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Digital Log Collection: Bringing Situational Awareness to Digital Commerce

Ben Vaughan • February 5, 2019

The Internet can be a scary place: digital storefronts are constantly facing threats, changes, and new customer expectations. One of the best ways to stay on top of the situation, though, is to have a sense of “situational awareness” for what is going on in your digital experience.

 

What does “situational awareness” mean in a digital context? It means having an eye on:

  • How many visitors are on the site,
  • What percentage of visitors are just browsing versus in the conversion process
  • What traffic is the most impactful in terms of site performance?
  • What happens when you run the job to update your catalog or inventory?

 

Now, this is a lot to manage all at once. But, collecting log data from your commerce infrastructure is the best way to maintain “situational awareness” for what’s happening in your online store.

 

Why Collect Logs?

First and foremost, the PCI Data Security Standard requires merchants to keep at least the last 12 months of weblogs easily accessible. This is necessary in the case that your site experiences a security incident. Weblogs provide a lot of insight into the details of any incident and are useful to track down the cause or perpetrators.

Beyond that, having these logs available can also help diagnose bugs, find performance gaps and optimizations, and understand who, or what is interacting with your storefront. Given the right set of log analysis tools, you can glean some very insightful data.

 

What Do Logs Tell You?

We have to start this with a caveat: log data is only as useful as the tools that create log messages and collect, parse, and analyze those messages. A good Systems Integrator will write detailed and useful log messages, as well as build a capability to adjust the verbosity of logs. This enables you to make the application more or less “chatty” depending on your needs. A good online commerce support provider will have the ability to collect these logs, parse the log messages into useful data, then be able to present that data back to you in a way that makes it useful.

The logs can give you all kinds of interesting data: time on site, a user’s journey through your site, how well your site responded to that user’s request, and much, much more. Even more interesting, the logs can provide insight in aggregate, meaning you can gain insight into what’s happening on your site not from the content of the individual log messages, but by the pattern of messages coming in from the site. Did you just send out a marketing email? The pattern of log messaging can show a marked uptick in visitor traffic. Does your site “feel slow”? The logs can show an aggregate pattern of usage suggesting capacity concerns. All of this data can be instrumental towards addressing site concerns and driving optimizations, and it all comes from the logs that your site is already generating.

 

Combining Log Analysis With Other Data

It is also possible to take the data collected from your systems and mash it together with data from other sources. For instance, you can combine IP address data in your logs with GeoIP data and watch people “wake up” to your marketing emails as traffic patterns migrate from east to west over a map. You can combine web log data with APM data, such as New Relic, to determine areas in the code that might need optimization.

 

All in all, partnering with the right commerce and experience solution partner is a great way to start making your logs work for your digital business.


Ben Vaughan

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Ben Vaughan

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