IP Tracker -- What is an IP Number?

IP Numbers

What is an IP number? Well, just think of it as your address on the Internet. Whenever your computer requests to see a page on a server, the server needs to know where to send that page. The location where the server eventually sends this page to is your IP number. Without an IP number, the server would never know where your computer is located. (Think of it as a system similar to the Postal Service. If you send a letter to a stranger without a return address they'll have no idea of where to send a response.) Since your IP number is your address on the Internet, it only makes sense to count how many different IP numbers have been tracked at your site. The WunderCounter uses this system to determine your unique hits. Unique hits are collected on a daily basis. That is, your unique hits calculated for any given day are a direct reflection of how many unique IP numbers have been collected for your stats account on that day.

How accurate is this? Well, it's not perfect, but it's very handy. It gives you a good idea of how many different visitors your site is getting. However, a good understanding of the limitations of this method can be very helpful. First of all, since the Unique Hits are gathered per day, they do not carry over to the next day. That is, a visitor hitting your site just before and just after midnight CST, will be counted twice. This is because s/he has visited your site on 2 distinct calendar days. In addition to this if, when you view your monthly summary, you see 2,000 unique hits for the month of June, you should keep in mind that many of these visitors may be the same people. In many cases they may not be, but it's something you should keep in mind.

How accurate is IP number tracking in general?

It's pretty good, but again, no system on the Internet is perfect. There is one major problem: in general, you can't actually see and identify the people who are browsing your site. For example, several page impressions from one IP number may not have been caused by the same person. This is because many people use shared computers. In a family of 5, some family members may visit the same sites regularly, all using the same computer and web browser. However, because that particular computer doesn't use a unique IP number for every family member there is *no* way to distinguish whether these visits were made by one person or even more. Sometimes there may be more than one person crowded around a monitor -- perhaps someone is showing your site to a friend or a group of friends. Maybe the computer in question could be at a CyberCafe or in a public library, where dozens of people use that particular machine on a given day.

An additional problem which should be considered is that of the shared IP number. Because the Internet is growing so rapidly, the finite number of available IP numbers is a bit problematic. This leads to dynamic IP numbers (or IP numbers that can be changed automatically by your provider). Many Internet users do *not* have a particular IP number assigned to their computer. Usually, when they log on to the Internet, the computer which they are using is automatically given an IP number by the provider. When they log off, this number becomes available and may then used by someone else. This means that an Internet provider, which only has access to a certain amount of IP numbers, can take on more subscribers than IP numbers. Since all subscribers (in theory) will *never* be online at the same time, this system of sharing IP numbers makes things cheaper for everyone involved. (IP numbers, unlike your postal mailing address, are not free. They're probably not shown as part of your monthly bill, but they are an expense which your provider has to pay for).


An additional consideration is the firewall. Often corporations or even families will want to limit access to and from the Internet. This makes sense if a) your are trying to make your network at home or the office more secure or b) you have a limited number of IP numbers at home or at the office. What happens in a firewall situation is that all the computers behind the firewall are separated from the Internet by one computer (usually called a proxy server). All communications into or out of the network must pass through this one particular computer (which will usually monitor the information which it passes along). If users behind a firewall access any of your stats pages, they will all show up under the *same* IP number. Which IP number is this? It will be that of the proxy server. Since the proxy server handles all network requests for information, it will be the one that also handles requests for your web pages. You can sometimes distinguish different machines behind a firewall by examining the OS and browser information, monitor colour or monitor resolution information in your log files. If you have two different Operating Systems showing up under the same IP number at about the same time, this is likely due to 2 different machines behind a firewall accessing your site.

Can I Screen Out Multiple Hits Coming From the Same Visitors?

If you're using a Premium Account, the answer is "yes". Premium Users can choose "Basic Account Options" on the "Options" menu. Your pages will tell you whether "Session Control" has been enabled. You can either enable or disable Session Control by following the "Enable" or "Disable" link. Once Session Control is enabled, you'll be able to weed out multiple visitors. All changes to Session Control are made in real time, so it starts working as soon as you enable it.