9 Universal Analytics Backup Solutions – Which Is the Best?

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There are many ways to back up your historical Universal Analytics data, and little time to do it. Each method has pros and cons. That makes it hard to choose the best solution to save your business-critical Google Analytics data. Unless you read further. Spoiler alert: the GA solutions are not the best in class. 

universal analytics delete countdown to 1st of July 2024
After the 1st of July 2024, UA will be deleted. For ever.

Key Takeaways

  • Starting on the 1st of July 2024, Universal Analytics data will be deleted and you won’t have access to the interface any more.
  • There are 4 important criteria to choose the UA backup solution that’s best for your organization, business or customers.
  • Our team hand-picked 9 solutions to back up UA data and reviewed them so you don't have to.
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Ask these 4 questions before backing up UA

From the 1st of July 2024, Universal Analytics and all its data will be gone. Another deadline that puts pressure on your shoulders. Remember when GA announced that UA would stop collecting data? And that you suddenly had to learn GA4?

Take a step back before backing up Universal Analytics

Instead of using the first tool you come across to take a backup of UA, you can best ask yourself four questions. 

1. How reliable is the UA backup solution? 

Not all historical UA data is going to be useful for everyone. It would, for example, be silly to make business decisions based on a UA device report from 2012.

Universal Analytics report devices 2012

Yet, to some organizations or researchers, this may exactly be information that is worth keeping. 

My point is that you best choose a backup solution that saves all the Google Analytics data you are going to need at one point. 

meme google analytics iceberg

2. How hard is it to take a backup of UA data?

The answer varies between “easy-peasy” and “damn, I first need a PhD in engineering to do that”. 

Even if you decide to outsource your UA backup to a service provider, this is an important aspect because it impacts the price.

Speaking of which.

3. How much does making a backup of UA data cost?

The price to make a backup of UA data varies between $0 and +$10K and depends on the solution you use, the amount of data you want to save, and so on.

Don’t ask how much a UA backup costs. Ask how much will you lose by not having a backup. 

Note that even for free backup solutions, you pay in the most precious currency of the world: time. 

Which brings me smoothly to the last criterion we used to evaluate UA backup solutions.

4. How long does it take to back up UA data?

The answer depends on factors, such as how many views you want to back up, the size of data in your UA account, the complexity of customized dimensions, goals, etc.

meme google analytics for the better, right

4 criteria to compare UA backup solutions

During our comparison research, we answered the above questions and used them as objective criteria to compare the UA backup solutions against each other. 

  1. Backup completeness score. We gave each solution a score between 0 – 10. The lower the score, the fewer data the UA backup contains. 
  2. Learning curve: easy, medium or hard.
  3. Cost price: expressed in USD.
  4. Time to take a UA backup: rough estimation in hours.

Drum roll. 

Here are our findings.

1. Data Driven U Backup Academy

The DDU UA Backup Academy is developed by Google Analytics expert and teacher of thousands, Jeff Sauer. He was one of the first people in the universe who started using Universal Analytics and shared his knowledge with a global audience of people like you. 

For whom is this solution?

During online live sessions, Jeff explains step-by-step how to back up UA. Like all the programs he developed, these are ideal for:

  • Freelancers and agencies who do marketing, analytics, web design, and so on. You can take the knowledge and resell it to your own customers.
  • Companies and enterprises that want to train their teams to make a full backup of their UA data.

Our score

Backup Completeness Score: 10/10

Learning Curve: Medium

Time: 60 minutes to back up the first UA view. After that, the process goes faster.

Cost: As low as $499/seat, included the costs for the backup. 

Main advantages of the DDU Backup Academy

  • Complete backup of UA data included a proven visualization structure.
  • Data structure and queries are fine-tuned for speed and storage efficiency.
  • Unlimited support to ask questions about your backup.
  • Lifetime access to and ownership of data sheet or BigQuery data.
  • Lifetime access to Looker Studio visualizations generated.
  • Access and share backups with a simple Google account.

Disadvantages of the DDU Backup Academy

  • An online course may not be suitable for someone who only needs to make one UA backup for a small site.
  • Not a free solution (but it is easy to earn the small investment back by offering UA backups as a service).

2. Analytics Canvas Backup Solution

Analytics Canvas is a powerful tool to make backups of UA views. 

analytics canvas

For whom is this solution?

This is an excellent DIY UA backup tool for individuals or teams with a decent level of technical and analytics knowledge. 

