It’s not that we make a ton of money here. We don’t. Our Mac site, and the dozens of other web sites we maintain, are all served on a Macintosh.
In the early days it was an old iMac G4 (one of the original 15” flat panel models; still in service 24/7). Then we graduated to a temporary eMac (also still in service) before finally moving to a PowerMac G5 with dual 2.0 ghz CPUs.
Any new Mac makes an excellent server these days. It’s probable that any Mac in the lineup could saturate a T-1 (techno speak for 1.54 megabits per second, or, lots of visitors, lots of pages) line to the Internet. Each new Mac also comes with Mac OS X which has most of the server tools you’ll need built right in and ready to go.
Macs are powerful enough these days to handle many web site chores, including serving web pages, handling email, taking care of databases, and much more. All point and click (mostly).
Get out the “Blank blank for Dummies” books, because there’s not much you can’t do on any new Mac (and most old ones) with Mac OS X. The world’s most popular web server, Apache, is included free in Mac OS X. Point and click gets it up and running.
The world’s most popular scripting language (upon which many powerful web applications run), PHP, is also included. Not included is the popular database, MySQL, though it’s available for free download from Apple’s Mac OS X downloads site (and elsewhere).
Frankly, that’s a powerful package and those applications formed the basis of our web site and many others. There’s a lot of horsepower with Apache, PHP, and MySQL running on Mac OS X.
There are also plenty of free or near free applications which read web server log data. We used the popular Summary for about a year before graduating to the more expensive and very capable Urchin server log analyzer.
Urchin stands out from the crowd of web server statistics applications for a number of reasons. It’s pretty. It’s rock solid. It runs on Mac OS X. It tracks unique visitors. It’s expensive.
Web servers such as Apache generate more statistics than four generations of legs could shake a tree of branches at. Here are some that we find useful and interesting.
Unique Visitors – This is a count of the visitors who hit the site and is different than hits and different than visits. It’s an important stat. Weekdays we run about 3,000 daily unique visitors.
Sessions – If you visit our site three times a day you’re counted as a single unique visitor but we also count three “visits.”
Return Visitors – For obvious reasons, this is an important number. If we only get new visitors to the web site each day, and no one returns, we’d eventually run out of visitors (although Apple sells more Macs in a day than we get visitors… still).
Hits – It depends on what you mean by “hits.” A true hit is what the web server sends to your browser. That means the text that makes up the web page (one hit), and each graphic element (one hit each for logo, buttons, arrows, etc.) on that page. A page with nine graphic elements is actually 10 “hits.”
Two other stats of changed in importance in the past two years. A few years ago the Domain Names (names of domains of the visitors to web site) were important. Today, with cable and DSL (and businesses) carrying most of the Internet traffic, those stats are less important.
For example, our top domains from visitors are Comcast, RoadRunner, etc. You get the idea.
The second stat that’s changed dramatically in the past six months is “Robots.” Robots used to be limited to a stat from those search engines that would search and index a web site. Google. Yahoo. MSN. And others. It was an interesting statistic, but not much more.
In that same category of Urchin statistics for our web site are all the RSS readers—NewsFire, NetNewsWire, and others who read the RSS headlines for our sites, but don’t actually “visit” and view the web site pages. I like using RSS but I’m not sure if it’s such a great thing for a web site that’s trying to attract visitors, not personal bots which check out web pages first.
Another stat of interest is Browsers. As you’d suspect, about 60-percent of our visitors are using Safari, just under 20% are using Mozilla (probably Firefox), and about 15% still use Internet Explorer. However, of the Internet Explorer uses, only 15% of that total are Mac users. The rest are Windows users visiting a Mac web site.
I assume that Mac users are at work and visit our site on the office computer, which, unfortunately, is Windows.
In another article I’ll explore exactly what you need to do to set up your own web site, hosted on a Mac with OS X, and run it from your broadband (cable or DSL) Internet connection. There’s a lot of power under the hood of Mac OS X. With a domain name, an Internet connection, and Mac, you can run your own web site from the bedroom.