Seven Details That Bust Web Analytics Budgets - InformationWeek

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8/13/2007
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Seven Details That Bust Web Analytics Budgets

Too many organizations fail to consider these not-so-hidden fine points when implementing Web analytics systems. Whether you choose SaaS or licensed software, here's the nitty gritty that can wind up breaking the bank.

Phil Kemelor Phil Kemelor
In the early days of Web analytics, deployments were relatively straightforward: you bought the software, bought the hardware, got your support contract and designated a few people to maintain the system and analyze the reports. That was pretty much that. Those days are long, long gone and definitely not returning. In fact, as complicated as cost/pricing is today, it’s only going to get more complex as vendors add more services and partner arrangements.

This article takes a detailed look at licensing choices, analytics options, marketing tool integration, services needs, training and technical support, long-term hardware needs, and human resource tasks and roles. The fine print can come back to haunt you, so each and every one of these areas should be thoroughly reviewed and detailed in your budget. As in any technology deployment, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail, so let's take a closer look.

1. Licensing Choices

There are two models available for conducting Web analytics: Software as a Service (SaaS) and licensing. In the SaaS approach, the vendor hosts the servers and software used for site measurement. This may also be known as an Application Service Provider (ASP) model. All upgrades to the basic software are typically included in the subscription fee. Pricing is based on a subscription for a set contract length, usually one to three years, and you can typically avoid big up-front costs in favor of paying a fixed, monthly fee over time.

In the conventional, licensed software approach, you purchase the servers and software used for site measurement and everything is located and managed within your enterprise. Pricing can be based on a “perpetual license,” which has no end date, or terms can be reviewed on an annual basis. If you own a license, you may need to pay for major new releases to ensure that you are working with a supported product. Subscription fees and license fees are often determined by the number of page views your site generates per year or per month. In SaaS scenarios, some vendors may provide a base number of page views within the initial subscription and then increase your fee on an incremental basis if you go into higher page-view tiers. In license scenarios, vendors that review your traffic on an annual basis may also raise your license fee.

To develop this initial estimate, vendors will either ask you to provide a traffic estimate or sample server log files. It's likely that you will filter certain items from your site prior to data analysis, so make sure you're estimate doesn't include some of these extraneous resources, such as images, frames, spiders, bots, and traffic from domains you might want to exclude, such as that of your own organization.

The numbers of servers and domains to be tracked will often have an impact on your subscription and license fee as well. This is an area to watch closely, especially if you plan to track hundreds of distributed sites --a scenario common among media companies, enterprises with local affiliates and outlets, and organizations that run multiple intranets and extranets.

SaaS customers will also need to determine whether there are costs related to data storage. Most vendors will store data for at least 13 months; some for the lifetime of the contract. Some vendors store raw data; some only the reports generated. Be sure you understand the pricing and storage format options available to you. Obviously, the more data you store and the longer you store it, the higher your costs. If you export the data back to your servers, then storage and query becomes your long-term expense.

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