Reasons for using open source Piwik over Google Analytics
Google Analytics is considered the king. There are other good packages but you have to pay for them. Fortunately, there is a popular open source package called Piwik. There are a few reasons to use Piwik over Google Analytics.
You own the data
You have access to your data and it’s protected from third-party sources. Google will use the data to target ads. You might be the victim of some experiment from Google employees. Google does encourage creative ideas, where your data might feed the experimentation.
The data is real-time
While Google has some limited real-time data, it really is a snapshot or pseudo real-time. Piwik gives you real-time statistics, which you can view 24/7. With Google, you get today’s data the next day. With a commercial vendor, you either pay for real-time data, or you have limited historical access on free versions.
You have all the historical data
If you have a free option from a commercial vendor, the analytics file size is limited. After the log file reaches a certain size, the analytics software writes over it. If you opt for a paid upgrade, the log file size is large – but it is rarely unlimited. As far as Google Analytics goes, Google owns the data. They can use this to target ads to your reading pleasure.
On the other hand, Piwik is hosted by you or your company. The data is stored on a single MySQL database. The database doesn’t take up much space and you can extract the data anytime.
You have a say in future features
Can you suggest features to Google? It’s difficult. Commercial vendors do listen to you – for a price. But if you are part of the Piwik community, you can suggest new features on user forums.
You can import your Google Analytic data
There’s a script that allows you to import your Google Analytic data. So if you have been running Google Analytics for 2 years, then you can incorporate this into Piwik.
My own experience
I ran a self-hosted WordPress site for several months. It was for a client and HostGator was the hosting provider. We also used CloudFlare for the name servers. This was before a script was created to import Google Analytics data.
Both Google Analytics and Piwik have very good WordPress plug-ins available. I ran both for the client. Piwik was very easy to install and only took one MySQL database. New releases were easy to install and I used the automatic upgrade feature. It works in a similar fashion to the WordPress self-hosted release and plug-in auto upgrade features.
Now I would recommend that clients run a combination of CloudFlare, Bad Behavior and Akismet for SPAM, as well as WordPress and Piwik analytics for analysis.
Piwik gets better with each new release. More new features constantly come into play. The software is very stable and I haven’t had any bad experiences with it.