During your first stages of evaluating Software Usage Analytics solutions you might be wondering what are the advantages of using Revulytics Usage Intelligence over a web analytics solution such as Google Analytics. Below we have outlined a number of points that you should keep in mind when comparing Usage Intelligence to Google Analytics or any other web analytics solutions.
First of all, as their name implies, web analytics solutions were designed to track user engagement with your website and are not well suited to track desktop applications. The way users engage with a website or SaaS application running in a browser is very different than the way they engage with a desktop application. This means that you cannot simply use the same tracking metrics for websites and desktop applications alike.
Google Analytics does a good job at tracking website browsing sessions, however a number of deficiencies arise when trying to adapt browsing session metrics to track desktop applications. Revulytics Software Usage Analytics on the other hand was designed specifically for tracking how users engage with a Desktop Application so the metrics used can provide you with true actionable intelligence reports.
Below we mention just a few of these differences:
- Always-on requirement: To track any event with web-analytics, you will have to make a web request. This means you will be adding a requirement that your software must always have a live internet connection. Usage Intelligence uses an intelligent caching system so that the logs are only sent at the appropriate time without interfering with user experience.
- Web Traffic: Every tracked feature, button click, program start, etc. will generate an individual web request which means your software will be constantly generating internet traffic, which in extreme cases can slow down your application. With Usage Intelligence everything is logged in memory and/or to file and logs are compressed before sent to the server. If a user goes offline, the logs are sent the next time a connection is available. This caching mechanism will cut down hundreds of web requests to an average of 2 calls every 20 minutes of application runtime.
- Protocol Security & Reliability: With web analytics, a single 'malicious' user can simply sniff the connection (e.g. using Wireshark) to copy your callhome URL and use this in a script to skew all your reporting data. The Usage Intelligence callhome protocol on the other hand implements various security checks to make it more difficult for a malicious user to use your callhome URL and skew data on the server. This includes encryption with a choice of using HTTPS or HTTP with AES-128 encrypted payload, fingerprinting, and every message sent to the server is hashed using SHA-256. Every product also has its own product ID which is checked by the server on every callhome and needs to correspond to the correct URL.
- Ability to Track Unique users and not single sessions: Web analytics solutions are designed to track individual browsing SESSIONS (usually through cookies) and NOT users/installations. Therefore you have no idea if a user launches your application 5 times a day or whether it was 5 separate users launching it once. This limits all reporting by session rather than by user. Usage Intelligence on the other hand tracks a user story from the day they install your application until they 'die'. This means by using Usage Intelligence you can benefit from detailed conversion funnel and sales cycle analysis reports so you know the amount of time users spent in evaluation before buying/dumping your software. This information is not available with web analytics solutions that rely on single session tracking.
- Usage Patterns over time: Using Google Analytics it is impossible to report on usage patterns for a particular user group over time because Google cannot identify a user from day1 to day2. Thus you cannot know if users are using your application 5 times a week or 5 times a month. You can only tell that a session belonged to either a new or a returning user.
- Real-time Filtering criteria: Usage Intelligence reports offer you the ability to drill down (using real-time filtering) so you can focus on a particular country,version, build number, edition, OS, license type, etc or any combination of those. Data is NOT pre-computed and presented as static numbers but we allow you to investigate any Product Management/Development question that may come up. This of course means you can check if any UI updates in a particular versions/build effects usage patterns for that feature and also tell between usage patterns of trial users or those who purchased a license. Google Analytics filtering on the other hand is designed for web applications so you can only effectively filter by country/language.
- Direct-to-Desktop messaging: Usage Intelligence's ReachOut™ direct-to-desktop messaging framework is a unique and very powerful marketing tool which can help you increase conversions and collect user feedback through ReachOut™ Surveys. It is like strapping a rocket to your conversion rate!
Google Analytics for Desktop apps
Please visit this blog post for a more detailed discussion on The Pros and Cons of Tracking Desktop Applications with Google Analytics.