6 Best Bandwidth and Traffic Pattern Analysis Tools

In order to keep networks running smoothly, we need to keep an eye on things. Unfortunately, networks are not the easiest of things to examine. Network traffic moves within cables and wires–or through the air–and it does so at a speed that would prevent us to see anything, even if it were possible. To see what’s going on on your network, you need the proper tools. This is exactly what this article is about. We’ve searched the market looking for the best bandwidth and traffic pattern analysis tools. We’ve found quite a few. Some are combined tools that will provide both bandwidth and traffic pattern analysis while other will only do one or the other. We’ll leave it up to you to choose whether you want to use a combined tool or if you prefer one type of tool over the other.

And to make it easier for you to pick the best tool for your specific needs, we’ll start off with some theory about bandwidth and traffic pattern analysis. We’ll try to explain what each is, how it works and how they differ from each other. When we’re done with this theory, we’ll review the best tools we could find. We’ll first discuss the combined tools or bundles that offer both functionalities and then, we’ll introduce the best bandwidth analysis tools followed by the best traffic patterns analysis tools.

Bandwidth Analysis — What It Is

In one sentence, bandwidth analysis is the process of measuring the bandwidth utilization of network circuits. Let’s explain. Imagine a LAN circuit with a 1 Gbps capacity. This figure means it can carry up to 1 Gigabit of data per second. But that doesn’t mean it IS carrying that much data. You could compare it to a highway. A four-lane highway with a speed limit of 55 miles per hour can carry a certain number of cars per hour. If you want to know, at any given time, how many cars go by, you have to count them. This is what these rubber hoses that are sometimes stretched across roads are used for. Similarly, if you want to know how much network traffic there is at a given point and time, you need some tool to measure it.

Bandwidth monitors are exactly that, tools that measure the actual utilization of network circuits. They typically measure the bandwidth usage at different points on a network at frequent time intervals–such as every five minutes–and plot it on a graph that shows its evolution in time. This is quite useful as it allows you to see the evolution of the utilization as well as to gain some knowledge of the times when there are utilization peaks. This is an invaluable tool for capacity planning.

How it Works – SNMP In A Nutshell

The Simple Network Management Protocol, or SNMPis the basis of most network bandwidth analysis tools. The protocol was invented to manage networking devices but its most common use is monitoring. An SNMP-enabled device has several parameters or variables–called OID for Object Identifier–that can be read by SNMP monitoring tools. Of particular interest when monitoring bandwidth are two parameters that are available for each interface of a networking device, the bytes in and bytes out counters. They are simply counters that are incremented each time a byte is received or transmitted on an interface.

If a bandwidth monitoring tool read these counters at a regular and known interval (five minutes is a common figure), using simple math, the average bandwidth utilization per five-minute period can be calculated. It’s just a matter of subtracting the previous counter value from the current one to get the number of bytes in five minutes, multiplying it by eight to get the number of bits and dividing that by 300 to get the number of bits per second. Most tools will save the counter values in some sort of database or file and plot the utilization values on graphs or use them to build tables.

How About Traffic Patterns?

While bandwidth analysis tools are great to measure the utilization of a network segment, they don’t tell us much about the nature of that utilization. Sometimes, it would be very useful to know what type of traffic or what users are utilizing the available bandwidth. This is where network traffic pattern analysis comes in.

Analyzing network patterns can provide useful information such as the distribution of traffic by type. For instance, while SNMP monitoring would tell you that a given circuit is used at 90% of its capacity (a figure that is way too high and shall be avoided at all costs), traffic pattern analysis could tell you that 50% of that traffic is web browsing and that 10% is email. But it doesn’t stop at traffic types. Traffic could also be reported by source and/or destination IP address. And by adding some extra intelligence and connecting the monitoring tool to other components of the infrastructure such as the AD domain controllers, traffic can also be sorted by user.

