Wednesday, July 30, 2008

How Startups Should Look at Analytics

Startup companies have a ton of stuff to do. They have to build their product, test it, get it to market, and keep it running. That's just to survive.

To thrive, you need to do more. To thrive, you need to measure. You need to measure, and then you need to do something.

The question, then becomes, what do I measure?

Analytics is one term you'll hear frequently used to describe this process. Google has a whole toolset especially for measuring these analytics.

Another may be KPI, or Key Performance Indicators (Indexes).

This is a slippery slope. Once you start measuring, the tendency is to measure everything.

But, wait, I hear you say, OMG, I'm just a startup, I can't do those fancy analytics.

Andrew Chen writes in Futuristic Play that "If you're not going to do something about it, it may not be worth measuring."

I couldn't agree more.

I would go one step further and say:

If you're not going to do something different about it, it may not be worth measuring.

You see, I spend most of my days looking at measurements, reports, KPIs, but mainly graphs. Graphs do it for me.

As a visual learner, I tend to spot trends in graphs more than just looking at raw figures. Got colors? Even better. Adding more colors helps me to differentiate one data source from another.

Here are just some of the graphing and reporting tools I'm running right now and what I use them for:

Nagios, to keep track of all my systems.
Splunk, to keep track of all my logs.
Ganglia, to monitor the health of my systems.
Cacti, to watch KPIs, make bandwith graphs, monitor latency and more.
Google Analytics, to check who's hitting my sites and from where.

I'm sure there are several others, but these are the top dogs.

What are you running to keep track of your business?

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CrossMod said...

Interested to see if you're still using the same programs. I'm struggling to figure out why you'd use both Ganglia and Cacti as they seem to cover a lot of the same territory.

dmourati said...

Ganglia is my preference for monitoring health of systems. You get graphs of over 30 key metrics like memory, disk, network with no configuration overhead.

If you need to make nice graphs of your own data from scripts or the like, Cacti is more powerful. My real gripe with Cacti is the configuration.