

The Device statistics is useful in that it displays which device on your network is using what protocol. For most of them, it displays the IP address, MAC address and NetBIOS name. You can also determine what services are running on a particular device, such as Telnet, FTP and POP3. 

To really drill down into the packets, it has the packet decryptor, which displays all information about each packet. All the protocols it captures are color-coded for easy identification. But, you can’t sort any of this information according to your needs. You can only drill down into each packet. There’s also a packet filter that can be used to capture specific traffic between any two points. You can specify the points based on IP address + port number of the MAC address. You can also specify a particular protocol for which the traffic should be captured, as well as the range of packet sizes to capture. However, it can only do this in real-time. When we tried it, it didn’t let us do filtering of captured packets. It comes with a skimpy help file. 

The bottom line: PlexusWatch can be quite useful in determining your network’s performance and the chatty devices on your network though it needs a better interface and comprehensive help. Given the price, it’s worth a buy considering the prices of other similar utilities. 

Anil Chopra at PCQ Labs

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