So, while SNMP monitoring gives you details about the quantity of traffic on a circuit or segment, traffic pattern analysis will give you qualitative details about the traffic. This feat is accomplished using different flow analysis protocols, the main one being the NetFlow protocol, originally from Cisco but now present on devices from multiple vendors.

A Real Quick NetFlow Primer

Without going too technical, let’s try to explain how NetFlow works. Contrary to SNMP where the devices only keep counters and the monitoring tools do much of the hard work, much of the burden of NetFlow is on the devices themselves. NetFlow-enabled equipment runs some built-in software integrated into the operating system that generates flow data about each traffic flow that goes through it.

It is the equipment’s NetFlow process’ job to recognize flows and to assemble details about each one. Flow data is not kept on the devices. As soon as a flow terminates, its data is sent to a NetFlow collector. The collector’s job is to receive flow data from multiple devices and store it in an orderly fashion. The next component in the chain, the NetFlow analyzer, read the flow data from the collector and displays it in a meaningful way, typically using graphs. In most instances, the NetFlow collector and analyzer are two components of the same software.

The Best All-in-one Or Combined Tools

The first type of tool we’re looking at is all-in-one or combined tools. These are tools that offer both bandwidth monitoring via SNMP and traffic pattern analysis using NetFlow. One tool on our list is a true combined tool while the other is actually a bundle of two separate tools that are purchased together.

1. SolarWinds Network Bandwidth Analyzer Pack (FREE TRIAL)

SolarWinds is a common name in the field of network administration tools. It’s been around since 1999 and has produced some of the best free tools targeting specific tasks of network administrators. But SolarWinds reputation stems mostly from making some of the best bandwidth monitoring tools and the best NetFlow collectors and analyzers. Respectively called the SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor and the NetFlow Traffic Analyzer, the two tools can be purchased together as the SolarWinds Network Bandwidth Analyzer Pack, the first entry on our list.

SolarWinds NPM Network Summary

The first component, the Network Performance Monitor or NPM is a feature-rich SNMP network monitoring system. It boasts an easy to use web-based dashboard, it is easy to set up and configure and, more importantly, it does an excellent job. The tool’s customizable alerting features will notify you whenever specific metrics exceed a predefined value.

NPM can also build intelligent maps of your network and can display the critical path between any two points, facilitating the troubleshooting process. The software has wireless network monitoring and management built right into it. Another great feature is called Network Insights. It is available for Cisco Nexus and ASA devices as well as F5 load balancers. This module provides advanced monitoring of several parameters that are specific to these devices.

The second component of this bundle is the NetFlow Traffic Analyzer or NTA. Using the Netflow protocol, this tool provides more detailed information about traffic flows on your network. Instead of just showing bandwidth usage in bits per second, it can provide detailed information on what the observed traffic is. It can, for instance, report on what type of traffic is more frequent or what user is using the most bandwidth. Several different views are available on the tool’s dashboard such as top applications, top protocols or top talkers, for instance.

SolarWinds NetFlow Traffic Analyzer Dashboard

The NTA relies on the NetFlow protocol to gather detailed usage information from your network devices. Although NetFlow is originally from Cisco, it is now included in equipment from many vendors. It may have a different name such as J-Flow on Juniper devices but all variants are supported by the NTA. In recent years, the NetFlow protocol has been standardized by the IETF as IPFIX, or IP Flow Information Exchange. IPFIX, of course, is also supported by the NTA.

Prices for the SolarWinds Network Bandwidth Analyzer Pack start $4 910 for monitoring up to 100 elements. Other options are available allowing more devices with top tier having unlimited devices. For those who’d prefer to try the product before buying it, a free 30-day trial can be downloaded from SolarWinds.

