​How do I interpret access logs?

Access logs are statistical data about the traffic on your website. It can be accessed both by the administrator as well as select users but without the administrator privileges and restricted amount of data. Access logs have information like how many users visited the website, their IP addresses, time of access, location from where the website was accessed, etc.

Frequent perusal of these logs can be helpful in filtering out malicious users, assessing the traffic, etc and decide on how to increase the popularity of your website. 

The activities of your visitors can help you go a long way in structuring and updating your website to cater to the users’ needs. This information is available in the server log files. To find meaningful data from the statistics available, it is recommended to use a log file analyzer which may prove to be vital to your marketing efforts.

This analyzer gives provides information about each user’s behavior, search entry texts, search pattern with the geographical location tagged, their expectations or lack thereof, etc  which will help you in deciding the type of content that your website should give, thereby improving the site’s performance.

However, the key to make the best use of this analysis is to know how to draw inferences from it. The raw date has to be analyzed in order for it to be helpful.

An access log looks like the example shown below –

212.209.212.66 - [29/Jul/2001:00:35:33 -0500] "GET /data-mining.htm HTTP/1.1" 200 11631 "http://hoasted.com/" "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 5.5; Windows NT 5.0)"

You have to consider several statistical data while viewing an access log:

  • A single user or a group of visitors, both sects represent a unique data to you. Each visitor has his or her own interests and therefore they may be visiting a particular niche in your site which indicates that you will have to focus on enriching the information you provide in that section.
  • The log also records the number of times that your site was accessed by all visitors as well by an individual (unique) user. 
  • The total number of times that a particular page in your website was accessed is also logged.
  • Bandwidth- this is perhaps a very important bit of information. Bandwidth is the total amount of data that was transferred when a visitor accesses your website or a specific webpage in it. So if you want a quick assessment of which part of your website is being accessed the most, then looking at bandwidth data is very helpful.

There is a variety of variables to take into account while interpreting or breaking down access logs:

  1. Date and Time: The date and time of the log when the user(s) has accessed and used the website.
  2. OS (Operating System): Different types of OS used like Microsoft, Linux, Mac OS etc.
  3. Web Browser used
  4. Screen Resolution
  5. Geographical Location of the user
  6. File type

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