Advantage of having a users' logs records in a website

I have been asked to record all members logs.

What is the advantage of having users' log records in my website or forum? Why should I know who signed in and when?


Reasons could be :

  1. Monitoring abuse and security breaches.
  2. Understanding traffic and growth patterns.
  3. Seeing the flow of user activity to optimize designs and program flow.
  4. Marketing data for advertising purposes.

This is something you should ask your supervisor as part of the research into how best to handle their request. Ask them what they plan to do with the data so you can generate reports that will give them what they're looking for. In these cases, it's usually better to ask the person making the request what their end goal is so you can craft the best solution.

As a more direct answer, this data can be useful to see trends in activity on the site. Who is logging in most often? How much time are they spending on the site? Things of that nature. If the business is planning to sell advertising on the site, this can be invaluable in determining the target demographics so they know who will be most likely to want to buy ads, maximizing sales performance. That's just one though. There are a thousand other reasons they might want this data.

It sounds like your supervisor wants an audit trail on the application. That way they can track usage statistics, and potentially track those that shouldn't be using the system. This can be beneficial at a large scale when you need to provide justification for additional programmer time for updates or to justify terminating the application.

You can also track invalid login attempts to look out for those trying to break into the system or also as a proactive attempt to call them back and say "Hey, I noticed you are trying to get into the application. Did you fill out Form X to get approval for it?"

There are a multitude of reasons why this might be useful, the two most obvious being security and for debugging.

Your boss might have other reasons, but without context, it is hard to say.

The logs could be useful for:

  • Investigating potential security issues (multiple login attempts from a single user, or concurrent logins from a given user)
  • Reporting (For example, the number of "active" users who have logged in recently)

I'd suggest getting clarity from your supervisor on how he plans to use the logs. Logging any activities the user performs on the site such as submitting a contact form is useful for reporting and can be the foundation for a system that assures all user input is responded to quickly.

We track all users activities on all of our systems. Being a health care organization we are required to protect patient information and track all accesses to any information that could be considered patient data. There's also a marketing aspect. We want to know what our employees are responding to on our intranets and what they are not. And lastly, there's a legal aspect in terms of providing a safe workplace. Anonymous forums can open the door to harassment and such. Sucks, but yes it happens.

Having that info is good for reporting purposes (probably why your boss is asking for it). It's a good way to measure how many members are logged in at any given moment, who uses it the most, etc.

For reporting purposes I guess?

Might be a better idea than to put that stuff in a Database, but then you'll be writing to it with each login.

An even better solution is to leverage something Google Analytics. Maybe if you have a login confirmation page, you could count the number of page views. This would require barely any programming work (copy and paste in some javascript).

Well for one you could calculate some advanced statistics. It could help you understand what happened with someones account if something went bad. There are a lot uses for that, but if your site is small and doesn't have all that much trafic, I think simple last login tracking should do it.

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