FREE TRIAL: SOLARWINDS NETWORK BANDWIDTH ANALYZER PACK

2. Paessler Router Traffic Grapher

The Paessler Router Traffic Grapher, or PRTG, is another tool that combines SNMP bandwidth monitoring with NetFlow collection and analysis features. According to Paessler, PRTG is one of the easiest and fastest tools to set up. The company claims you could be up and running within minutes. This might be somewhat of an overstatement but it is true that setting up the product is impressively fast. This is partly due to its auto-discovery feature in which PRTG scans your network and automatically adds the components it finds.

PRTG Screenshot

The user interface is another place where PRTG shines. In fact, there are several user interfaces to choose from. There’s a native Windows console, an Ajax-based web interface, and there are mobile apps for Android or iOS. One of the unique mobile apps features will let you scan a QR code affixed to your equipment to quickly view its status.

As far as monitoring goes, PRTG uses SNMP to monitor bandwidth utilization but it doesn’t stop there. Using a concept called sensors, PRTG can also use WMI for Windows hosts and NetFlow or Sflow for networking devices.

This tool’s pricing is based on the number of sensors you’re using where a sensor is any parameter or metric you need to monitor. For instance, each interface monitored via SNMP counts as one sensor. Similarly, each NetFlow data source is another sensor. PRTG is available in a full-featured free version which is limited to monitoring 100 sensors. For more sensors, paid licenses are available. Prices vary according to sensor capacity from $1 600 for 500 sensors to $14 500 for unlimited sensors. A free, sensor-unlimited 30-day trial is available for download. Once the trial period ends, it will revert back to the free version with a 100 sensors limit.

The Best Bandwidth Monitoring Tools

While integrated tools or software bundles are interesting, some might prefer to go with individual tools. For that reason, we’re including a few of the best bandwidth monitoring tools. Remember that both the SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor and PRTG from the previous list are among the best bandwidth monitoring tools as well.

3. ManageEngine Network Bandwidth Monitor

ManageEngine is another common name in the field. The company makes several products, both free and paid, for administering networks. The ManageEngine Network Bandwidth Monitor is a free tool which is part of ManageEngine’s OpUtils bundle, a huge pack of some 16 free network management utilities. The tool runs on both Windows and Linux and the free edition allows monitoring up to 10 devices and their interfaces.

ManageEngine Network Monitor

The tool has auto-discovery and once devices are discovered, their interface’s statuses and parameters can be viewed from the inventory tab. You can also display graphs of network speed and bandwidth usage. Reports on bandwidth usage over the past 12 hours to one month can also be generated for each interface. Furthermore, alerts by email or text message can be triggered whenever parameters are out of normal range.

With its 10 devices limit, the ManageEngine Network Bandwidth Monitor is not for everyone, though. For larger networks, there is also a paid version with no device limitation. It is available as a free 30-day evaluation version which will revert to a device-limited version once the trial period ends.

4. Cacti

Cacti is one of the most-used and of the oldest free and open-source monitoring platform. Not as feature-rich as many commercial products, it is still an excellent tool. The tool’s web-based user interface has a vintage feel to it but it is well laid out and easy to use. Cacti includes a fast poller, advanced graphing templates, and multiple acquisition methods. It mainly uses SNMP polling but custom scripts can be devised to get data from virtually any source.

This tool’s main strength is in polling devices and graphing the data on web pages. It’s very good at that but that’s about all it will do. But if you don’t need alerting or other extras, the product’s simplicity might be just what you need. Written entirely in PHP, the software is highly customizable and you can easily adapt it to our specific needs.

Cacti makes extensive use of templates to ease configuration. You have device templates for many common types of devices as well as graph templates. There’s also a huge online community that writes custom templates of all kinds and some equipment manufacturers offer downloadable Cacti templates.

The Best Traffic Pattern Analysis Tools

If traffic pattern analysis is what you’re looking for, our exploration has revealed a few interesting tools that provide NetFlow collection and analysis features.

5. ManageEngine NetFlow Analyzer

The ManageEngine NetFlow Analyzer provides a detailed view of traffic patterns. The product is controlled by a web-based interface and offers an impressive number of different views on your network. You can, for instance, view traffic by application, by conversation, or by protocol. You can also set alerts to warn you of potential issues. For example, you can set up a traffic threshold on an interface and be alerted whenever traffic exceeds it.

