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Bumpy start for Google analytics giveaway

Free service that lets businesses monitor Web site traffic falls victim to a glitch or two, leaving users without data.

Google's move to offer free Web analytics software left some customers in the lurch.

The search giant launched a free Web analytics service Monday that lets companies see exactly how visitors interact with their Web site and how advertising campaigns are faring. The hosted service relies on technology from San Diego-based Urchin, which Google acquired in March. The Urchin product had formerly been priced at $200 a month.

What should have been a money-saving seamless transition for existing users of the Urchin technology instead turned into a temporary service outage for some. Urchin user Ethan Stock, co-founder of Zvents, which lets people search for events in their area, complained on his blog that after the free service was launched he had trouble logging on to it and wasn't receiving any of the real-time analytics data.

"After a few hours of fumbling around and swapping phone calls and e-mails, I get one of the other (Google customer service) guys to send me the validation information" to log in, he wrote on OnoTech blog. "When I finally do get in to Urchin, I have no data...Zero. Zip. None. I'm trying to run my business here, folks! Hello?"

Stock said Wednesday morning that he was left without access to analytics data for a total of two days. Though going without the data didn't shut down the business, it kept him from having valuable information he needs to run it well, he said.

"We're a start-up trying to learn from customers and raise funding, and what customers are doing on a daily basis is very important," Stock said. "I'd rather have something that's reliable and (that) I pay for than something that's unreliable and free."

Google didn't comment on the specific situation but did acknowledge there were problems with the transition.

"The demand for Google Analytics was much higher than we expected? No customer reporting data was lost," Google said in an e-mail response to questions Wednesday. "The Google Analytics service has been completely restored and full service is available to everyone."

Stock confirmed that things seemed to be back to normal for him and Zvents. "I am now very happy because it all works," he said. But "they certainly could have handled it better."