If you're a network or a Linux admin, sometimes you need to monitor network traffic coming and going to/from your Linux servers. As there are a number of tools with which to handle this task, where do you turn? One very handy tool is vnStat. With vnStat you get a console-based network traffic monitor that is capable of monitoring and logging traffic on selected interfaces for specific dates, times, and intervals. Along with vnStat, comes a PHP script that allows you to view network traffic of your configured interface via a web-based interface.
I want to show you how to install and use both vnStat and vnStat-PHP on Linux. I'll demonstrate on Ubuntu Server 18.04, but the tool is available for most distributions.
What you'll need
The only things you'll need is a working instance of Linux and a user account with sudo privileges. With those things at the ready, let's install. For the web-based interface, you will need both Apache and PHP installed and running. I will assume you have all of this at the ready.
SEE: Quick glossary: Software-defined networking (Tech Pro Research)
As vnStat is available in the standard repositories, the installation is quick and easy. Open a terminal window and issue the following command:
sudo apt-get install vnstat
Once the installation completes, you're ready to start.
The first thing to do is find the name of the network interface you want to monitor. Issue the command ifconfig. You should see a listing of your network interfaces and their names (Figure A).
The interface I will use is enp0s3.
The next step is to configure vnStat so it knows which interface to monitor. To do this, run the command:
sudo nano /etc/vnstat.conf
Within this file, you'll want to change the monitored interface in the line:
Change eth0 to the interface you want to be monitored. Save and close that file.
Next we have to make sure vnstat is running. From the terminal window, issue the command:
sudo systemctl status vnstat
You should see that vnStat is running and listening to our configured interface (Figure B).
If vnStat doesn't show up as running, start and enable it with the commands:
sudo systemctl start vnstat sudo systemctl enable vnstat
At this point, you can issue the command:
vnstat -i enp0s3
The output should show you the incoming/outgoing traffic totals for the interface (Figure C). If you see none, wait a few minutes and try again.
Let's make this even easier, and install the web interface. Back at the terminal window, download the necessary file with the command:
Unpack and move the file with the commands:
tar xvzf vnstat_php_frontend-1.5.1.tar.gz sudo mv vnstat_php_frontend-1.5.1 /var/www/html/vnstat
Change into the newly moved directory with the command cd /var/www/html/vnstat. Open the configuration file for editing with the command sudo nano config.php. Within that file, you'll want to make the following changes:
language = 'en'; iface_list = array('eth1', 'sixxs'); iface_title['eth1'] = 'Public Interface';
Change the language to suit your needs and both instances of eth1 to the interface you want to monitor. Save and close that file.
You should now be able to point your web browser to http://SERVER_IP/vnstat, and see the current status of the interface vnstat is monitoring (Figure D).
Easy network traffic monitoring
If you need to monitor incoming and outgoing traffic on a network interface connect to a Linux server, using vnStat and vnStat-PHP is a one-two punch that makes the process incredibly easy. Give it a try, and see if it doesn't become your go-to for network traffic monitoring on your Linux servers.
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Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.