Server Logs — Drawbacks

Page Caching by ISP

To improve efficiencies, ISPs keep a copy of the requested web page on the user’s device. This temporary storage facility called cache, stores the served web page for fixed time duration. (Incidentally, this is why you need to press ctrl refresh to load fresh content from a webpage).

While cache greatly improves the page load speed, it bypasses the server. Since no request goes to the server, no log entry is created. The loss of information results in the under-reporting metrics such as count of page requests.

It is estimated that caching accounts for as much as a third of all page views.

Dynamic IP Address

Web analytics based on server logs assumes a fixed or static IP address. However, this is often not the case for home users. These users are usually are assigned dynamic IP addresses using Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP).

Though it occurs infrequently, the dynamic addresses change from time to time. When this occurs, an existing user assigned a new IP address, would be captured as new user.

This artificially inflates the number of new users and deflates the number of existing users.

Proxy Servers

Exhibit 20.2   Proxy server (source Wikipedia).

A proxy server is an intermediary for request from clients seeking pages from the website’s server. It serves to improve performance as well as security.

Proxy server maintain copies of results of users’ requests for fixed time duration. Since no request goes from users to the web server, no log entries is created, and metrics are consequently under-reported.

How Proxy Server bypasses Filters and Censorship

Exhibit 20.3   Proxy server circumvents firewall filter (source Wikipedia).

According to Wikipedia, proxy servers or proxies are the most common means of bypassing government censorship, although no more than 3% of net users use any circumvention tools.

Server using IP-based geolocation to restrict its service to a certain country can be accessed using a proxy located in that country.

Exhibit 20.3 illustrates how the circumvention works. In this example, a firewall to block requests from the destination server to the Facebook server. By routing the request via a proxy, the user (school PC) circumvents the firewall and gains access to pages on Facebook.

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