Urchin Retirement Party

January 22, 2012

On January 20th Google announced it will be ceasing any new development for the Urchin Software product line and ending new purchases or upgrades after March 28th, 2012.

So, what better thing to do than throw a retirement party for Urchin!  It seemed fitting to us.  In this post I’ve reviewed our take on what this means and what you should (or shouldn’t) do about it.  Enjoy, and don’t forget to have a slice of cake before leaving.

What Does the Retirement of Urchin Really Mean?

The team here at Analytics Pros was surprised by this announcement like you may be.  But let’s face it, Urchin has been around a long time, been a pioneer in the web analytics industry, and it’s offspring has become arguably the most used web analytics platform on the planet.  Not a bad record, eh?  That said, the Google notice and the FAQ on the Urchin website leave a bit to be explained.  While I can’t speak for Google, I will try to clarify our understanding of Google’s decision and its impact on you.

First, I see three primary user groups this announcement impacts:

  1. Current Urchin 7.x license owners. Read more here.
  2. Owners of licenses to previous Urchin versions (5.x, 6.x). Read more here.
  3. Prospective buyers of Urchin. Read more here.

The announcement of Urchin’s end-of-life by Google is sure to impact each of these groups differently.  As resellers, it impacts us too as we use the software ourselves and support hundreds who use it worldwide.

Second, I’m thankful to hear a certain plan for Urchin’s future, although dismayed it is one leading to discontinuation.  Since Google acquired Urchin Software back in 2005 there has been much speculation about the future of Urchin Software products.  Speculation was abruptly stopped when version 6 of Urchin was released in 2008.  With version 7 coming out in 2010 it looked like Urchin Software was on a slow but forward-moving path.  Google’s announcement clarifies that path is ending with no new updates and no new sales after March 28th of 2012.

Third, I know you’ll have questions, want answers, and need to make a plan to deal with this news.  We’re here to help.  We may not have answers for every question, but we’re happy to hear your questions and concerns and respond as best we can.  If you’re our customer having purchased Urchin from us, we are continuing to support the product as long as we have customers running it and will continue to provide training for those wishing to receive it.

Additionally, we’re beginning work on ways to better support continuation or Urchin operations using our Urchin Hosting service as well as development of a means for supporting automated data extraction and permanent archival using Urchin 7’s fantastic data export API.

So, What are Your Options with Urchin?

Depending on which of the three groups above that you fall into, here are my thoughts and recommendations on your options from here forward.

Current 7.x Owners

If are owner of a 7.x version of Urchin Software, here’s what I think about how Google’s announcement might impact you and what you should do about it.

  • Good news with bad – version 7 just got an upgrade to 7.2 with many bug fixes!  The bad news is that this is the last update the software will receive.
  • While Google is “discontinuing” the Urchin product line, that doesn’t mean Urchin dead.  Urchin Software is lightweight and doesn’t require much to keep running smoothly, so you’re not going to just lose your software investment or data overnight.  We have some customers still running Urchin versions 5 and 6, and have even seen an ancient version 3 or 4 installation from time to time.  Keep your installation server well-maintained, move to a stable platform before the March 28th sales-cutoff, or migrate to our cloud-based solution, and your Urchin server can continue to run happily for years to come.
  • The biggest threat to running Urchin forever is the pace of OS change and a changing security landscape.  For organizations that run Urchin entirely within their networks (no outside access), keeping an older OS around for years to come is viable (albeit perhaps annoying).  If you must expose Urchin to the web, separating it from your network provides some insulation from security threats that might arise.  Urchin 5 (circa 2004) still runs in many places (many large web hosts included), so the planning horizon for retiring Urchin probably doesn’t need to be critical.
  • That said, as your planning and budgeting cycles allow, begin working on a migration plan for your web analytics needs.  Google Analytics (standard or premium) may be good option.  I’ve seen many of our customers already using GA while still running Urchin.  Talk to your stakeholders and data users to explore whether or not this is a viable route.  If not, or if you want/need to continue to analyze server logfiles, then you’ll need to evaluate other software options.  Our team has begun a search for comparable solutions in the software-based analytics space, so stay tuned to our blog and Twitter feed for updates on this.
  • For organizations with significant investments in customization and integration of Urchin we understand the news of Urchin’s retirement may be harder to take in.  I encourage you not to give up – as noted above, Urchin is resilient and will continue to run happily just as it does now for years to come.  It’s still the same software you purchased and use and will continue to operate in its current state so long as you choose to maintain its environment.

If you have any questions about Urchin’s discontinuation and how it might impact you, planning for migration, support needs, or interest in our services for cloud archival of your Urchin server and data, simply contact us.

Older Version Owners

For owners of older Urchin license versions, here are my thoughts on Google’s Urchin discontinuation announcement.

  • If you want to upgradenow is the time.  You will be forever unable to upgrade after the March 28th 2012 sales cut-off date.  Urchin version 7 has many benefits over older versions, like faster processing, a data export API, an update user interface, and advanced segments to name a few.   Plus, Urchin 7.2 (the latest and final release) will ensure you are set with what’s most current before the upgrade window closes. Upgrading now to Urchin 7 will extend the life of your Urchin operation longer than remaining on an older version will allow.
  • That said, if you are happy with Urchin as-is, you don’t need to do anything.  So long as you can continue to maintain the Urchin operating environment, Urchin will continue to run.  You’re already running badly outdated software if you’re using 6.x or older, and if that works for you, then there’s no need to worry.
  • Perhaps the main reason to upgrade to 7.2 before the sales cut-off date is the Data Export API in Urchin 7.  The API is quite powerful and presents the most comprehensive option for exporting your data held within Urchin into another, more usable, format that will live beyond the limits of Urchin’s reporting interface.

If you have any questions about Urchin’s discontinuation, upgrading before license sales are ended, planning for migration, support needs, or interest in our services for cloud archival of your Urchin server and data, simply contact us.

Prospective Buyers

If you’re currently evaluating a purchase of web analytics software, what are your options?  Urchin was a great tool for in-house, software-based analytics and we think the analytics world is a little worse off without it around.  That said, there are a few options for you to consider:

  • Buy Urchin now, before it’s too late.  Now that future plans for Urchin are crystal clear, you can make an informed decision about purchase, taking into account the future for the software.  Why buy a software platform that’s going into retirement?  Well, as I discussed above, we wouldn’t call “retirement” of Urchin the end.  It will be the software it is today as long as it runs.  The only area where is is likely to become unusable is with AdWords API integration.  If you really need this capability, you probably shouldn’t be using Urchin for it anyway (Google Analytics is just plain way better for this).  Details about purchase options can be found here.
  • Go Google.  Chances are you or some other area within your organization already uses Google Analytics.  GA is extremely deep and powerful and can do just about everything Urchin can (and much more) with only a few areas where it falls short (logfile analysis of server-side errors being the chief shortcoming).  Our services team are experts in making Google Analytics meet client needs, so perhaps GA is a viable option once it is fully setup to your organizations needs.
  • Look for another option.  Urchin isn’t the only show in town.  There are other options out there, however the list of analytics software providers has dwindled sharply in recent years.  There are some open-source options, and some paid options.  At the time of this writing we do not have a list of strong Urchin alternatives available, but we are working on researching and vetting comparable platforms and will be sure to share those as soon as we have it available.

If you have any questions about Urchin’s discontinuation, buying before the sales cut-off, or interest in Google Analytics standard or premium, simply contact us.

In Closing – Thanks to the Urchin Team at Google

While we are all sad to see an end come to the Urchin era, we are thankful for what Urchin has been and appreciate the work of those at Google who have advanced the product line over the last 7 years.  Thank you!