How to estimate number of anonymous users on a Web site

Web sites are becoming ever more pervasive in our world. They are at their core a technical phenomenon, and as systems administrators we are often responsible for their care and nurturing. This tip shows you how to determine, for an Internet Information Server (IIS) site, approximately how many anonymous users are active on a server.

If you work with IIS, you have probably been in the situation where you need to cycle a Web site server. Either you've introduced new components and need to clear the cache or you need to take the site off-line for other systems maintenance reasons. You do not want to disrupt the use of the site if it is in active use, but how can you determine if the site is being hit and how often? You can acquire sophisticated Web monitoring tools that have the capability to report this type of information, but these are not always available or suitable for single sites, internal sites or just sites that can't justify the expense and overhead. One solution is to use Windows 2000's built-in Performance Monitor for a simple estimate. (Performance Monitor extensions are also available for Windows NT).

In a "standard" Windows server configuration, Performance Monitor can be found on the Programs - Administrative Tools menu. (If it was not installed, it can be loaded off of the W2K server media).

To monitor the anonymous users on a server do the following:


  • Run

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  • Performance Monitor from the Administrative Tools menu

  • Press the "Add" button on the toolbar (marked by a "+" sign)

  • Select the server you would like to monitor from the pull-down

  • In the "Performance object" pull-down, select "Web Service"

  • You can now select the "Current Anonymous Users" counter from the displayed list

  • Hit the "Add" button

  • Hit the "Close" button if you are through selecting counters to display

When these steps are completed, the Performance Monitor display should begin graphing the number of anonymous users hitting the site. The bottom of the graphical display also shows numeric statistics for more precise monitoring.

Note: If the site is configured to use Windows authentication for access to the site instead of Anonymous, you will want to select the "Current Nonanonymous Users" counter to reflect usage.

This was first published in March 2001

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