Tracking website traffic from your router allows you to see a complete breakdown of the sites that have been accessed through your network. Routers track traffic using router logs, which list the data packets that have entered and left the network through that router. This type of tracking can be a useful way of monitoring your Internet usage, especially if you have inadvertently deleted the browser history on a computer.
Logging capabilities are usually part of a router's firewall function. Firewalls provide a network security service that examines all network traffic as it enters or leaves a network. With logging enabled, the router takes a record of all firewall activity and stores it in a text or Comma Separated Values file. You can then use these router logs to work out which sites have been visited from your network by looking at the outbound packets that have passed through the firewall.
Disadvantages of Router Logs
One disadvantage to tracking Internet use through router logs is that the logs themselves often require a degree of skill to interpret. For example, it might not be immediately obvious which packets are outbound packets and which are inbound packets, and most logs only list IP addresses instead of human-friendly Universal Resource Locator links. In addition, checking raw router logs does not give you any indication of which user attempted to access a given site.
Log Analyzer Software
Log analysis software, such as WallWatcher and Link Logger, helps you to work around some of the disadvantages of using router logs. These programs take logs straight from your router and process them into a more readable format. In addition, most log analyzers are able to store usage details and compile statistics over a period of time. This can help you to identify whether a few particular sites are being regularly accessed through your network.
Domain Name System tracking is an alternative to router-level tracking. It is often more convenient that tracking through your router, as it logs the actual Web addresses that your network clients are visiting, rather than IP addresses. Most DNS server software allows you to save individual DNS requests and view them at a later time. Alternatively, you could use Open DNS, a free online DNS service that allows you to log into a web portal to track your router's DNS requests.
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