Google Analytics problems irritate users

With four major problems in the month of July alone, the stability of the service is increasingly in question among users

string of recent technical problems at Google Inc.'s Analytics service has webmasters and publishers concerned about this Web site traffic monitoring service.

The latest bump lasted about two days, during which Web traffic data wasn't delivered to affected accounts, leaving webmasters and publishers in the dark about their sites' usage.

Although the blackout got resolved on Monday evening and, according to Google, no data was lost, it affected users' ability to use traffic statistics to make business and design decisions about their sites.

"It's quite inconvenient because my fellow producers and I file weekly reports of our statistics, and inaccurate statistics render our reports useless," wrote Chrissy Icamina, a Web and mobile producer at FHM Philippines , in an e-mail interview.

The latest problem was the fourth service disruption for Google Analytics in July alone. Coupled with others in recent months, including a major one in May, the problems have users concerned about the stability of the service.

FHM Philippines, a men's magazine, uploads new content several times a day to its site. It has been using Google Analytics for more than one year to make decisions about Web site changes, as well as to gather traffic data for advertisers.

Icamina is fine with Google Analytics not being a real-time provider of traffic stats, but the situation becomes unacceptable when the service fails to deliver data for over 24 hours, as was the case in this latest incident.

"It's a very good stat tracking system. It's just that these delays -- that have been happening more recently -- are such a hassle," Icamina wrote.

Google didn't offer any explanations for the cause of the latest data outage, which lasted roughly between Saturday evening and Monday evening.

"We are continuing to take steps to minimize the number of processing delays in the future," a Google spokeswoman wrote Tuesday via e-mail, while declining to reveal the number of accounts affected by the apparently widespread problem.

The outage was also disruptive for Tim Trice, publisher of Boost MySpace.com . Trice uses the traffic data Google Analytics compiles to attract potential partners and advertisers.

"The recent downtime of Analytics did cause quite a few problems," Trice, who is based in Houston, wrote in an e-mail interview.

Aside from the performance problems, Trice, who started using Google Analytics at the beginning of this year, likes the free service overall. "It seems far better than other free tracking programs available," Trice wrote.

Even users who weren't seriously inconvenienced noticed the most recent outage.

Jade Skaggs, who has been using Google Analytics for about two years and is the publisher of SpudGames.com , calls the recent technical problems a "blemish" on Google Analytics' track record, especially since the service got a major upgrade in May.

"I have not changed any of my business plans or methodologies due to the data outage. However, it is a bit frightening to log in and see your site has taken a 'nose dive,'" Skaggs wrote in an e-mail interview.

"If I did rely heavily on this data, I would be seeking another source for Web analytics to use in conjunction with Google Analytics," added Skaggs, who is based in Peoria, Illinois.

FHM Philippines's Icamina would like Google to announce technical problems on the official Analytics blog as soon as they are detected, a common complaint from users of Google's hosted services.

Not everyone is fuming, however.

"There have been some outages but there has also been a lot of improvement activity lately," said Joe Martinez, IT director at eLayaway LLC , in a phone interview.

ELayaway, based in Tallahassee, Florida, has been using Google Analytics for about 18 months. "We're excited about the new features and if that means migration of accounts that result in outages every now and then, we're happy to bear those," Martinez said.

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