Using GoAccess with Nginx to replace Google Analytics

  1. Opting for log parsing
  2. Getting Nginx ready
  3. Getting GoAccess ready
  4. Securing with Basic authentication

I know! You cannot simply replace Google Analytics with parsing access logs and displaying a couple of charts. But to be honest, I actually never used Google Analytics to the fullest extent and was usually interested in seeing page hits and which pages were visited most often.

I recently moved my blog from Firebase to a VPS and also decided to remove Google Analytics tracking code from the site since its quite malicious and tracks users across other pages also and is creating a profile of a user, and I've had it. But I also need some insight of what is happening on a server and which content is being read the most etc.

I have looked at many existing solutions like:

But the more I looked at them the more I noticed that I am replacing one evil with another one. Don't get me wrong. Some of these solutions are absolutely fantastic but would require installation of databases and something like PHP or Node. And I was not ready to put those things on my fresh server. Also having Docker installed is out of the question.

Opting for log parsing

So, I defaulted to parsing already existing logs and generating HTML reports from this data.

I found this amazing software GoAccess which provides all the functionalities I need, and it's a single binary. Written in Go.

GoAccess can be used in two different modes.

GoAccess Terminal

Running in a terminal

GoAccess HTML

Running in a browser

I, however, need this to run in a browser. So, the second option is the way to go. The Idea is to periodically run cronjob and export this report into a folder that gets then server by Nginx behind a Basic authentication.

Getting Nginx ready

I choose Ubuntu on DigitalOcean. First I installed Nginx, and Letsencrypt certbot and all the necessary dependencies.

# log in as root user
sudo su -

# first let's update the system
apt update && apt upgrade -y

# let's install
apt install nginx certbot python3-certbot-nginx apache2-utils

After all this is installed we can create a new configuration for a statistics. Stats will be available at stats.domain.com.

# creates directory where html will be hosted
mkdir -p /var/www/html/stats.domain.com

cp /etc/nginx/sites-available/default /etc/nginx/sites-available/stats.domain.com
nano /etc/nginx/sites-available/stats.domain.com
server {
  root /var/www/html/stats.domain.com;
  server_name stats.domain.com;

  index index.html;
  location / {
    try_files $uri $uri/ =404;
  }
}

Now we check if the configuration is ok. We can do this with nginx -t. If all is ok, we can restart Nginx with service nginx restart.

After all that you should add A record for this domain that points to IP of a droplet.

Before enabling SSL you should test if DNS records have propagated with curl stats.domain.com.

Now, it's time to provision TLS certificate. To achieve this, you execute command certbot --nginx. Follow the wizard and when you are asked about redirection always choose 2 (always redirect to HTTPS).

When this is done you can visit https://stats.domain.com and you should get 404 not found error which is correct.

Getting GoAccess ready

If you are using Debian like system GoAccess should be available in repository. Otherwise refer to the official website.

apt install goaccess

To enable Geo location we also need one additiona thing.

cd /var/www/html/stats.stats.com
wget https://github.com/P3TERX/GeoLite.mmdb/raw/download/GeoLite2-City.mmdb

Now we create a shell script that will be executed every 10 minutes.

nano /var/www/html/stats.domain.com/generate-stats.sh

Contents of this file should look like this.

#!/bin/sh

zcat -f /var/log/nginx/access.log* > /var/log/nginx/access-all.log

goaccess \
  --log-file=/var/log/nginx/access-all.log \
  --log-format=COMBINED \
  --exclude-ip=0.0.0.0 \
  --geoip-database=/var/www/html/stats.domain.com/GeoLite2-City.mmdb \
  --ignore-crawlers \
  --real-os \
  --output=/var/www/html/stats.domain.com/index.html

rm /var/log/nginx/access-all.log

Because after a while nginx creates multiple files with access logs we use zcat to extract Gziped contents and create a file that has all the access logs. After this file is used we delete it.

If you want to exclude your home IP's result look at the --exclude-ip option in script and instead of 0.0.0.0 add your own home IP address. You can find your home IP by executing curl ifconfig.me from your local machine and NOT from the droplet.

Test the script by executing sh /var/www/html/stats.domain.com/generate-stats.sh and then checking https://stats.domain.com. If you can see stats instead of 404 than you are set.

It's time to add this script to cron with cron -e.

*/10 * * * * sh /var/www/html/stats.domain.com/generate-stats.sh

Securing with Basic authentication

You probably don't want stats to be publicly available, so we should create a user and a password for Basic authentication.

First we create a password for a user stats with htpasswd -c /etc/nginx/.htpasswd stats.

Now we update config file with nano /etc/nginx/sites-available/stats.domain.com. You probably noticed that the file looks a bit different from before. This is because certbot added additional rules for SSL.

Your location portion the config file should now look like. You should add auth_basic and auth_basic_user_file lines to the file.

location / {
  try_files $uri $uri/ =404;
  auth_basic "Private Property";
  auth_basic_user_file /etc/nginx/.htpasswd;
}

Test if config is still ok with nginx -t and if it is you can restart Nginx with service nginx restart.

If you now visit https://stats.domain.com you should be prompted for username and password. If not, try reopening your browser.

That is all. You now have analytics for your server that gets refreshed every 10 minutes.

➝ Get in contact with me via email.


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