Adds non-invasive logging of page visits in SharePoint Online to a MS SQL Server database.
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README.md

Bugfree.Spo.Analytics

Bugfree.Spo.Analytics adds non-invasive logging of page visits in SharePoint to a MS SQL Server database, meaning that you own and control the collected data.

The idea of Bugfree.Spo.Analytics is akin to Google Analytics, except that Google Analytics doesn't record the login names of visitors (but can be tweaked to by adding a custom dimension), doesn't easily allow running any query on collected visits, and you don't control how the collected data is used.

In the near future, a frontend with a dashboard and simple query functionality will be added as well. But the main purpose remains on recording visits. Separate tools already do querying and graphing well.

Because visits are tracked client-side using JavaScript, Bugfree.Spo.Analytics isn't intended for auditing. Rather, its purpose is to gather aggregated visitor statistics and answer questions such as how many users visited a page, a web, or an entire site collection over a period of time.

How it works

To enable visitor tracking within a site collection, a tool is provided to register the JavaScript client component with the site collection. Registration involved adding JavaScript file to the site collection's User Custom Actions, and as such doesn't modify the master page. SharePoint then takes care to include the JavaScript reference in every page within the site collection.

The JavaScript client component collects information by hooking into the following browser events:

  • Document Ready which fires when the DOM is loaded and the browser is ready to execute JavaScript. At this stage, external page dependencies, such as CSS, images, and remaining JavaScript files, are yet to be downloaded.

  • Load which fires when all page dependencies have finished downloading. Hooking into both Document Ready and Load enables measuring page load time as experienced by the user. But Load doesn't always fire. Download of external dependencies may hang due to client, server, or network issues or because the user navigates away from the page before the browser completes the download.

    In case a non-essential dependency is missing, the user may not notice. But page load time becomes large or is missing altogether. In most cases, Load fires as expected, but sometimes it takes minutes. A page load time this long is (probably) due to the browser's garbage collection. The browser shouldn't/can't fire Unload before Load as that would violate W3C event ordering, and thus artificially fires Load.

Visit metadata

For each visit, the client-side component records the following metadata:

  • Id: a monotonically increasing integer identifying the visit. It's the primary key of the row added to the Visits database table.

  • CorrelationId: a globally unique identifier for the visit, used to correlate messages generated by Document Ready and Load events. At first sight, having both Id and CorrelationId may seem redundant, but whereas Id is a server-side, database-generated value, CorrelationId is client-side generated. Only the client can correlate Document Ready and Load events across visits.

  • Timestamp: a UTC time at which the first message with a unique CorrelationId arrived at the server. The first message will almost always be Document Ready. Timestamp isn't updated when another message, such as Load, arrives.

  • LoginName: a user's login name in identity claims encoding format, e.g., i:0#.f|membership|rh@bugfree.onmicrosoft.com. SharePoint may have multiple claims providers configured in which case rh@bugfree.onmicrosoft.com alone wouldn't be unique.

  • Url: a Url including query string parameters to ensure any query have access to contextual metadata. For instance, browsing document libraries, the position within the folder hierarchy is part of the query string.

  • PageLoadTime: an elapsed time in milliseconds between the triggering of Document Ready and Load events as measured by the client. A large number indicates delayed triggering of Load (as described above) and a null value that Load hasn't yet, and maybe never will, trigger for the visit.

  • IP: an IP address of the client as observed by the server. JavaScript doesn't provide a way to access the client's IP address. The Azure App Service, hosted behind a load balancer/reverse proxy, is able to determine the client's IP from the x-forwarded-by request header added by the Azure infrastructure.

  • UserAgent: a string added to the request header by the browser. Including the user agent provides a rough measure of which browser versions and operating systems are in use.

In practice, the potential set of metadata to record for each visit is open ended. The JavaScript running on each page may collect additional metadata by calling any method in the browser's API or by making JSOM and REST calls. The JavaScript is already running in a user authenticated context.

Performance

As clients post messages to the server, the server doesn't immediately propagate those as visits to MS SQL Server. The only immediate server-side processing associated with a message is adding it to an in-process queue. When the queue reaches a certain length (currently five messages), a background thread converts the messages into visits and flushes those to MS SQL server.

Queuing messages enables the server to handle a large number of requests without clients experiencing any performance degradation. Quickly responding to client requests is paramount as we're tying up a browser connection.

Application Insights reports average server-side processing time per request to be around 5 ms over 30 days and 750k requests. On the client, Chrome developer tools clocks a call to the server at 30-40 ms with most of the time spent asynchronously waiting for the server to respond.

The SQL Azure database instance running in the Standard: S0 pricing tier, records 10k-15k daily visits using less than 1% of its Database Throughput Units (Azure's aggregated measure of CPU, memory, reads, and writes). A similar low measure applies to the Azure Service.

Compilation

Before compiling the solution, make sure LocalDb is installed. LocalDb comes as part of SQL Server Express and may be installed without installing any other parts of SQL Server Express. Simply perform a custom installation of SQL Server Express and deselect everything but LocalDb. The build script assumes the version of LocalDb from the SQL Server Express 2016 installation is installed. Older versions will likely require tweaking of the instance name.

For MSBuild, we use Visual Studio 2017's path to msbuild.exe. Without Visual Studio 2017 installed, the path will require adjusting.

