What is an Access Log for Web Statistics?

If you are running or curating a web site, than an access log for web statistics is mandatory. It seems that people that don’t have a presence on the web these days for reasons personal, professional, or both, are in the minority. For those who have gone to the time and trouble (and increasingly, the expense) of putting a site online, just knowing that it’s there is not enough. For a variety of reasons, creators and managers need to know who is accessing their website, and why.

How To Watch The Web Site Watchers

Back in the dawn of Internet history, website visit traffic was recorded with visible “counters” at the bottom of one or more pages within the website. Like the early websites, these counters weren’t very sophisticated. They simply showed site managers the number of people who were logging onto a website. Today’s “counters” are generally invisible to the general logging-on public, and are accessible to website administrators only. The general public shouldn’t feel left out. If they’ve found the website in question, they’ve already utilized analytical statistics to get there. Rather, the internal “counters” website administrators are interested in are collecting what could be called “meta” statistics, according to¬†Science Daily. This information comes courtesy of increasingly sophisticated software packages that help administrators see just who and how viewers are using the information that their sites provide.

Why Can’t Everyone See This Data?

There are a number of reasons why this information is important to website administrators and organizations, ranging from trying to improve users’ viewing experiences, to trying to attract a certain type of clientele to a site, to trying to expand viewership beyond a current audience. Aside from the fact that the general public would find this information fairly dry reading, there are other reasons that this information isn’t accessible to all site users. One reason is to protect possible private user information. And as more and more companies do business on the web, another reason to safeguard this statistical information is to keep competitors from seeing what their rivals are doing. So how do administrators and other appropriate parties get to this data? With a access log for web statistics.

How An Access Log Works

The access log is basically a list of raw data that shows all the information that was requested by a site’s users. This raw data has to be broken down and translated by other programs. The translating programs may be provided with the server that makes the website possible. Another source is through the public program known as shareware. In addition to dates, times, domain names, genders, ages, and even addresses of users, access logs for web statistics can alert administrators to bad HTML codes, hacking attempts, and attempts (successful or otherwise) to infect sites with viruses or malware. With these access logs, administrators can tell who, when, and why someone was accessing their site without that person having to deliberately share that information at all.

Related Resource: Database Administrator

So how important are access logs for website statistics? Without them, administrators would not be able to collect the data that keeps websites online and active, or that helps to keep an online business functional and growing, or that protects both site types from intrusion. While their content is admittedly dry, their function is vital, and all those planning to work in web administration should know how to utilize them.