Google Analytics is still the gold standard of web analytics because it is flexible and feature-rich. For example, it has enough complex features to satisfy large organizations, and is simple enough for most small businesses.
While Google Analytics is an excellent solution for most, and we recommend it to most of our clients, there are some business cases where open-source analytics fit the requirements better. If you are not familiar with the term open-source software, the term applies to all software with publicly available source code; hence it can be redistributed and modified by any developer (contributor). The most obvious benefit is that the software is free to download and use. Some examples of open source software are WordPress, Firefox, OpenOffice, VLC, and so on.
What are the benefits and when does it make sense to use an open-source web analytics solution?
100% Data Ownership
With open-source web analytics, you have complete control and ownership of your data. In other words, data can be collected, processed, and stored on your servers. This is not the case with Google Analytics.
When is this type of control important? If you are collecting or storing highly sensitive data than you should consider using open-source analytics. Furthermore, if you are trying to keep your customer and analytics data offline (not in the cloud) then having an open-source analytics package will meet this requirement.
NOTE: Some proprietary (commercial) analytics solutions provide the same level of data ownership.
One of the most significant benefits of an open-source solution is the ability to modify it. As we mentioned above, with open-source software the source code is freely available; therefore, your development team can modify the solution as needed.
For example, you can add more features, create custom reports, add new APIs, import/export data in different formats, and so on. This kind of flexibility is not possible with proprietary (commercial) software like Google Analytics.
No Data Limits
There are no limits with how much data you can process and store in your open-source analytics. Also, because you have 100% control over your data, you can store it infinitely.
The big data gold rush will only intensify with advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning because the quality of an AI solution is directly linked to the quantity of data you have to process. In other words, the more data you have, the better/more accurate the AI solution is.
In the not so distant future owning your data will be as crucial to your business as owning a master recording is to an artist. This is when data ownership and control will be imperative to all companies, and open-source analytics will play a larger part in data collection and analysis.