ManageEngine Netflow Analyzer

The tool comes with several very useful pre-built reports that are tailored for specific purposes such as troubleshooting or capacity planning. The tool also allows administrators to create custom reports to their liking. Its dashboard includes several pie charts with depicting data such as top applications, top protocols or top conversations. It can also display a heat map with the status of the monitored interfaces.

The ManageEngine NetFlow Analyzer supports most flow technologies including NetFlow (of course), IPFIX, J-flow, NetStream, and a few others. The Product comes in two versions. The free version is identical to the paid one for the first 30 days but it then gets limited to monitoring only two interfaces or flows. Paid licenses are available in several sizes from 100 to 2500 interfaces or flows with prices varying between about $600 to over $50K.

6. Scrutinizer

Our last entry for today is a product from Plixer called Scrutinizer. This is more than just a NetFlow Analyzer and many view it as a full incident response system. With its ability to monitor different flow types such as NetFlow, J-flow, NetStream, and IPFIX, you’re not limited to monitoring only Cisco devices.

Scrutinizer

Scrutinizer features a hierarchical design and offers streamlined and efficient data collection. It allows one to start small and easily scale way up to millions of flows per second. This tool can help you quickly find the real cause of most any network issues even if it has nothing to do with the network such as when a server responds slowly. It can operate reliably in physical and virtual environments and comes with advanced reporting features.

Scrutinizer is available in four license tiers from the basic free version to the full-fledged SCR. The free version is limited to 10 thousand flows per second and it will only keep raw flow data for 5 hours but it should be more than enough to troubleshoot network issues. You can also try any level of license for 30 days after which it will revert back to the free version.

Read 6 Best Bandwidth and Traffic Pattern Analysis Tools by Renaud Larue-Langlois on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter

How to lock Windows 10 when you close your laptop lid

When you close your laptop lid, your system can do one of three things; sleep, hibernate, or shutdown. All three options put your system in an ‘Off’ or similar state. The fourth option is that closing your lid does nothing. If you need to lock Windows 10 when you close your laptop lid, you’re going to need a third party app called Lid Lock.

Lock Windows 10

Lid Lock is free but it seems the developer’s website is down and you cannot download the app directly from them. Instead, you have to turn to software repositories. Softpedia has a copy that’s safe for use so go ahead and download the app from there.

The app runs in the system tray and adds a padlock icon to it. It has no configurable settings whatsoever. You can set it to start when you boot Windows 10, but that’s all there is to set up.

Close your laptop lid and your system will be locked. It will not enter sleep or hibernate mode, and it won’t shut down either. When you open your lid again, you will see the login screen where you will have to enter your PIN or password.

Now, locking your PC isn’t difficult. You can lock it with the Win+L keyboard shortcut and it will lock just fine. The reason you might want to lock Windows 10 when you close your laptop lid is because it’s faster and maybe, if for any reason, you need to slam your laptop lid closed you know it will result in your system locking and not going to sleep. Also, Windows 10 doesn’t have a great track record of coming out of sleep. It takes pretty long and on occasion something breaks and can only be fixed if you restart your system.

Windows 10 also lets you configure what happens when you press the power button but again the options don’t include locking your system. You can press the power button to put your system to sleep, shut it down, or use it to turn off your display.

Since we’re talking laptops here, it is worth mentioning that not all laptop keyboards have two Win keys, one on each side of the space bar, few laptops do and that makes it a bit more difficult to execute the Win+L keyboard shortcut. This is why closing the laptop lid is easier and maybe even a little intuitive for when you need to leave your desk or leave your desk quickly.

Read How to lock Windows 10 when you close your laptop lid by Fatima Wahab on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter

How to use NitroShare on Linux

Sharing files on Linux is harder than it should be. It’s complicated, and this makes sending files to other computers on the network a chore. As a result, many people avoid sharing data.

