Last week’s massive data loss has got me reconsidering whether or not Google Analytics is the right solution for my clients.

I’ve long been aching for a logfile-based stats package as I’m utterly fed up of implementing and changing goals and filters and having to restart the stat-count from the time of implementation. A logfile-based solution will apply your new filter/goal retroactively and instantly give you some stats to work with. I’m tired of waiting a month after implementing the smallest tweak before being able to report anything back to the client.

However, a logfile-based solution with the advanced features and adaptability of Google Anayltics is not cheap. Or pretty. Of all of the systems I’ve been able to test, Urchin (which Google Analytics is actually based on) is the only one that comes even remotely close to the functionality I need – and costs an arm and a leg for it.

I’ve looked past the JavaScript-only counting, I’ve endured the countless downtimes, I’ve put up with the 6-24 hour delay in reporting, and I’ve forgiven the odd data loss, but the (possibly) final straw for me has come in the shape of last week’s massive data loss. For a period of over a week data was lost on at least 9 of my major accounts relating to the e-commerce tracking – the most important feature of Google Analytics for me. This has completely skewed my conversion rates, my goal conversion rates, the average transactions/amounts etc. Bascially, that one week of last data can equate to me writing off the entire month for reporting. The only thing worse than not reporting at all is reporting bad data.

Of course, who am I to complain whilst Google Analytics is a free service? Well, I’m a user. They’ve lured us all in with a gorgeous interface, awesome functionality and the best price tag in the world – having coerced us away from paid solutions for the most part – it’s their responsibility to provide a service that’s equally as reliable in my opinion. Why? Because it was their intention to have us reliant upon them. It’s a completely closed platform with no interoperability or export function to speak of. Once you go Google, you can’t go back. This is another of the reasons for preferring a logfile-based solution – logfiles are controlled by you.

I’m going to do some research this week to find an alternative solution, I’ve been playing with Woopra a lot recently and I love it, but again it’s JavaScript-based and appears to have little conversion rate and marketing tracking built-in at this stage. Great for brochure sites, not quite there yet for the big guns.

The most frustrating part of the recent outage is that I had a programmer looking at the checkout processes on the sites that were missing data for hours searching for any inkling of a bug, I briefly toyed with the idea that it could be Google’s fault but thought better of it as normal visits and page view etc. were still being counted – it was only the e-commerce tracking that was missing. I had our lead programmer spend the better part of a day trying to hunt this bug down which equated to at the very least a loss of £750 billable time.

That’s probably enough to warrant an Urchin license (£1500 for 100 sites).