Our score

Backup Completeness Score: 9/10

Learning Curve: Medium

Time: 1-2 hours for first view, 1-2 hours for visualization

Cost: Starts at $99/view

Main advantages of Analytics Canvas

  • Analytics Canvas offers a 30-day free trial, so you can test it without any risk.
  • Proven solution by analytics experts who have worked with GA API for 10+ years.
  • Queries are optimized to prevent sampling and allow pristine access to data.
  • This UA backup solution has a simple interface and is easy to get started.
  • Data is stored to BigQuery natively without having to set it up yourself.
  • Generous amounts of data can be collected, allowing for daily, weekly, monthly backups for the history of the account.
  • Native connector from Analytics Canvas into Looker Studio to create your own visualizations.
  • Generous and helpful team always looking to support customers.

Disadvantages of Analytics Canvas

  • You must make decisions about what data to download and back up and that requires you to do your homework. 
  • Data visualization needs to be done separately after the UA backup is taken.
  • To own your data forever, you will need to export to CSV or transport to your own BigQuery instance.
  • Setting up BigQuery is really challenging and prone to error, you will likely need support to do this correctly.

3. Supermetrics Data Warehouse Solution

Supermetrics is a data warehouse platform that brings data from different sources together. 

supermetrics data warehouse

For whom is this solution?

Supermetrics is an interesting solution for enterprises who want to keep their data from tons of platforms in one place.

Our score

Backup Completeness Score: 7/10

Learning Curve: Medium

Time: 10-100+ hours

Cost: $10,000

Main advantages of Supermetrics

  • Part of a complete data warehouse solution that includes more platforms than just Google Analytics
  • Proven industry player with a decade of experience working with Google Analytics
  • Implementation support to help get going along the way

Disadvantages of Supermetrics

  • To see the pricing, you must talk to a sales team.
  • Pricing is designed for enterprise buyers, not average users.
  • You can’t unbundle the data warehouse solution from the UA backup solution.
  • You still need to learn how to use the system and decide what data to collect.

4. DFY UA backup services

There are many consultants and companies that deliver Universal Analytics backup services. And although that is great news, the quality, services and pricing can go in all directions. 

For whom is this solution?

DFY (Done For You) UA backup services are a great solution for businesses and organizations that realize that historical UA data is important, but don’t have the time or budget to do this themselves. 

Our score

Backup Completeness Score: 8/10

Learning Curve: Easy

Time: 2-4 hours per view, including visualization

Estimated cost: $10,000 or more per view

Expected advantages of DFY UA backup services

  • You can receive a bespoke solution that is customized to your needs.
  • No learning curve, because your agency will do the work for you.
  • Solution can be stored in BigQuery or another next-generation cloud database.
  • You get what you pay for, and these services usually have customer service built in.

Possible disadvantages of outsourcing UA backups

  • You will need to make choices on what data you want to keep.
  • Your reports will be custom, which means unproven.
  • No matter how much data you back up, you are still bound by the limits of the GA API, so not all data can be backed up.
  • Complicated to access raw backup data if stored in BigQuery.
  • Ownership questions on who owns the data that is backed up: your company or the agency.
  • Ongoing costs to maintain the database storage if choosing BigQuery.

So far, we looked at UA backup solutions that are not provided by Google Analytics itself. 

Let’s have a look at how they score.

5. GA API to Google Sheets Connection

The GA API allows you to load data from Google Analytics into Google sheets. This is a handy way to extract specific data instead of using the GA interface. It is also one method to back up your UA data. 

For whom is this solution?

The GA API is a good UA backup solution for anyone who is familiar with importing GA data to Google Sheets. Just make sure the data of the view you want to back up is not too big and that you have a lot of time.

During one of our webinars, Jeff Sauer demonstrated this method. It became very clear that this is not the best UA backup solution for every business or organization.

Our score

Backup Completeness Score: 8/10

Learning Curve: Hard

Time: 20 hours for the first view

Cost: free

Main advantages of GA API as UA backup tool

  • Full control of the data you download and store in the familiar interface of Google Sheets.
  • Free Sheets connector directly to Google Analytics API that is relatively easy to learn.
  • Direct access to raw data without having to store across workbooks.
  • Relatively easy to connect to Looker Studio or generate report charts within Google Sheets

Disadvantages of GA API as UA backup tool

  • Queries won’t be optimized for data retrieval, deduplicated, or run to prevent sampling
  • No native visualization of data so you need to add in hours for that as well
  • High learning curve to understand how to optimize queries 
  • You will run out of storage cells quickly if downloading daily or weekly data
  • Challenging to decide what data to download and what data to ignore
  • You will likely need to re-run queries dozens of times to get data that is useful
  • Very difficult to filter data if you pull more than one dimension
  • Data will not match the Google Analytics interface if you do any storage optimization (i.e. limiting number of values you pull in from the API)

6. GA API to Looker Studio and Download PDF

To backup your UA data, you could connect the GA API to Looker Studio, import the data in customized reports and download them as PDF. That last part is important because once UA is deleted, your Looker Studio reports will be empty. 

