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Compliance Corner

Compliance corner comprises a series of issues that have arisen in the context of projects meeting technical standards. This page covers:

Server Logs

In the Technical Standards and Guidelines under the section on Performance Indicators, you will read:

"Web projects must maintain server log files and must use them to provide regular reports to NOF as and when requested."

Moreover, it is important that projects make it clear in their reports to Becta that they are able to confirm access to these log files. Becta states: "It is a matter of concern that projects are still not confirming access to Server Logs in either their Section A or B reports. This access is a NOF technical standards "must" requirements and all projects are expected to be able to provide reports on these logs now. (However there is no need to provide usage data whilst your site is still under construction).

Therefore there are a number of issues for projects to bear in mind in this area if they are to achieve compliance:

1 Does our server produce log files and are we maintaining them?

2 Are we making regular use of the data from those files to provide reports to NOF?

3 Have we confirmed access to these log files in our report to Becta?

1 Does our server produce log files and are we maintaining them?

Server logs are simple text files that are automatically generated every time someone accesses your website. These files contain information on who was visiting your site, where they came from and exactly what they did on your site. Obviously, this information is vitally important in assessing how effective and popular a site is.

If you are wondering whether your website server produces these files, then the answer is probably yes. The raw data will be produced by the website server by default - no additional configuration is needed to produce the server's standard set of usage data.

Whether your project is maintaining server log files can be checked either by asking your technical support staff or developers to confirm that they are, or in the case of your site being hosted by an external company, the latter must provide you with guidance on how to access your server logs on the externally hosted site.

Alternatively, if you have access to the server, it is likely you will be able to locate them through a search on directories or files named 'log', 'logs', etc. There is likely to be a large list of these files, and they may well be organised by date. One example might be:
(ad nauseam)

The seven or more fields that make up the log file are organised according to the way in which the server software has been configured and will vary considerably. Here is one example of a Web server log.

The server log file records information on requests (normally referred to as a "hit") for a resource on the Web server. Information included in the server log file includes the name of the resource, the IP address (or domain name) of the user making the request, the name of the browser issuing the request, the size of the resource, date and time information and whether the request was successful or not.

Bear in mind that if the Web server is not solely dedicated to your project website, (i.e. your website is not the only site hosted by your web server), then it is possible that not every entry in a server log file will refer to usage of your website.

Are we maintaining our log files?

To ensure the server logs are maintained up to date, you need to check the server is logging requests to the logfile. It it is enough to visit your own site with your browser and then confirm that the most recent entries in the server log include the time of your visit.

However it is also important that you maintain and store logfiles over time so that they can be used for reporting purposes. Projects have to ensure that they are rotating the log file, archiving the older log, possibly compressing it too. Again you need to discuss these arrangements with your colleagues responsible for the server. Where an external company is hosting your website, the maintenance and preservation of server logfiles should be discussed and agreed.

2 Are we making regular use of the data from those files to provide reports to NOF?

As you may perceive from the example of server log file entries above, using the data they contain to produce a report manually is no joy. A range of web statistics software is available which will produce reports automatically and you need to establish whether one such is in operation on your site. As you will appreciate, it is unlikely anyone is doing the process manually.
N.B.There is no need to provide usage data whilst your site is still under construction.

3 Have we confirmed access to these log files in our report to Becta?

Once you have ensured that you are meeting the requirements described in 1 and 2 above, achieving compliance with Becta is quite simple, but crucial. It is vital that you report the fact that you have access to server logs for the purpose of site usage reporting by ensuring you have indicated as such in the relevant part of the Section A or B reports.

If you are having technical problems with accessing your server logs then you may need to contact NOF-TAS for advice.

Further Reading

Web Site Performance Monitoring

Server logs: The source of site statistics

A Brief Introduction to Server Logs

Return to Compliance Corner contents

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Page last updated on Monday, May 09, 2005