Author: Sukrit Dhandhania
VnStat offers binary packages for the Debian distribution on its site, and Dag Wieers’ RPM repository has RPMs for various Red Hat-based distributions. Of course, you can also compile vnStat from the source files available from the project’s home page. I tested vnStat on an Ubuntu Edgy desktop; to install the software, I ran
sudo apt-get install vnstat.
The first step in using vnStat is to initialize it and configure it to read your Internet bandwidth usage. Since I connect to my network using the eth0 port, I ran the command
sudo vnstat -u -i eth0 to initialize the vnStat database. The database is stored in a file in the /var/lib/vnstat/ directory in a small binary file.
|Click to enlarge|
During installation vnStat sets up a cron job that refreshes the bandwidth consumption data on the eth0 port every five minutes. After letting the program run for a few minutes, type
vnstat with no arguments. Like magic you’ll see something like this:
You can display your data in hourly, daily, or monthly increments using the
-m arguments. If you need to know more, the only documentation available is the man page and a FAQ at the project’s home page.
If you’re not satisfied with the appearance of vnStat’s command-line interface, you can install Bjorge Dijkstra’s PHP-based Web front end for vnStat, which takes the data collected by the command-line vnStat and displays it in tables and graphically in your browser. The front end requires a Web server configured with PHP.
|vnStat GUI – click to enlarge|
Download the tarball, extract the files into a subdirectory of your Web server’s document root directory — most likely /var/www/ or /var/www/html — and give it the right permissions so the Web server can write to it:
# sudo mkdir /var/www/vnstat
# sudo tar -zxvf /home/justforkix/vnstat_php_frontend-1.2.1.tar.gz -C /var/www/vnstat/
# sudo -R chown www-data.www-data /var/www/vnstat
Launch your browser and visit the vnStat page at http://localhost/vnstat. To check out the fancy graphs, click on the “hourly” link associated with your Internet connection. The graphs are simple and straightforward, and you cannot customize them.
In just a few minutes, vnStat can help you start keeping track of your network bandwidth usage.