Schneider, Ph.D., December 2004, send
by: SurfStats, go
to the web site
95 through XP
you build that web site and manage to get “them” to
come, you might start to wonder who and how many of “them” there
are. Fortunately for you, your web server keeps a log of
all of your web site activity. Unfortunately, log files
are messy and interpreting them is something that requires
a good log analysis program. There are a number of different
log analysis programs on the market that can aid you in
this task. SurfStats is one of these tools. The company’s
primary business objective is to provide tools that will
help you to better understand and cater to your web audience.
flagship product, Log Analyzer, comes in many different
flavors including basic, pro, enterprise and ASP versions.
For the purposes of this review, I used their professional
edition. For the most part, the different versions are
fairly similar in terms of features. The primary differences
lay in the number of sites each version handles and the
processes used to produce analysis results. For a detailed
overview of the different versions you can access a comparison
chart on their web site. Log Analyzer Professional
Edition was reviewed on a Dell Dimension 8250 with 512MB
RAM running Windows XP.
the most important things to look for in a log analysis
program is ease of use. Now granted I've used my share
of log analysis programs, but SurfStats definitely shined
in this department. The interface is straightforward, with
the main options in a left side menu and the results on
the right. The Site Profile Wizard steps you through setting
up a new site for analysis and although you will need some
basic information, such as your site login, address, password
and the location of your log files, it makes the overall
setup process quite painless. Once you've set up the initial
profile, it is saved. You can then clone this profile if
you like, for even quicker setups of similar sites.
Besides setting up a site, the most important element
of a log analyzer is the type and range of reports it can
generate. The reports in SurfStats cover all of the main
areas you would expect: Overview, Traffic, Search Engine
Results, Visitors, Spiders, Page Reports, Marketing, Browser
Information, Watches, Errors and a compilation of the whole
report. The reports you generate can be viewed online or
output in HTML or Microsoft Word format.
One of the nice SurfStats extras is its range of automation
features. Reports can be run manually, but you can also
automate many of the steps. Want to have the report results
automatically created in Word format and e-mailed to someone?
No problem. Adjust your preferences and away you go. Want
one version of the report done this way and another version
reported in a different format? Use the clone feature to
duplicate the setup and make your adjustments on the cloned
version. The program can also be set up as a Windows NT,
2000 or XP service to run automatically in the background.
Once you have your basic site analysis down, you can start
adding filters, restrictions, ad customizations, add e-commerce
reports if applicable, adjust dates and basically refine
your results so you can make the best decisions about the
effectiveness of your site. The one consistency throughout
all of these modifications is ease of use. SurfStats makes
generous use of images (e.g., a calendar that allows you
to highlight date ranges), and various templates and displays
to make each of the setup and analysis steps as painless
Advanced features include the ability to report in and
customize various languages (e.g., Spanish, French and
German), a built in FTP tool to transfer your log files
(manually or automatically), a DNS database that eliminates
the need for the reverse DNS lookup (a terrific time saver),
customizable themes for report look and feel, special e-commerce
tracking, visitor tracking by cookies and the ability to
be run as a service in Windows.
All in all you can probably tell that my overall impression
of this product is very favorable. If SurfStats could do
one thing better, it would be to add additional help and
information on correctly interpreting your log results
(along with wizards to help you through the process). This
information could then be used to guide you towards obtaining
even better information about your visitors and making
appropriate site changes. Of course if it did that what
would all of those web site consultants do for work?
Although analyzing log files is not the most exciting
task I could dream of, finding justification for that huge
site redesign you just completed can be quite rewarding!
Of course if your results go south, you can always blame
(ahem) a 'corrupt' log file. If you are looking at doing
analysis on 10 sites or less, take a look at the basic
version of LogAnalyzer. Otherwise you'll want to explore
the pro, enterprise or SurfStats Live products. Recommended
(but remember, good results or bad, don't blame the messenger!).
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