pv (Pipe Viewer) is a terminal-based tool for monitoring the progress of data through a pipeline. It can be inserted into any normal pipeline between two processes to give a visual indication of how quickly data is passing through, how long it has taken, how near to completion it is, and an estimate of how long it will be until completion.
bonnie is a classic file system and storage device benchmark. It tests for linear character-based and block-based reads and writes, and the rewrite pattern. It also does a seek test. While other benchmarks do more sophisticated tests, bonnie is a very reliable and portable program that is suitable for basic testing. Optionally, you can test the operations with direct I/O (O_DIRECT on Linux).