KnowledgeBase - What is the difference between client-side data collection and web server log file analysis?
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What is the difference between client-side data collection and web server log file analysis?

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What is the difference between client-side data collection and web server log file analysis?
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Last modified: 9/1/2010

Introduction:
Below you will find various reasons why the numbers for client side data collection will never match the numbers resulting from log file analysis.

Counting Method
Traditional log analysis counts hits from web server log files; client side analysis counts users (identified by cookies) and HTML pages viewed from browsers.

Crawlers/Spiders
Log file analysis can be configured to count hits from spiders and other crawlers; since such hits do not cause the JavaScript to be rendered, client side analysis does not count them.

Proxy Servers and Page Caching
With log file analysis, pages cached by proxy servers may not be counted; with client side, all page views are counted (each page view contains a random number that prevents proxy servers from caching it).

Downloads and non-HTML Pages
With client side, only viewable HTML pages can be counted (.html, .htm, .asp, etc.); log file analysis software can be configured to count all downloads and links to non-HTML files.

Error Pages
Error pages are counted and tabulated in a separate table by log file analysis; client side counts viewable error pages only if they contain its JavaScript.

Redirects
While log file analysis software can be configured to count all redirects, the JavaScript cannot be embedded in a virtual redirect and thus client side cannot count them. This is especially important for sites that use redirects on their home page. If the first hit to a site is a virtual redirect, client side will never know the true referrer. For client side to capture accurately referring information, the script must be present on the first page viewed (even if it is an invisible redirect). If the first hit is in fact a redirect, it should be a hard coded redirect.

New Visitor/Sessions
Log file analysis software can track new visitors and sessions from the log files and can use special cookies to further track visitor sessions; browsers must have JavaScript and cookies enabled for the client side to track new visitors and sessions.
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