I've been looking for a solid web analytics solution for side projects. The new Google Analytics dashboard is confusing and honestly overkill for side projects.
I've been using Plausible lately. It's pretty simple analytics with supports custom events, which is a requirement for me.
Analytics for side projects
Some of my game side projects like ZooDrop.io generate a lot of traffic without much revenue. And the new wave of analytics vendors all charge per page view. ZooDrop (~600 unique per day) alone already would cost $19 / month with Plausible and it doesn't generate any revenue yet.
So I needed a solution that can give me analytics for side projects that has flat, low pricing. Luckily Plausible is open source and offers a self-hosted version. This post is about using the self-hosted Plausible on DigitalOcean (and can be applied to any VM you can SSH into).
Getting your Plausible VM up and running
First, I should caution that self-hosting Plausible requires you to be comfortable setting up a VM, SSHing in, and running some basic terminal commands. It's not too hard so if you think you can do it, go for it!
I'd recommend following this DigitalOcean tutorial on setting up Plausible on DigitalOcean.
Even if you're not using DigitalOcean, you can use the second half of the steps, starting where you SSH into your VM.
I usually use Fly.io but in this case I valued DO's persistent 25GB of storage on the VM since we'll be using
docker compose and a SQL container. It felt like it might take extra work to attach a volume on Fly, but to be honest I didn't try this so it might be easier than I think.
The total time it took me to set things up was about 2 hours. And now I'm locked into $6 / month analytics for all of my side projects without having to worry about the price increasing if a free project gets some attention.
As a preview to the tutorial linked above, the basic steps are:
1. Get a VM
2. CNAME a subdomain to your VM IP in DNS
3. SSH in and clone Plausible
4. Set up 2 config files
5. Run `docker compose up`
6. Install nginx + 1 config file
7. Run certbot to support https
8. Register an Admin user and disable registrations
I chose a 1GB memory instance, which is honestly probably pushing it. We'll see how this works out long term. Right now it's sitting at about 50% memory usage at 600 uniques per day. (2024-01-13 Update: ZooDrop.io went live on Poki and is receiving about 10k uniques per day. CPU is sitting at ~15% and memory is at ~90% on the 1GB instance. No crashes or hiccups so far)
When I tried to use the MaxMind option for city level geolocation, my server would go out of memory. I scaled it to 2GB to test and things worked fine. I decided to go back to 1GB of memory and live without city level analytics.
I named my subdomain "plsbl.my-domain.com" to avoid ad blockers (a subdomain like "analytics" might get blocked)
Make sure to disable registrations on your Plausible instance once you have created your account!
Plausible docs for self-hosting
DigitalOcean's docs for setting up Plausible on DO (great walkthrough)
Questions or ideas:
Discuss this post on GitHub