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Web Marketing Your Business With Linux, Part 2 - page 2

Transferring Pages

  • January 8, 2004
  • By Rob Reilly

Several tools are at your disposal to monitor your site. Of course, large web sites and sites that host database applications require sophisticated logging and site analysis processes. Our business site has mostly static information that is useful for the readers, although the data should be updated regularly. Several Linux and web based tools can give you web site volume statistics and which pages were visited. Obviously, if you are running the web server yourself, then you can make the monitoring as comprehensive as you like. If you use an ISP/Web Hosting based server, then browser based monitoring is what you'll use. Here is a rundown of the tools.

On Your Company Server

Most people that are running a Linux web server use Apache. Make sure that Apache has been installed and if not, install it, using the method supplied by your version of Linux. I like SUSE Linux, so when I want to turn the Apache server on or off, I just go into the YaST runlevel editor and start or stop it. When Apache is running, it will log activity to files in the /var/log/httpd directory.

Two files named access.log and error.log record such things as dates and times of access, pages viewed and types of requests. They also record the starting and stopping of the Apache server, as well as problems that develop. The access.log file is particularly interesting because you can see what pages on your site have been accessed and then draw conclusions as to what visitors to your site find interesting. If web cruisers are looking at articles on your site, but not your catalog, perhaps your catalog is boring or maybe there is some problem with your catalog pages. Maybe there is an error that is preventing readers from even looking at your catalog pages. Better check it out. When the logging is enabled, you should keep an eye on the files in the /var/log directories because over time they could fill up the disk.

Another useful Linux tool for monitoring your web site is Snort. Snort is actually an intrusion detection system (IDS). It is well suited to watch activity on ports (normally 80 or 8080 for Apache on Linux boxes) and logs any attempts at connection to your web server, in the /var/log/snort directory.

Also, don't be afraid to take a look at your web site, just as a customer would see it. If you've just brought your new company web site up, log in from home and view it. Don't be surprised if you see layout errors, typos, bad links or broken graphics. Don't panic, just make some diligent notes and then fix them as soon as you can. A log file of errors and repairs kept on the web server, is a great way for your crew to see what's broken and what needs to be fixed. It's kind of like a poor man's trouble ticket system.

You might even go to some public location that has web access, such as a local library and take a look at your site. Normally, public web access facilities run very generic settings on their browsers (like 800 x 600 resolution), so right away you will see if you have designed an easy to use site. If your main company page has to be scrolled horizontally or the fonts are really hard to read, perhaps you should make some revisions, so your readers won't have to work so hard.

On Your ISP/Web Hosting server

My particular Internet Service Providers uses a web based application called Urchin. I just log into my web statistics page and can see the number of visitors I've had in a week, month or over the last year. The application also let's me see which pages have been visited and by how much. Last week I looked at my stats and noticed that some areas of my site were being visited during the past month or two, that previously hadn't had much activity. Now, I just have to figure out how I can capitalize on this new information.

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