For whom is this solution?

Looker Studio as a backup for UA is best for anyone who is familiar with the tool. Since the final backups will be static PDFs, it is also important that you don’t need interactive reports as a backup of your web analytics data. 

Our score

Backup Completeness Score: 4/10

Learning Curve: Medium

Time: 8 hours per view 

Cost: Free

Main advantages of Looker Studio as UA backup tool

  • Data visualization is built into the report
  • Control over presentation of reports and branding
  • Familiar tool for those who use Looker Studio

Disadvantages of using Looker Studio as UA backup tool

  • Requires using two tools to get reports generated.
  • Raw data is not stored in the reports, just aggregated data and the visualization.
  • Solution stops working when UA API ends, so it will break if not downloaded before.
  • No ability to drill down on downloaded reports or compare across date ranges.
  • Time consuming solution with very little real world benefit.

7. UA Export to CSV

You can export UA reports to CSV files and use these as backup for your data. We have described the exact steps you need to take in another article about how to backup Universal Analytics as a bunch of export files.

UA export csv report

For whom is this solution?

This solution is ideal if you don’t have technical skills and if you only want to have some basic UA data of a view backed up. 

Our score

Backup Completeness Score: 3/10

Learning Curve: Easy

Time: 8 hours per view

Cost: free

Main advantages 

  • Data is backed up in the simplest form possible
  • Data can be imported into any system in the future using universal format
  • Data storage will never be a significant amount of space

Disadvantages 

  • Stored in individual files or requires a consolidation project
  • Must download dozens of reports for hundreds of date ranges
  • When imported into a spreadsheet tool, you might run against cell limits
  • Will run slower the more data in the backup
  • No data visualization, must be done in a separate step
  • Steep learning curve to make data usable or queryable or interactive

8. UA Export to Google Sheets

Instead of exporting UA reports to CSV files, you can also export them directly as Google Sheets. 

For whom is this solution?

This method is definitely for the not fainthearted and for sure not for anyone who isn’t afraid of getting a repetitive strain injury.

Our score

Backup Completeness Score: 3/10

Learning Curve: Easy

Time: 8 hours per view

Cost: free

Advantages

  • Values in the data downloaded should match the GA interface exactly.
  • Inexpensive solution that gives access to lots of data, representing a true backup.
  • Ability to access some reports not available in the API.
  • No training needed beyond clicking buttons.

Disadvantages

  • Easily run up against a cell limit in Google Sheets.
  • Must download dozens of reports for hundreds of data ranges.
  • No visualization native in the data backup.
  • Prone to user error and requires a system to store and manage everything in harmony.
  • Data is contained in hundreds of individual sheets files.

9. UA Report Exports to PDF

Of all the reviewed UA backup solutions, exporting UA reports to PDF is the worst.

For whom is this solution?

It can be useful for someone who wants to have a couple of old UA reports as a PDF.

Our score

Backup Completeness Score: 3/10

Learning Curve: Easy

Time: 8 Hours Per View

Cost: Free

Main advantages

  • Accurate preservation of the “”Old”” Universal Analytics
  • Built-in Data Visualization
  • Easy to download and understand
  • A true backup with no expectation of analysis

Disadvantages 

  • Must download dozens of reports for hundreds of data ranges
  • Visualization of data is static in the PDF for the date range chosen
  • Prone to user error and requires a system to store and manage everything in harmony
  • Data is contained in hundreds of individual PDF files
  • Can't filter the data by dimensions to get granular answers

So, which UA backup solution is the best for you? 

Hopefully, it has become clear that there is no such thing as the best UA backup solution for every business or organization.

Although we used objective criteria to compare several solutions, it all boils down to one important question:

Which data will you miss once UA is deleted forever? 

Right now, historical data loss may not seem like a disaster to you. But there is little time left before UA, its interface and all the data of your views and accounts will be gone. Forever. 

On behalf of the Data Driven U team, I hope the above information helps you to choose the best UA backup solution for your business, organization or customers. 

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