Sawmill Pro 3.0

Keep track of Web hits

No matter what you use your Web server for, you'll eventually want to know who's accessing it and how many hits you rack up. If you use programs such as Microsoft Internet Information Server (IIS), you have to manually pour through the system logs to get this data. Flowerfire's Sawmill Pro 3.0 is a Common Gateway Interface (CGI) tool that analyzes your Web server's log files and outputs the contents of the logs into an easy-to-read interface.

Installation is a breeze because Flowerfire distributes Sawmill Pro electronically. I downloaded the software from Flowerfire's Web site, unzipped the file, and dropped the 300KB executable file (which is a CGI script) into my cgi-bin directory. For this review, I used the freeware OmniHTTPD program as my Web server, but Sawmill Pro works with any HTTP daemon that supports CGI scripts. In addition to its inherent universal support for Web servers, Sawmill Pro can examine logs that popular programs such as IIS, Netscape, and Apache create. Sawmill Pro can also handle files from more obscure programs such as WebSTAR.

After the file was in place, I started my Web browser (Internet Explorer—IE—5.0) and launched the CGI script. Sawmill Pro detected that this launch was the first run and promptly loaded its setup program, which is a series of form-based HTML pages. Flowerfire calls this setup program an interview, which is an apt description. Sawmill Pro asks you several questions, such as where you store your log files, what the format of your log files is, and whether Sawmill Pro needs to count hits or bandwidth throughput. Some of this data might be tricky for Web novices to find, but Sawmill Pro comes with excellent online documentation that explains how to set up and use the program efficiently.

Sawmill Pro has three levels of security: Browse and Modify, Browse and Modify Limited, and Browse Only. Browse and Modify gives users password-protected access to modify the program's configuration. Browse and Modify Limited only lets you modify configuration files with this option. Browse Only, the most secure mode, is read-only.

After I properly configured Sawmill Pro, I fed it a month's worth of logs. Although my Web server is up for personal use and the number of hits is low, I had enough data to make using Sawmill Pro worthwhile.

I applied filters to Sawmill Pro's log analysis module. Because I was rebuilding my Web server, there were 404 errors (missing files), which the product filtered out. After I applied the filters, Sawmill Pro quickly created a database from my logs. Then, I made Sawmill Pro comb through my IIS logs and output a list of hosts in a pie-chart format as shown in Screen 1—which it did quickly and accurately. Sawmill Pro's log analysis output a breakdown of what type of browsers (including version numbers) users used to access my information. Using a database to store information buys you additional speed, because new data is added incrementally to the database as your logs grow.

As a CGI script, Sawmill Pro is portable across multiple platforms. When you purchase a license, you can download specific versions for Macintosh, Linux, BSD, Solaris, AIX, IRIX, and Win32. This setup lets savvy Web administrators use the same program on any platform they have deployed as an Internet server system.

Ordinarily, I would balk at the product's price, but Sawmill Pro is a useful tool for large Web sites. Best of all, the folks at Flowerfire are extremely responsive—you can count on getting a response from their tech support department without having to wait for days to get the software up and running. Also, Sawmill Pro works on more intricate setups than mine, which makes it a valuable tool for Web administrators. If you've spent more than a minute pouring through your log files, you'll want this program.

Sawmill Pro 3.0
Flowerfire * 217-898-6131
Price: $199 (two-user license)
System Requirements:
x86/Pentium CPU, Pentium 90 or higher recommended, 8 MB memory for Sawmill (on top of what is required by Windows and the web browser), 5 MB disk space
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