I’ve been asked a couple of times about whether I think ok for Departments to install the free version of Google Analytics on their sites or continue to mire through the internally-hosted, yet more complex to install & manage, WebTrends (or one of their competitors).
Before you read any further, I’ll come clean: I don’t know the answer, and I can’t decide this for you even if I had an opinion one way or the other. But I will share with you some questions I am asking myself and my colleagues that may help inform conversations that may be going on in your department. I beg you to share the results of your conversations as I’m desperate to know for my own department which way I should be pushing.
As you know, I’m a fan of free. But is Google (anything) Free as in Freedom or just Free as in you don’t have to pay? And if it’s free for us, then what’s in it for them? Don’t get me wrong, I love Google. I’m still kicking myself for not buying shares when they went public. I’m even using it to track the uptake of my RSS feed, but I’m not the government. However, in the growing debate over privacy and security issues on the web, we need to take caution in anything that could even be *perceived* as putting information-as-power in the hands of one US-based corporate for-profit entity. We have a responsibility to protect the security and rights of citizens no matter how small the risk. I don’t want to promote alarmist views, but here is an interesting FICTIONAL sci-fi thriller what-if scenario to consider…
Alternatively, if Google had a tool that could be installed on internal servers to use (do they already? I know they do for their search engine) I imagine that WebTrends would be losing even more market share to them. However, until we sort out the risk question of using the hosted-by-them version, perhaps we should do as one presenter suggested at the eMetrics conference last year in Toronto and “love the one we’re with”.
I’m not in favour of spending money on something when there is an excellent, free, alternative out there that is easy to install, use and interpret. However, I do think we need to engage our IT security folks and do our homework before we do. So if anyone has already done a risk assessment of Google Analytics, can you let me know or post it on GCpedia?
Regardless of what tool you are using, the more important focus should be on investing in people who know how to interpret the data, sharing it with decision-makers and make changes to improve the site based on what users – citizens – need.