If you are a webmaster and you are not examining statistics of your site regularly, then you are running blind. If you are serious, then you must be examining your site statistics regularly to find out which pages are being visited, where people are coming from and what they are doing while they are on your site. You have two ways to do this: log files (the recommended and far superior method) and counter scripts.
The absolute best option is to place your site with a web host which gives you complete access to your log files. Most web servers keep (at system managers discretion) a detailed record (called a log file) of every single thing that happens on site. Every page visit, every image load and even every single error is recorded.
Since log files are already created automatically for you, why not take advantage of them and get detailed statistics they provide? This has added advantage that you are not adding additional overhead of recording statistics that are already being recorded by your web server. Log files are also invisible to your visitors (it's really none of their business how many hits you are getting) and require no setup of any kind.
A number of options exist to analyze your log files. Virtually all web hosts that allow you to access these logs also provide some online tools to view them in an organized manner. Usually these tools consist of some routine thatruns each night and creates graphics and charts which you can examine at your leisure.
You can also find a number of programs (shareware and professional) which will help you determine exactly what is happening on your site. These programs generally cost money, which is beyond scope of this article.
Personally, I am not sure why anyone would want to include a locally hosted counter script on their pages. I mean if web host allows CGI (or ASP, PHP or similar technology) scripts to be executed he almost certainly gives you access to log files. So why add additional overhead and complexity of a local script? The only reason that I can think of is to include a counter on page - which I would not recommend anyway since I do not see how a hit counter improves a site. The way I look at it, if you are getting hits you don't need to brag (and your visitors may not believe you if you told them what you were getting anyway). If you are not, why would you want to tell you visitors that no one is visiting your site?
Frontpage is a product sold by Microsoft which does a reasonably good job of web site editing. This product includes a number of extensions, and one of those allows for hit counting. I must take just a minute to explain my feelings on this counter: it's one of worst counter implementations that has ever been created. Don't use it. If you do, you will regret it.
If you cannot get access to your server log files (which is generally true for sites on free hosts such as GeoCities and FortuneCity), then your best option is to use remotely hosted counter and statistics scripts. If your site is hosted on a free host, they will most likely provide access to a counter script of some kind. You can use that script if you desire, or you can use one of scripts listed later in this article.
Remotely hosted scripts are extremely inferior to examining server log files for following reasons:
1) Since script is on a remote server, it tends to slow your page load. Sometimes this slowdown can be very significant.
2) The scripts usually require an image load from remote host, which introduces possibility that your site statistics are being used for marketing and advertising purposes. In this case, script and associated image load are acting as web bugs, with all of associated privacy issues.