With those prerequisites out of the way, execute the build.ps1 script within the repository's root folder. For use during compilation only, a LocalDB database is created within src\Bugfree.Spo.Analytics.Cli. Output from the compilation is located in src\Bugfree.Spo.Analytics.Cli\bin\debug.

Installation

Bugfree.Spo.Analytics consists of a SQL Azure database, a web application, and a management tool. For each part, separate setup instructions are provided below. The steps assume Bugfree.Spo.Analytics is deployed to Azure, but on-premise deployment is supported as well.

SQL Azure database

Create an empty MS SQL Azure database and apply the schema to it.

Web application

  1. Inside the Microsoft Azure portal, create a new App Service. As App Service names must be globally unique, consider adding a company prefix to BugfreeSpoAnalytics.

  2. For the new App Service, under Settings select Deployment Credentials and add a user name and password for FTP deployment. This step enables xcopy deployment of the compiled output to the App Service.

  3. For the new App Service, under Settings, Properties make a note of FTP/DEPLOYMENT USER and FTP HOST NAME. Pasting the FTP HOST NAME into Windows Explorer and entering the credentials setup in Step 2, the IIS file structure of the App Service instance is displayed.

  4. Deploy the backend to the Azure App Service by following these steps.

    4.1. Delete /site/wwwroot/hostingstart.html.

    4.2. Copy the content of src/Bugfree.Spo.Analytics.Cli/bin/Debug to /site/wwwroot.

    4.3. Copy src/Bugfree.Spo.Analytics.Cli/Web.config to /site/wwwroot.

    4.4. Copy src/Bugfree.Spo.Analytics.Cli/public to /site/wwwroot/public.

  5. Inside the Azure portal, navigate to Application Insights and the name of the App Service. An Application Insights instance is automatically provisioned with the App Service. Under Properties, make a note of the INSTRUMENTATION KEY.

  6. Inside the Azure portal, setup app settings by going to Application Settings, App Settings and enter ApplicationInsightsInstrumentationKey as key and INSTRUMENTATION KEY from Step 5 as value.

  7. Inside the Azure portal, setup app settings by going to Application Settings, App Settings and set the following keys:

    7.1 CommitThreshold: the maximum number of messages queued before being flushed to the database. A small number means the application connects to the database more often, but also that the database is more up-to-date. For comparison, with about 30,000 messages per day, setting CommitThreshold to 5 yield a database load about 1%.

    7.2. Reports.InCloudDomain: with a tenant URL such as https://bugfree.sharepoint.com, the value of this setting must be "bugfree". Users created within Azure Active Directory only will have this tenant address as part of their login name. This setting allows the classification of users based on login name.

    7.3. Reports.OnPremiseDomain: the domain of users in the on-promise Active Directory synchronized to Azure Active Directory. If the mail address of an on-premise user is rh@domain.dk, the value of this setting must be "domain.dk". This setting allows the classification of users based on login name.

    7.4. Reports.CompanyPublicIPs: a comma-delimited list of public IP addresses of your organization. For example "1.2.3.4, 5.6.7.8". Given that the web application runs in Azure, traffic from both inside and outside your organization originate from public IP addresses. This settings allows the classification of traffic based on origin.

  8. Inside the Azure portal, setup the connection string by going to Application Settings and in the Connection Strings section enter BugfreeSpoAnalytics as name and set value equal to the connection string for the SQL Azure database created earlier.

  9. Inside the Azure portal, enable CORS by going to CORS and adding * (star) as allowed origins.

Management tool for visitor registration and unregistration

Open a command prompt and change directory to src/Bugfree.Spo.Analytics.Cli/bin/Debug. Bugfree.Spo.Analytics.Cli.exe contains both a self-hosting web server and functionality for registration/unregistration of the JavaScript User Custom Action within a site collection.

Running Bugfree.Spo.Analytics.Cli.exe --help provides the following:

USAGE: Bugfree.Spo.Analytics.Cli.exe [--help] [<subcommand> [<options>]]

SUBCOMMANDS:

    --server <options>    launch web server hosting analytics backend to which SharePoint directs requests.
    --register-site-collection <options>
                          register callback script for a single site collection.
    --register-site-collections <options>
                          register callback script for all tenant site collections.
    --unregister-site-collection <options>
                          unregister callback script for a single site collection.
    --unregister-site-collections <options>
                          unregister callback script for all tenant site collections.
    --verify-site-collections <options>
                          verify number of callback script all tenant site collections.

    Use 'Bugfree.Spo.Analytics.Cli.exe <subcommand> --help' for additional information.

OPTIONS:

    --help                display this list of options.

For all subcommands except --server, the provided user must have at least site
collection administrator rights or the operation is skipped for the site.

Examples (place command on single line)

  Enable visitor registration within a single site collections:

  .\Bugfree.Spo.Analytics.Cli.exe
    --register-site-collection
    --username rh@bugfree.onmicrosoft.com
    --password secretPassword
    --site-collection https://bugfree.sharepoint.com/sites/siteCollection
    --analytics-url https://bugfreespoanalytics.azurewebsites.net
  
  Disable visitor registration within all site collections.
  
  .\Bugfree.Spo.Analytics.Cli.exe
    --unregister-site-collections
    --username rh@bugfree.onmicrosoft.com
    --password secretPassword
    --tenant bugfree
  
  Start self-hosted web server on port 8083 and serve public files:
  
  .\Bugfree.Spo.Analytics.Cli.exe --server --port 8083 --static-files-location ..\..\public

Supported platforms

SharePoint 2013, SharePoint Online

References: