determining network bottleneck

I manage the network and systems in a secondary school.

There are two situations with slow response I need to investigate this summer:

1 access to internal Apache web server system from outside the school.
2 One outlying classroom has slow connection to applications, internet, email.

Can anyone recommend FREE and EASY to UNDERSTAND network analysis software to help determine if there is a bottleneck and if so where?

I'm no networking expert - I know what I have needed to know over the last 15 years.
Who is Participating?
Aaron StreetConnect With a Mentor Infrastructure ManagerCommented:
nope you right you don't..

but it makes things a whole lot simpler.

they show up what is using a links, ie. who on the network is hammering a link with data making it slow for every one else.
errors on the link, such as a duplicate ip address causing a slow down,
in the case of a web server you can see things like traffic delay and server delay, client delay, so determin at what point the slowdown is occouring.

And most of these things can be done with out a sniffer such as wire shark, viewing webserver logs or looking at the counters on a switch to see network usage.... The lovely thing about a sniffier is you can see every thing from one centraly point. you can see what webpages are being visited. see how much bandwith jo bloggs is using. see the web server is taking 30seconds to respond to a request, see exactly how data is moving across the network and by what routes.

of course you need to use common sence. do you have a 10mbs link from the
outlaying classroom? what the network bandwith in to site to the webserve?

Kettanch is correct you dont need a sniffer to find bottle necks, however learn how to use one correctly and it can turn a 2+ hour serch for a problem, in to a 10min job.

They are not hard to learn, and as you use them you will pick up so much about networks and how they work that trouble shooting will just get simpler and simpler.
Kamran ArshadIT AssociateCommented:

Wireshark is the most comprehensive packet analyzer available to date. It captures data and decodes the packet headers for diagnostics. You can download it for free.

Incase you are new to wireshark;

Also have a look at Laurell Chappell's lessons on wireshark university;
Aaron StreetInfrastructure ManagerCommented:
HAve to agree wireshark is the best tool by far. ITs puts a lot of other tools costs many thousands of pounds to shame!!

you will need to spend a few hours learning the syntex of filters but they are generaly very stright forward



will filter out all the traffic in the capture apart from the listed ipaddress. this you jsut type in a bar to enavble it, and there is plenty of help around.

you will need to be able to mirror ports, have a wire tap, or a hub to capture the data but it is all fully explained in the documentation.

giving your self a few hours to learn wire shark will pay its self back many times over in years to come. To trouble shoot both network and servers it is a god send!
you dont need a sniffer to find the bottlenecks
ComputerFundiAuthor Commented:
Thanks - I'm in favour of anything that'll cut a 2 hour job down to 10 minutes!
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