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Azure Application Insights – A Better Solution for Web Analytics

Did you know Microsoft provides Web Analytics that can compete with Google? You’re not alone; a lot of my clients aren’t aware either. So much so that if you’re a developer and open Visual Studio, you will probably see a pop-up notification asking if you want to track your application with Azure Application Insights. Before mourning the lost mental cycle taken up by clicking the close button, take a second, read this, and think about how Application Insights might help you connect with end-users.

Azure Application Insights is an extensible Application Performance Management (APM) service for developers and DevOps professionals. It is used to monitor live applications and gather performance information. It is marketed as telemetry gathering, focusing on response rates, load times and performance. While that is great, it can also be customized to give analytical information about what users are interacting with on the site.

To be specific, analytics is the measurement, collection, analysis, and reporting of web data to understand and optimize web usage. Analytics is an essential part of any decision-making process and when it comes to your website or application is no different. Finding out how users are using your app is the first step when trying to come up with ways to improve it.

Web Analytics for End-user Adoption

The first step in setting up Application Insights is to make an Application Insights resource in Azure. This is just storage that is specifically tailored to the type of data you will be gathering. When that is done, the resource will generate an instrumentation key which you will need to direct the data into the correct storage.

The next step is to set up the app to start sending the data. After installing the Application Insights package to your solution, add a couple of code lines in which you set up Application Insights and give it the key. If you stop at this step, you’ll start to get some data flowing once pushed, such as page views and demographics, but this is not the exciting part.

What is exciting is detailed analytics. Application Insights achieves this by letting you send custom events with custom data. Say you want to track anytime someone clicks on an image link. Most analytics services will only tell you that a person viewed the linked page but not tell you where they came from or how they got there. With Application Insights, you can find what part of your code executes when that link is clicked and add a single line of code with information about the click.

With this information, you can begin to put together a story about how users are using your app. You can see precisely what they are clicking on, or what documents they are looking at, and what they’re searching for. With this data, you can extrapolate what is jumping out at the users saying, “click me,” and what they need to use search to find.

Why Azure Application Insights?

There are other solutions on the market currently for gathering analytics, but they all have some issues.

1. They cannot give detailed analytics. Many of the tools out there may provide some analytics such as page views or demographic information, but they can’t provide the precise user experience like Application Insights can.

2. You don’t have complete control of the data. Some tools will collect your data, then store it themselves (*cough* Google *cough*) thus, you will not have complete control over its security, and third-party services may use it.

3. They are expensive. Some companies charge close to 6 figures a year to bring you the data that is easily achievable with Application Insights.

So, if you are looking for an analytics solution that can fit your precise needs and will not break your bank, take a look here and start getting better insights into your users.

Author: Jonathan Batselos | jbatselos@withum.com

if you’d like to learn more about azure application insights please reach out to us.

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