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Introduction to FastStats

This introduction answers basic questions about log files, including how to retrieve them from your web site and how to configure FastStats to analyze them. For a detailed tutorial on setting up FastStats, read the FastStats Tutorial.

What are log files?

Log files can be powerful marketing tools. Each time a file is "hit" or requested by the client (the user browsing your web site), the web server records information about the hit to a log file. One log file generally records a day’s worth of "hits". A web server is "hit" for each file necessary to build the web page; not only is a hit registered for the .html file, but hits also may be registered for any graphics within the HTML page. Similarly, hits on Java applets, ActiveX controls, and executable files are recorded in the log file.

Different web servers record different information, but the following information is almost always found in web server log files:

  • The requesting computer (i.e. n12.pa.isp.com, or in the form of an Internet IP address
  • The date and time of the request
  • The file that the client requested
  • The size of that file
  • An HTTP status code. You are probably familiar with one HTTP status code: "404 file not found".

In addition, some web servers log the following information:

  • Referring URL (the web page the user visited just before they "hit" your server)
  • Client name (the name and version of the browser and the operating system the browser is running under)

Log files can easily grow to be very, very large. A relatively small web site that has several thousand visitors a month will have approximately 25 megabytes of log files. Most other log file analysis tools (such as WebTrends and HitList) are very, very slow, processing the log files at a speeds of only 2-3 megabytes per minute. FastStats can analyze your log files at speeds between 80-100 megabytes per minute. WebTrends and HitList would take almost 10 minutes to analyze 25 megabytes of log files, while FastStats would only take 20-30 seconds of your time.

FastStats takes the enormous amount of data in the log files and generates easy-to-read reports that let you see how your web site is performing.

Great! How do I Get These Log Files?

Note: this is discussed in greater depth, and a sample e-mail to send to your web hosting provider or your system administrator is provided in the FastStats Tutorial.

If you operate a web site, you probably either a) host the web site yourself, or b) pay a 3rd party web hosting service to host your web site.

I Host the Web Site Myself
If you host your web site yourself, you should consult your server documentation for information on generating log files. FastStats supports a variety of log file formats, including IIS 3.0 and IIS 4.0, Apache, NCSA, Netscape, O"Reilly, and any other web server that can be configured to produce log files in Common or Combined standard format. We have special tutorials for users of IIS 4.0 and Apache servers.

I Use a Web Hosting Provider
Your web hosting provider most likely provides you with log files. These log files are stored on the web hosting provider’s computer and are probably made available to you for download by FTP.

While you should contact your web hosting provider for details, you must log into your web hosting provider’s computer and download the log files to your computer. The name and format of the log files will vary by web hosting provider, but they most likely will "look" like one of the following filename wildcards: httpd_access.* or www_logs.DATETIMEPERIOD. Your log files may also be stored in a subdirectory (most likely called /logs/). You should download these log files to a directory on your computer. We recommend creating a new directory on your hard drive and storing all of the log files there. You may wish to create different directories for each month’s data.

Note: web server logs are not the WS_FTP.LOG files generated by the WS_FTP software; the WS_FTP.LOG file only records your uploads and downloads to FTP sites.

How do I configure FastStats to analyze my log files?

Don't worry. This is the easy part. The previous section described how to transfer your log files to your computer, so you should now have either a single log file, or a directory that contains several log files, on your hard drive.

This is discussed in detail in the FastStats Tutorial.

If you have any more questions about the log file analysis process, or dont understand something in the above help topic, e-mail analyzer -at- mach5.com. Both unregistered and registered users of FastStats may obtain free technical support. We recommend you follow our instructions when you email us, so we can resolve your issue as quickly as possible.

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