If you’re tired of dealing with the complicated monotony of command-line file sharing tools on Linux, check out NitroShare. It’s a simple, cross-platform tool that, when installed, can detect computers on a network for quick, no-setup file sharing.

Install NitroShare

NitroShare is available on many different Linux distributions. To get the program up and running, open up a terminal window and follow the command instructions that match the operating system you use.

Note: in this tutorial, we will be covering how to install and use NitroShare on Linux systems. That said, there is a Windows and Mac version too! These versions of the program are downloadable via the official website.

Ubuntu

To get NitroShare on Ubuntu, launch a terminal shell and run the following apt install command.

sudo apt install nitroshare

Alternatively, install Nitroshare on your Ubuntu PC by opening the Ubuntu Software Center application, searching for “Nitroshare” and selecting the “Install” button.

Debian

Debian Linux has a version of the NitroShare file-sharing application in the primary software sources. To install it, open up a terminal and run the apt-get install command below.

Note: this version of Nitroshare may be severely out of date, due to how Debian maintains packages.

sudo apt-get install nitroshare

Arch Linux

The NitroShare developer has uploaded an official AUR package for the program, so that Arch users may use the program. To install it, follow the steps outlined below!

Step 1: Using the Pacman package manager, install both Base-devel and Git.

sudo pacman -S base-devel git

Step 2: Clone the latest NitroShare AUR snapshot with the git tool.

git clone https://aur.archlinux.org/nitroshare.git

Step 3: Move the terminal into the new nitroshare snapshot folder with the CD command.

cd nitroshare

Step 4: Compile NitroShare and install the program to Arch Linux using the makepkg command.

Note: building the NitroShare application from the Arch Linux AUR may present problems. Be sure to correct any dependencies by hand, by visiting the official AUR page. If you run into issues getting them, read the comments on the official page for guidance.

makepkg -sri

Fedora

NitroShare is now in the official Fedora Linux software sources, so installing it is quick. Launch a terminal and use the dnf install command to get it working.

sudo dnf install nitroshare -y

OpenSUSE

To get the NitroShare software on OpenSUSE systems, you must use the zypper install command.

sudo zypper install nitroshare

Alternatively, get NitroShare from the OBS, by going to this page here and clicking the install button next to your version of SUSE.

Generic Linux

Those using a lesser-known version of Linux will need to build NitroShare from source. Download the source code here, extract it, and read the included “README” file to learn how to build it.

Having trouble building Nitroshare from source? Consider switching to Ubuntu, Fedora or the other operating systems covered in this guide, as they have better, easier ways to install the program.

Sharing files with NitroShare on Linux

Open up NitroShare and let it run. As it opens, it’ll go to the system tray on your desktop. Right-click on the Nitro system-tray icon. As you right-click on the icon, you’ll see a context menu.

Note: be sure to also open up NitroShare on the computer receiving the file, or the transfer will fail!

In the menu, look for the “send files” button and select it to open up a file browser.

Look through the file browser window and navigate to the file you’re looking to send with the NitroShare program. Then click the “open” button to share it.

Clicking the “open” button will bring up a “device” selection window. In this window, look for the computer you’d like to send the file to and click the “OK” button to start the transfer. All files transfer to ~/Downloads/Nitroshare.

Sharing folders with NitroShare on Linux

NitroShare can send entire directories full of data over the network in addition to single files. To start, open up the program on the computer sharing the data (be sure to also open NitroShare on the computer receiving the shared data). Then, right-click on the system tray icon on the host machine, and select the “send directory” option in the menu.

Once the “send directory” button is selected, a file browser window opens. Use the browser to locate the folder to send with NitroShare.

After opening the directory with the NitroShare app, the “select device” window will appear on the screen.

In the device menu, select the computer you’d like to share the data with, then choose “OK” to start the file transfer process.

