Ad banner statistics and remote NT Server administration made easy

Anyone involved with a Web site knows a Web site isn't cheap to run and maintain. The Windows NT Magazine site, like many others, incorporates paid advertising to help support it. Posting ads is easy, but keeping track of the number of ad impressions (the number of times an ad banner appears) and click-throughs (the number of times a user clicks on an ad banner) for our advertisers and our ad sales department can be a big job. I use a mix of Internet Information Server (IIS) 3.0's Active Server Pages (ASP--for information about ASP, see Keith Pleas, "IIS 3.0's Active Server Pages," page 127) and Cold Fusion (for information about Cold Fusion, see the review, "dbWeb and Cold Fusion," April 1996) to record these advertising statistics to a SQL Server database. This method works well, but it can be a resource hog and requires that I create a user interface (UI) so that clients can access statistics for their ad banners.

With more than 2.5 million ad impressions each month, I have a lot of stats to maintain. I recently discovered digitalNATION's Ad Juggler for Windows NT. The software has been around awhile for UNIX users, and digitalNATION recently revamped the software and ported it to NT. This package offers everything our ad sales department has been asking for and then some. Ad Juggler gives us an enormous amount of control over each client's banner from a very friendly interface--any Web browser.

Ad Juggler Installation and Setup
Installing Ad Juggler is a breeze--you just run the executable file and fill in the blanks. You then use your browser to access the Ad Juggler interface to start entering accounts. From the main menu you see in Screen 1, click Add New Client and fill in the blanks on the subsequent page, as shown in Screen 2.

You can see that Ad Juggler performs a lot of the ad banner maintenance for you. Ad Juggler lets you set up the parameters for an ad before you even start. For example, you can set all the parameters for an account and never have to reconfigure the ad unless the client wants to extend its time online.

On the new client screen in Screen 2, you specify the client name, an email address where Ad Juggler can automatically mail reports, a password so that the client can access the ad banner stats, the choice of whether you want detailed logs, and the client status. The client status has three options: Auto, which takes a client's banner out of rotation when you reach any limit set on the account; Active, which keeps a banner active regardless of its stats; and Hold, which stops a banner from rotating while letting the client access the ad banner stats.

The part I like is the limitation you can apply to a banner's rotation. If you set the client status to Auto, you can also set a start and end date to specify when the ad banner enters a rotation. Alternatively, you can set how many times Web surfers can view or click a banner. You can also evenly disperse a banner's impressions over a given period. For example, suppose a client doesn't want to pay for a slot in your regular rotation schedule but is willing to pay for 100,000 impressions over a month at a reduced rate. If you put this client's banner into your regular rotation, you can use up all the impressions in less than a week. But with Ad Juggler, you can set Impressions distribution in Screen 2 to Even, and the software will take the number for the Max Impressions setting, divide it by 30, and show that number of impressions each day.

In addition, you can select how often you want to email a report to the client. You can set the software to email a report based on the number of ad impressions, click-throughs, or days. This feature is especially nice for clients who don't want to take the time to view their stats but still want updates on how their ads are doing.

Clients who want to keep close tabs on their ads can visit a personalized stats page to see up-to-date numbers for their ad banners. Screen 3 shows what clients see on their custom pages. Clients can see what images are rotating in the lineup and the numbers of ad impressions and click-throughs associated with those ad banners. This screen also lets clients change how often reports are emailed to them. The rest of Ad Juggler's controls are accessible from only the main menu, which is available to only those users who have the administrative password.

Screen 3 shows two ad banners. Ad Juggler lets you set up multiple banners for each client's advertising campaign while still maintaining one set of stats.

Ad Juggler also has a Pool option so that you can set up different rotations for different pages. For example, you can have several clients in group A who want their banners on only certain pages, and you can still maintain a group B with several clients who want their ad banners everywhere else.

Living with Ad Juggler
I did a brief performance test using Ad Juggler and discovered that the software uses a lot of CPU time. I simulated 120 simultaneous Web users, a fraction of our usual traffic, on my Intergraph InterServe Web 300 150MHz Pentium Pro with 128MB RAM. The CPU average usage was nearly 50 percent. Overall, the software requires more resources than my existing solution, but Ad Juggler does a better job of helping administer the ad banner stats. Besides, isn't performance what Pentium Pros are for?

If you want to call up Ad Juggler using your Web browser, your Web page must allow server-side includes (SSI). Unless you're willing to reset the default file for your Web site to be an SSI page, you can have a difficult time getting Ad Juggler to work on your home page. I get around this limitation by using a home page with frames. The default page is still index.html, but I can use whatever file types I want to fill each different frame on this page. My index.html page builds three frames: an ASP file, an SSI file, and a Cold Fusion file.

Ad Juggler is a product that pays for itself in no time. To duplicate its ability and functionality would cost me more in time than Ad Juggler's out-the-door sticker price. digitalNATION probably made Ad Juggler easy to operate to simplify the Web master's life, but the vast amount of well-organized stats is what makes my life easy and our ad sales department happy.

Web Administration for NT Server
Microsoft has introduced yet another NT administration tool, Web Administration for Microsoft Windows NT Server. The advantage of this tool is that you can use it to manage your NT servers from your Web browser. Web Administration for Microsoft Windows NT Server comes with the Microsoft Windows NT Server Resource Kit, and you can download it for free from Microsoft's Web site. Installing the program is easy. Simply run the .exe file, and the program searches your system for the necessary files and takes care of the installation.

Web Administration for Microsoft Windows NT Server is as close as you can get to administering your NT server without actually sitting in front of it. Granted, this method of remote administration isn't very useful if you can walk across a room and sit down at your NT server. However, this tool is handy if you are away from your desk but need to access the administrative tools on your server--all you need is a compatible Web browser.

For example, imagine that I'm in another department. I need to grant a user access to a particular directory, but I don't have time to get back to my servers. This situation is perfect for displaying the power and flexibility of the Web. To grant this user access, all I have to do is fire up the user's Web browser, point it to the Web Administration for Microsoft Windows NT Server file, and voila! I can now set the following server functions from the page you see in Screen 4:

Account Management

  • Create, delete, or disable user accounts
  • View and change user information (properties)
  • Change user passwords
  • Create and delete groups
  • Add users to and remove users from groups
  • Add workstations to the domain

Share Management

  • View shares
  • Change permissions on shares
  • Create new shares

Server Management

  • Reboot server
  • Change services or driver configuration
  • View system, application, and security log events

To use Web Administration for Microsoft Windows NT Server, you need NT Server running IIS 2.0 or greater and a Web browser that supports Basic authentication. I prefer to use Internet Explorer (IE) 3.0 because I can use NT Challenge Response security.

Also regarding security, if you're accessing your server from someone else's machine, make sure to close the Web browser when you're finished. This step forces users to log on again if they use the browser to go to your administrative URL. As long as your Web service isn't locked up, this tool gives you an alternative method of controlling your NT servers.

digitalNATION
703-642-2800
Web: http://www.adjuggler.com
Email: aj@dn.net
Price: $995.00
Web Administration for Microsoft Windows NT Server
Microsoft
206-882-8080
Web: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/common/aa467.htm
Price: Free