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Tool Box: Analyzing WebTrends
by Jon Huntress, Contributing Editor


WebTrends Professional Suite is a Web site management solution that analyzes traffic, links, traffic through a proxy server for intranet use and also has a feature for monitoring various services on servers and sending out alerts when there are problems.

WebTrends, and all site management software, analyzes log files. Whenever a site is visited a log file is created that records most of a user's visit: whether the page was accessed by http or ftp, what the visitor did, whether they used Windows, NT or Unix as a platform, the search engine used, the date and time of the visit along with other specific information. If you control your own servers, the program can be installed and run immediately but if your site is through an ISP, you will have to work with them to configure the program. You will need to know the exact path, the naming conventions for the log files, rotation of the log files and a password to access their server.

With WebTrends you create profiles to generate reports, demonstrating which specific log files are analyzed based on the date you want to see. An analysis of traffic is one example and you could also have a profile that would analyze the links on your site for integrity. Another profile would alert you by sound or page if the server is down or there is some kind of problem. The log files are defined, and a filter is created to find the data you want. The results are used to create reports, which can be configured in a variety of ways to best present the data.

It only takes about ten minutes to create a new profile. There are sample profiles to make the process easier. You can track all major log files and filter the results down to zero. Reports can be created in several formats including HTML, Word, Excel and ASCII.

WebTrends can also do analysis of proxy servers. Information on what sites employees are going to, number of visits and downloads can also be tracked to help determine employee productivity and intranet site analysis. WebTrends has an "Extended Company Database" which translates domain names into department or organization names. You can specify multiple intranet domains as an area of your organization from the country level if you are an international company, all the way down to the workstation level.

But you can also examine all of the operating systems in a company, along with what browsers are being used. Analysis of the traffic will pinpoint what areas need upgrades before everything crashes from congestion.

Filters can be created to zoom in on only the data in the log files considered important. Filters can be set to be either "include" which filter in the data or "exclude" which filter out selected data. A filter element defines the criteria used. The copy option lets you use multiple filters on a single log file. Filters can be set for advertising, entry pages for users, domains, user names and countries and departments within your organization. You can also filter on keywords used in the search engines and what times of day or week get the most hits.

The alerting and monitoring feature is simply a profile that is run that checks the status of systems and devices and sends out an alert if something is down. LANs and routers can be checked, along with disk space and files. The alert can be an email, a sound, or a page.

The link analysis feature is a good thing as websites become larger and larger. Keeping a handle on broken links is difficult for a large site. You can track the oldest and newest pages and see a graphical analysis of the entire site. This feature is memory intensive, needing 2k for each link checked. If you are doing a large site, it can take some time. But you can set the depth of the search, to verify only the root links. Links to external sites are only verified to one level. WebTrends Site Manager displays the link analysis and shows details of each file. The pages that link to the site are located and you can identify the type of link to make repair easier.

The reports feature has a style editor, a language editor and a content editor. The style editor can modify colors, fonts, table frames and logos. The language editor allows custom terminology and even foreign languages. The content editor allows you to specify which graphs and tables to include as well as the type of graph or chart in which it is displayed. The reports can be automatically sent out at regular intervals and can me mailed or FTP to a server where the customers can look at their own reports on the web.

Tenagra's systems administrator used it when she worked at NASA as it allowed her to track and send reports about the general activity of dozens of sites. She likes the demographics and the tracking of how people go through the different sites. Our customers like the look of the reports.

WebTrends is a good site manager and runs in the neighborhood of $800. It is robust enough to handle big sites regularly, but it may be more programmed than you need if you have a smaller site. There is a stripped down version called Log Analyzer that costs $499 that can analyze up to 50 domains but this version lacks the link analyzer, proxy server analysis and server monitor features. There is also the more comprehensive Enterprise Suite available for $1999 and an even more comprehensive WebTrends CommerceTrends for $25,000.

WebTrends can be found on the Web at http://www.webtrends.com/



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