In-Depth

Editor's Choice: IIS Monitoring

<b>Winner: </b>Parker Software Ltd. Who's On<br> <br> <b>Honorable Mention:</b> <a href="#netiq">NetIQ WebTrends</a>

Who’s On $59 (Standard Edition), $99 (Professional Edition)  Parker Software Ltd.; www.whos-on.net

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.

Parker Software Who's On
Who's On 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.

Honorable Mention

NetIQ WebTrends
Prices vary by suite—from $499 for the WebTrends Log Analyzer to $10,500 for the WebTrends Reporting Center Enterprise Edition
NetIQ
408-856-3000, www.netiq.com

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.

About the Author

Mike Gunderloy, MCSE, MCSD, MCDBA, is a former MCP columnist and the author of numerous development books.

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Reader Comments:

Wed, May 12, 2010 Gotlivechat US

GotLiveChat.com is another provider of live support software services. It's a no-cost service that doesn't require server software to operate; just a few lines of HTML.

Fri, Oct 9, 2009 Stephen Parker UK

Response from publisher to ADAM. WhosOn was released years before Sightmax and was therefore not copied. All development is done in house. We offer excellent support via phone, live chat and email. Users can download the latest verison of WhosOn to see for themselves the quality of the product.

Thu, Sep 24, 2009 Adam

After a comparison with the SightMax Server from sightmax.com, it seems that WhosON copied all the features from Sightmax. You can easily see the resemblance by looking at both Operator console screenshots. Whoson looks like a cheap version, created by outsourced developers. I tried both solutions and decided to purchase SightMax and it simple won in front of WhosOn. More than that, any US based company should not buy from an UK company, because it's really hard to rely on technical support coming from UK. Whoson does not offer technical support 24/7 (only during normal business hours UK time). Imagine if your call center has a terrible problem with the chat server and it goes down, you don't have somebody to speak to, because everybody in UK is asleep? Our company is using SightMax on over 20 websites and we couldn't be any happier.

Fri, Jul 24, 2009 Satish chennai

true. this is the most wonder piece of software that i've ever installed, configured and used. the reports are totally awesome, and so professional, makes one believe that it isnt really possible to create those with such ease. but hey, whoson makes it look simple....

Mon, Jan 19, 2009 Anonymous Anonymous

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