Analytics without dramatics

Web analytics was a garish business before Google released their analytics service. I’ve spent a lot of time tinkering with log analyzers like Analog and AWStats to find out how web properties were being used; managing log archives is fiddly, configuring the analytics apps is fiddly (though special mention to GoAccess, because you can run it in a terminal to see what one host is up to).

Google Analytics made a lot of effort disappear. However, the price of Google Analytics is the privacy of your users:

When you visit sites that use Google Analytics, Google and a Google Analytics customer may link information about your activity from that site with activity from other sites that use our ad services. (from Google’s privacy policy).

It’s not the worst thing in the world, but there’s a growing backlash against trading off privacy for services, so what can we do?

There are some attractive alternatives out there: Plausible, Fathom, Matomo, and Simple Analytics.

I’ll probably try and adopt one of the above for the day job; what’s likely to matter is which privacy regimes they’re able to support: organisations seem to be far more interested in complying with the plethora of privacy legislations around the world.

Personally, I have no hosting budget. I went with BeamPipe as they have a free tier. If I’m doing 10K page views a month, I’ll cheerfully pay for analytics.

It’s reassuringly spartan:

BeamPipe Screenshot

I need to know that there are readers, and it looked like someone clicked a link this afternoon. That’s good enough for now. There’s no impact on render speed that I could detect.

My new interest in privacy also needs to be reconciled with my choice of web host. Any web host can collect information about end users, which can be enriched and combined with other data sets. That dataset can be used to sell ads more effectively, or for more nefarious means.

Vercel have a privacy policy, which covers their use of data for non-customers. That’s good. If I was going to go full privacy anorak I’d dig deeper there. However, I moved from a VPS to Vercel so I could avoid needing to do my own systems administration. For today, I’ll just take the win for analytics with privacy.

-- DevOps New Zealand