When the directory is done transferring, you’ll be able to access it in ~/Downloads/Nitroshare.

Read How to use NitroShare on Linux by Derrik Diener on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter

How to make DVD slideshows on Linux with Imagination

The best way to make DVD slideshows on Linux is with Imagination. With this program, anyone can easily add multiple pictures, audio tracks, on-screen text, and even cool animation transitions!

In this tutorial, we’ll cover how to create your very own slideshow, step-by-step. We’ll also go over how to burn it to a DVD video disk to watch, and how to make a video DVD from the Linux terminal.

Installi Imagination

The Imagination DVD software is available in most modern Linux software repositories. In this section of the tutorial, we’ll go over how to install it on Ubuntu, Debian, Arch Linux, Fedora, and OpenSUSE. Launch a terminal window and follow along with the instructions that match your operating system to get Imagination installed.

Ubuntu

sudo apt install imagination

Debian

sudo apt-get install imagination

Arch Linux

The Imagination slideshow creation tool is available for installation to Arch Linux users thanks to the AUR. To install it, follow the step-by-step instructions below!

Step 1: Install the Base-devel and Git packages, so that your Arch Linux system can interact with the AUR and the Imagination PKGBUILD snapshot.

sudo pacman -S base-devel git

Step 2: Clone the latest Imagination AUR snapshot to your computer using the git command.

git clone https://aur.archlinux.org/imagination.git

Step 3: Move your terminal session from the home directory to the newly cloned imagination folder.

cd imagination

Step 4: Generate a new Arch Linux package with the makepkg command.

makepkg -sri

Fedora

Fedora users have access to the Imagination DVD slideshow software if they enable the RPM Fusion software sources.

To get RPM Fusion, go to the terminal and install these RPM files.

Note: please replace the X in the commands with the release of Fedora Linux you are currently running.

sudo dnf install https://download1.rpmfusion.org/free/fedora/rpmfusion-free-release-X.noarch.rpm

sudo dnf install https://download1.rpmfusion.org/nonfree/fedora/rpmfusion-nonfree-release-X.noarch.rpm

With RPM Fusion working, it’s safe to install Imagination on your Fedora Linux PC.

sudo dnf install imagination -y

OpenSUSE

The Imagination DVD slideshow tool is available to OpenSUSE Linux users via the Packman All software repository. Open up a terminal and enter the command below to set up the Packman All software repository.

LEAP 15.0

sudo zypper addrepo http://packman.inode.at/suse/openSUSE_Leap_15.0/ packman

LEAP 42.3

sudo zypper addrepo http://packman.inode.at/suse/openSUSE_Leap_42.3/ packman

Tumbleweed

sudo zypper addrepo http://packman.inode.at/suse/openSUSE_Tumbleweed/ packman

Install Imagination with:

sudo zypper install imagination

Generic Linux

The Imagination source code is on GitHub. Go to the page, download the code and read the included “README” file to learn how to get it working.

Make a slideshow with Imagination

Open up Imagination and click the “Slideshow” menu button. Inside of the “Slideshow” menu, look for “New” and select it with the mouse to create a new project.

When you click the “new” button in Imagination to start a new slideshow, you’ll see a “create a new slideshow” window. The “create a new slideshow” area allows the user to adjust the technical specifications of the DVD slideshow, with everything from the video format (DVD/VOB, FLV or 3GP), the screen resolution (480p, 576p, 720p, 1080p) and background color.

To start, look to the “Video Format” section and click on the drop-down menu. Look through the different video formats available and select the “DVD” option. Then, after the format is set for the new project, move on to the “Video Size” section.

Click on the drop-down menu under “Video Size” and choose the best resolution for the TV you’d like to play it on. Ideally, pick either 1080p or 720p, as that’s what most modern television sets can handle these days.

