Find out who came to call and where with IIS Assistant add-on

By David Strom

(ran in Infoworld 6/9/97)

IIS Assistant represents a new breed of add-on web products. It is designed to run only with Microsoft's IIS web server, unlike many web server analysis tools that work with a wide range of servers. It doesn't make use of your server's log files, but collects its own data. And IISA greatly expands on the kind of reports and feedback that are available to webmasters, including the ability to do some powerful real-time analysis of who is visiting what portions of your web site.

If you want to know answers to such questions as "is that ad generating any traffic" or "who is visiting right now and what browser are they using?" or "how does today's traffic compare to yesterday or last week," then this product is for you.

Installation was fairly simple: you need to stop your IIS web service while you setup IISA. I had some problems with setting the appropriate file and security permissions on my NT server that caused me to call their technical support people: it could be better explained in the documentation and readme files. The issue is that the reports are stored as files within the NT file system: if you are the least bit concerned about who has access to these reports, then you'll need to setup your file system permissions carefully to restrict access to the appropriate people. You'll want to review both the NT and IISA documentation here to make sure that you have done this correctly: there are different directories for different tasks, such as one directory for storing all the administrative options and reports.

That is about all you need to do - once IISA begins running, it starts collecting statistics and making them available to anyone with the right permissions and a web browser that can support frames. There are a few nice features in the product, such as its own domain name resolution of IP addresses - this way you can see reports with the non-numeric and hopefully more meaningful address names of your visitors.

You can exclude certain IP addresses (via the Site Admin tab) from appearing in the statistics: this is useful if you want to keep your own visits from skewing the results. Up to 32 individual addresses or entire ranges of addresses can be excluded.

Reports are this product's bread and butter, and you have several options. You can view the reports in a browser, of course, and you can also print them out without any of the navigation buttons or supporting frames. You can also export the data to a comma-separated file for further analysis, although not all the data that is displayed on each page can be exported. Some of these reports are similar to what any good log file analyzer will produce, but the advantage is the real-time nature of the reports and how IISA consolidates them across multiple servers.

Some of the reports need help: for example, in the browsers report, IISA identifies users of Microsoft's Internet Explorer as "Mozilla compatible msie" (Mozilla was the original code name for Netscape's Navigator), which can be initially confusing. I also didn't particularly care for the way the product was installed, deep into the \WinNT\System\ directory, nor for the matter that uninstalling the software requires you to manually delete registry entires and files. But these aren't big deal-breakers.

And speaking of help, you should know that all of the associated help files are HTML as well. While this is nice to be able to view help from one's browser, I kept wishing that I could just see a printed document with everything collected together. Call me old-fashioned.

You can view sample reports of IISA on MediaHouse's web site, and you can also order it electronically from them as well.

IIS Assistant

Version 3

A new breed of web server analysis tool that doesn't make use of server logs to produce real-time site usage information

Pros: Real-time reports that any frames-capable browser can view

Cons: You'll need to be on very solid ground with understanding NT user permissions, unless you don't care who sees your reports.

Media House Software

Aylmer, Quebec, CA

819 682 9737

819 685 0994 fax

Price: $295

Platform: IIS version 1 or better running on Intel versions of NT 3.51 or greater, although recommended is IIS version 3 that comes as part of the SP 2 install on NT version 4.

Copyright 1997 Infoworld Publishing Co.