Leverage customer data for better insights

In the olden days, selling goods from a store required physical access. People rode their horse, tied it up, etc. As a vendor, you knew this person could only come as far as a horse could take them. If you sold ice cream, that’s about all you needed to know. If there was a bridge that was in disrepair and in danger of collapsing a mile from your shop, you’d advise your customers to avoid the bridge and take the three-mile detour.

bridge in disrepair

As transportation networks expanded, less was known about where your customers came from. With airplanes and mail-order, a customer could be from around the world. Still, with a postal address you’d know where they were coming from and if you noticed a lot of customers from Singapore coming to your shop in Michigan, you may consider opening a branch in Oceania.

“The Internet” has been around for a while now – all the hipsters hang out there. But what is “The Internet” behind the icon on your iPhone/iPad/hipster device of choice? “A series of tubes,” former U.S. Senator Ted Stevens once said. Completely bypassing any hazards around that statement, each of those tubes is operated by some company or organization. An “Autonomous System” is what those who deal with them every day call them, and every one of them has a unique number.

As a content creator, you want to get your content to your customers’ “eyeballs”. Different performance metrics may matter to you.

How fast can I start getting my content to them?

How fast can I finish getting my content to them?

How can I reduce the page load time?

How can I lower my customer’s frustration time?

How can I speed the interaction between my customer and my application?

Every one of these questions could warrant a deep dive, if interested.

What’s important to you will drive how you measure the customer experience, but in the end, your customers are somewhere in the world and your content has to go through a series of networks to get to them.

But where are they? How is my content getting to them? Are they happy?
The simplest place to start is their physical location and how can you get your content to them in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

“They are on the internet”, one answers.

Many people…technically savvy and not…even your nerdy uncle…all have a different explanation for what this means. However, one thing they all agree on is that your customer is coming to you with an IP address. And any time you are serving content to ‘The Internet’, you can log an IP address when your user accesses your content.

While there are cases where users share or use IP addresses other than their device, home or work computer (such as DHCP, proxy or VPN) and there are also cases where IP addresses look like letters and nothing short of gobbledygook (IPV6), the overwhelming majority of users’ approximate locations are still identifiable by their IP address.

Ok, let’s take some poor guy’s IP address we may inevitably be advised by a lawyer to remove.

Doesn’t look like anything to me, how can you tell anything about this IP address?
You can ask Highwinds, and we’ll tell you!  (Score 10 points from the marketing department.)

Or, you can do it yourself, do it for all your IP addresses, and then start to understand how you can service your customers better.

A place to start is WHOIS. Many organizations run WHOIS services, one of which is the ARIN registry: http://whois.arin.net

When we put that IP address in, we get this result:


And we see this IP address isn’t registered directly with ARIN, but with RIPE, so we go there. The command line tool ‘whois’ (link) does this for you.


When we search for our IP address we get back a lot, including:

descr:  France Telecom
origin:  AS3215
mnt-by:  FT-BRX
source:  RIPE #Filtered

So… what’s that?

  • The route describes to internet routers, how to ‘choose the right tube’.
  • The organization that operates the IP address is France Telecom – reasonable guess this IP address is in France.
  • The Autonomous System Number, is 3215 – France Telecom.
  • France Telecom runs a worldwide network, so there is no guarantee the IP is in France, but the odds lean that way.

Ok, so now what – so, what?
To further narrow in where this user may be, we use a service call Geo Location. Your nerdy uncle will immediately spout how Geo cannot be trusted!  And yes, he’s right, for a small percentage (less than 3-5%, generally) of the internet. The tool further narrows the funnel, however.

Accuracy improves if you pay a company for their human groomed database – a worthy investment if you’re wanting to improve your accuracy.

At Highwinds, we do this automatically with command line tools and our StrikeTracker analytics portal, but MaxMind’s online demo will do just fine here


Here’s what we get back:

IP Address Country Code 3 Letter Code Country Name FR FRA France

The odds this IP address is in France just went up to well over 90%.

So what’s next?

You can repeat this for all the IP addresses that consume your content. The easiest ways to do this are to program it with a scripting language, or by sending your IPs to Highwinds and we can do it for you (score 10 more points from the marketing department). The result of having both the ASN and the Geo IP as a % concentration will give you a specific recipe that you can use to shop your content to companies who can service it best.

For example:

9.9%   Mexico

8.1%   Romania

5.6%   United States

5.0%   Italy

4.5%   Australia

And ASN breakdowns like so:

6.8%  8151 | MX | lacnic | 1997-04-29 | Uninet S.A. de C.V.

5.7%  27699 | BR | lacnic | 2003-08-25 | TELEF\195\148NICA BRASIL S.A

5.1%  8708 | RO | ripencc | 1998-03-11 | RCS-RDS RCS & RDS SA

4.7%  30722 | IT | ripencc | 2003-11-17 | VODAFONE-IT-ASN Vodafone Omnitel N.V.

With Geo IP, it’s actually possible to get cities in countries too – but let’s crawl before we run!

If you ARE the nerdy uncle and proud of it? Then do it the nerdy way courtesy of the savvy guys and gals at CYMRU.

$ dig +short TXT

“3215 | | FR | ripencc | 2005-03-02”

$ dig +short AS3215.asn.cymru.comTXT

“3215 | FR | ripencc | 1994-04-15 | AS3215 France Telecom S.A.”

If a content distribution vendor isn’t asking you for this information in the beginning, then they may not even know or care how they are servicing your customers…and whether or not you are walking right towards a bridge in disrepair.

Scott Munger

Scott Munger

COO, Highwinds