With the format and resolution set, all that’s left in the setup stage is to set the slideshow background color. The default is black, but if that color isn’t fitting for your project, you can change it. To change it, click the black color square and choose a new color. When all the project settings are set to your liking, click the “OK” button.

Adding photos

Add photos to your Imagination DVD slideshow project by clicking “Slideshow,” then “Import Pictures.” Clicking the import button brings up a file browser window. Use it to add your pictures the slideshow project.

Note: to add multiple pictures at once, navigate to a folder in the file browser, then press Ctrl + A to select all. Import by clicking the “open” button.

Let the pictures import into Imagination. When the importing process is complete, go through imagination, select each photo and set the transition settings (located in the Video tab).

Adding text to the slideshow

Imagination lets the user add text to slideshow projects. To do it, select a picture in the project timeline. Then, go to the “Video” tab and write your text into the “slide text” box.

With your message written in the “slide text” box, you’re free to start customizing. Go through and choose a font, color, size, animation, etc., by using the customization options below the slide-text box.

Adding background music

You may want to add some music to your project, to make it more interesting. To do it, click the “Slideshow” menu, then select the “Import Music” button to open up the import browser. Use the import browser menu to add music to your slideshow project.

To customize when the music plays, select the “audio” tab.

Finalizing your slideshow

Now that the slideshow is done, the time has come to export it. To export, click the “Slideshow” menu button, then select the “Export” option. Save your slideshow as a VOB file on the desktop.

When your slideshow is fully exported, put a blank DVD in the disc drive. Then, open up a terminal window and use the commands below to make a DVD ISO.

mkdir -p ~/dvd

cd ~/dvd
mkdir -p ~/dvd/VIDEO_TS

mkdir -p ~/dvd/AUDIO_TS
mv ~/Desktop/slideshow-file.vob /dvd/VIDEO_TS/

Note: you may need to install mkisofs. Click here to get a package for your distribution.

mkisofs -dvd-video -o slideshow.iso ~/dvd/

With the DVD ISO generated, install K3b or Brasero and burn it!

Read How to make DVD slideshows on Linux with Imagination by Derrik Diener on AddictiveTips – Tech tips to make you smarter

The Best Food Processors For Every Budget

If you do any serious cooking, a good quality food processor is a critical addition to your kitchen on account of its versatility and time-saving tricks. So, we’ve looked at the best food processors you can buy, no matter what your needs are.

The food processor isn’t quite the heart of the kitchen (that’s your cooker or oven), but it is a vital component. A certain amount of mixing and chopping and slicing can be done manually, but the results are rarely the same to if you do it through a food processor. For instance, there’s a noticeable difference to how cookies look, depending on if you’ve manually mixed or used a food processor. It’s good to have both options. If nothing else, the “lazy” route is always to toss everything into the food processor and let electricity do all the hard work for you.

Food processors vary significantly in cost and features, so we’ve checked out the best food processors for every price range and requirement.

Best All-Rounder: Cuisinart Pro Custom 11-Cup Food Processor ($130)

The perfect size for a family kitchen, the Cuisinart Pro Custom 11-Cup Food Processor is near flawless. The food processor has room for 11 cups of produce, so you can easily use it to make dough, shred vegetables or herbs, or mix batters. It includes a chopping blade, three slicing and shredding discs, along with a spatula.

Unusual for a food processor, there’s a fairly long feed tube so you can feed in large items like carrots or zucchinis without any hassle. It’s ideal for whatever you throw its way, and is sure to become a key part of your kitchen and cooking prep.

Best Budget Choice: Hamilton Beach 12-Cup Food Processor ($50)

If you’ve just moved into your first home or you’re new to cooking, you don’t want to spend a ton of cash on a food processor. Some cheap food processors are pretty lousy but the Hamilton Beach 12-Cup Food Processor holds its own at a good price. It’s big enough to contain 12 cups of produce with a stainless steel blade chopping, mixing and pureeing. In addition, there’s a reversible stainless steel slicing and shredding disc that does exactly what the name suggests.

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