Yes, there’s an app for that. What goes on with a local network, home or office, once was the domain of the geeky Mac users or members of the company IT group. Now you can view and analyze network traffic from the comfort of your Mac thanks to PeakHour, an app which un-complicates the complicated and puts the data into easy to understand eye candy.
Behold. Network traffic, the Mac way.
PeakHour pulls data that’s already collected by most modern routers– home or office; most of those that handle SNMP properly– and displays it in a real time graph so you can see, well, peak hours, ebb and flow of usage, and total bandwidth usage for any period. In. Real. Time.
What you get isn’t just totals, either. PeakHour displays connected devices and because the data it uses comes from the router, it can also show you how much data is being used by each device; both incoming and outgoing.
Configuration isn’t much, but there are granular controls to satisfy your Mac geek gene. PeakHour finds devices, displays usage, and the Configuration Assistant makes it easy for the Mac power user wannabe to get started.
Most such tracking devices use SNMP or UPnP to monitor and log network traffic from a router. Just remember; not all routers are created equal. Even Apple’s recent Airport models won’t give you access to SNMP. Fortunately for my usage, it’s connected to a Motorola router which connects to the cable TV internet connection. More on that below.
What is especially impressive– other than the total bandwidth going through the router; incoming and outgoing– is the list of devices connected to the router and the data that PeakHour collects on each one.
Charts and graphs can tell you right away who– or, at least, which device is connected to the internet– and how much data they’re using. Whenever Apple issues an upgrade to iOS or OS X we’ll see a spike as all our devices go through an upgrade process, and for a few days afterwards, dozens of applications get upgraded to match.
That sucks up a lot of bandwidth in a short period of time.
PeakHour comes two ways. As a try-before-you-buy version from the app developer, and from the Mac App Store. That means you can try it first, buy from the App Store if you choose, but either way the app can be used on multiple Macs, but only the version from the developer has the option of an upgrade from an older version.
The real question most Mac users will want answered is, “Will PeakHour work with my router?” Fortunately, there’s an app for that and it’s called PeakHour. The 10 day trial lets you check it out first.
Caveats? A few. Sometimes the data from the router goes absolutely wonky, and troubleshooting indicates that’s a router issue rather than a PeakHour issue (I’ve done some SNMP testing with other router utilities). I’d also like to see some color-coded icons for various network connected devices so iPads can be differentiated from iPhones from Macs and maybe something in red for an unidentified device which might be hogging some bandwidth.
PeakHour would be a great app to use if your internet connection has bandwidth usage limits because the usage triggers can send alerts to Notification Center when usage hits a certain level. An email or text alert would be useful, too.
And it’s tough to beat the price.