Editor's Choice: IIS Monitoring
<b>Winner: </b>Parker Software Ltd. Who's On<br>
<b>Honorable Mention:</b> <a href="#netiq">NetIQ WebTrends</a>
$59 (Standard Edition), $99 (Professional Edition)
Parker Software Ltd.; www.whos-on.net
- By Mike Gunderloy
- December 01, 2002
If you run a Web site, you know that keeping track of what’s going on
with the site can be difficult. Sure, there are dozens of logfile-analysis
programs that can churn through the site logs and give you statistical
summaries of what happened yesterday or last week; but what if you want
to know what’s happening on your Web site right now? That’s the problem
Who’s On is designed to solve.
The idea behind Who’s On is pretty simple: It monitors your log files,
either directly as disk files or indirectly via FTP, and extracts the
most recent records from them every few seconds. It then performs reverse
DNS lookups and gives you a continuously updated screen, densely packed
with information. You can see which hits came from spiders instead of
real people, watch the referrers (two clicks will open any referring site
in its own browser), look at the history of individual sessions, and quickly
see any 404 errors. If a particular page is being hit harder than usual
or a worm comes by and starts trying to run cmd.exe a few dozen times,
you’ll know it.
packs a lot
of information into a single screen. (Click image to view larger version.)
Who’s On also tracks alerts and exceptions. An alert is a visit that
matches a particular condition—a referrer, DNS or keyword used in a search,
for example. Alerts can play a sound file when AOL sends traffic your
way or send an e-mail when a particular search term is used to find your
site. Exceptions are unusual events you may want to monitor. For example,
you can choose to have an exception raised if someone tries to request
DLL or EXE files, if there are more than a specified number of simultaneous
visitors, or if someone’s trying to walk back up the path. Exceptions
are tracked on their own section of the user interface and can also be
passed by e-mail.
Who’s On’s context menu for visitors provides some interesting functionality.
You can run a traceroute or ping test to any visitor on your site and
open the page they’re viewing or the one that referred them to you in
an external browser window.
All in all, Who’s On is a very useful tool. It does one thing, does it
extremely well, and does it at a good price.
Prices vary by suite—from $499 for the WebTrends Log
Analyzer to $10,500 for the WebTrends Reporting Center
Of course, sometimes you don’t need real-time information about your
Web site. There are many products that perform retrospective log analyses,
lumping together all the activity for a day or a month to help you find
patterns. It’s hard to go wrong with the products from NetIQ’s WebTrends
line. Whether you’re looking for patterns in your referrers, trying to
find broken links in a huge site, or trying to correlate e-commerce activity
across an entire server farm, these can help you out.
One word of caution, though: Watching Web site activity can be addictive!
Make sure you have the fortitude to get your regular work done even as
you’re watching visitors read your golden words.
Mike Gunderloy, MCSE, MCSD, MCDBA, is a former MCP columnist and the author of numerous development books.