Web Host Raw Log Files

Raw log files are text files generated by a web server to store all requests made to a website. They are used primarily by website statistics software to generate reports on essential marketing metrics for a website such as number of visitors, pages viewed, referring websites and search engines, and visitors’ computer configurations.

Raw log files should be available with all web hosts. They provide the most accurate method of tracking visitors to a website. However, they can often be clumsy to access: the files tend to be very large, so downloading them and processing them with statistical analysis software can be a chore. If you operate the web server (for example, if you rent a dedicated server from your web host) you may be able to install software on the web server the processes the live logs. This is a much faster method of analysing your website’s traffic.

The alternative to using raw log files to analyse website statistics is a third-party website statistics tracker. These use an invisible tracking GIF image on each page of your website, using it to collect data remotely. This method is less accurate, but often easier to set up and more accessible to those using a shared web server.

Examples of software available to process raw log files and generate traffic reports are:

Raw log files usually come in either Common Logfile Format or Extended Logfile Format. Other formats specific to that operating system may also be used.