15. June 2023

Save time and effort with server-side tracking as a managed service

Do-it-yourself vs. managed service: What you need to consider when choosing your server-side tracking setup.

2023 will be the year of server-side tracking.  Data-driven companies have already made arrangements over the past 24 months to make their online marketing and web analytics ready for the cookieless era.

Due to the imminent end of
third party cookies, there is a need to implement a first party data strategy and server-side tracking.

The declining data quality of web tracking, compliance with complex regulations and rising consumer expectations of data privacy are accelerating this trend.

However, every company needs to address one essential question for itself: How can server-side tracking be implemented in a way that remains resilient, flexible and future-proof?

Two approaches to server-side tracking

  1. Open do-it-yourself (DIY) frameworks, such as Server-Side Google Tag Manager (SS-GTM).
  2. Specialised providers who have made server-side tracking their core business as a SaaS solution

Before we go into further detail, let’s take a quick look at a related technology to illustrate the point.

Remember when consent management platforms were suddenly required by law? Back then, many companies invested a lot of time, resources and money in building their own solution, only to end up with a specialised provider. How many companies still use their own CMP today?

Do you see the point? As complexity and requirements increase, the adoption of managed services providers increases, driving innovation.

We expect this to be the case for server-side monitoring as well, as the complexity and technical requirements have multiplied compared to client-side monitoring.

Let us show you what we mean:


  1. The maximum data quality promise
  2. Compliance requirements for world-class data protection
  3. Out-of-the-box connectivity saves time and resources
  4. Server hosting and performance for a seamless experience
  5. Innovation to enhance the product and deliver new use cases

The promise of server-side tracking is also to restore data quality. When you place your trust in a specialised provider, you give them the responsibility to maintain and renew the server-side tracking technology in such a way that this benefit is guaranteed in the long term. In one form or another, this will also be mentioned in the general terms and conditions (GTC) when you license the service.

In this context, it is also important to understand that it is essential for the service provider to maintain this benefit, as this is a reason for them to do business with you in the first place and otherwise they risk going out of business.

So the motivation of the company and the service provider is long-term, and you are supposed to benefit from this relationship. You can even see it as a kind of insurance.

Compliance is another important piece of the server-side monitoring puzzle. And it’s an area where specialist server providers can really stand out.

This starts with GDPR-compliant hosting in the EU on European servers (read: no American cloud). While this sounds simple, let’s not forget that a server-side tracking system needs to be able to scale quickly and run reliably without downtime. A combination of features that is hard to find in the EU – especially for larger systems.

Furthermore, once the right cloud is found and tested, server-side tracking should be set up in a private container where only your data runs (independent of other clients).

Data protection out-of-the-box

Ein Aspekt, der seit den Google-Analytics-Urteilen in Europa zunehmend an Bedeutung gewonnen hat, ist die Bereitstellung fortschrittlicher Datenschutzfunktionen. Out-f-the-Box-Anonymisierung, Pseudonymisierung und Hashing ermöglichen Unternehmen zusätzliche Sicherheit/Compliance sowie neue Anwendungsfälle, die für Wachstum genutzt werden können. Diese “Funktionen” können auf Knopfdruck genutzt werden, wobei im Hintergrund ausgereifte und rechtlich bestätigte Logiken ablaufen.

Nicht zuletzt schaffen spezialisierte Anbieter von serverseitigem Tracking auch eine klare rechtliche Beziehung als Datenverarbeiter durch eine Datenverarbeitungsvereinbarung (DPA), die im Zeitalter der GDPR unbedingt zu dokumentieren ist. Dieses Dokument kann auch spezielle TOMs (technische und organisatorische Maßnahmen) enthalten, die ein dokumentiertes hohes Datenschutzniveau gewährleisten sollten.

Der Betrieb und die Verantwortung für die Serverinfrastruktur ist ein weiterer häufiger Grund für die Beauftragung eines spezialisierten Anbieters für die serverseitige Verfolgung. Warum eigentlich? Beim client-seitigen Tracking wurde die benötigte CPU auf jedes Benutzergerät ausgelagert und war somit kostenlos; beim server-seitigen Tracking zentralisieren Sie die CPU auf dem Server, auf dem Sie die Lösung hosten. Mit zunehmendem Traffic und implementierten Tools steigt auch die CPU.

Ein Beispiel: Für viele Unternehmen sind das Black Week und die Weihnachtszeit im Allgemeinen entscheidend für ihre jährliche Performance. Sie führen spezielle Kampagnen mit Sonderangeboten durch.
Daher steigt der Datenverkehr in diesen Wochen und Monaten drastisch an. (50-300% sind normal, können aber auch noch höher sein).

Wenn die gesamte Infrastruktur nicht für solche Leistungsanforderungen ausgelegt ist, werden die Server und das gesamte serverseitige Tracking-Setup irgendwann ausfallen, was Ihre Leistung beeinträchtigt. (Sie können selbst ausrechnen, was ein Tag ohne funktionierendes Tracking auf Ihrer Website während einer schwarzen Woche wert ist).

Simply scale when you need to

One aspect that has become increasingly important since the Google Analytics rulings in Europe is the provision of advanced privacy features. Out-of-the-box anonymisation, pseudonymisation and hashing provide companies with additional security/compliance as well as new use cases that can be leveraged for growth. These “functions” can be used at the push of a button, with sophisticated and legally validated logics running in the background.

Last but not least, specialised server-side tracking providers also create a clear legal relationship as data processors through a Data Processing Agreement (DPA), which is essential to document in the age of GDPR. This document may also include specific TOMs (technical and organisational measures) that should ensure a documented high level of data protection.

The operation and responsibility for the server infrastructure is another common reason for hiring a specialised provider for server-side tracking. Why is this? With client-side tracking, the CPU required was outsourced to each user device and was therefore free; with server-side tracking, you centralise the CPU on the server where you host the solution. As traffic and tools implemented increase, so does the CPU.

An example: For many companies, Black Week and the Christmas season in general are crucial for their annual performance. They run special campaigns with special offers.
Therefore, traffic increases dramatically during these weeks and months. (50-300% is normal, but can be even higher).

If the entire infrastructure is not designed to handle such performance demands, the servers and the entire server-side tracking setup will eventually fail, affecting your performance. (You can calculate for yourself what a day without functioning tracking on your website during a black week is worth). Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

Innovation in web tracking

And then there is innovation. In a competitive market, specialised providers will always try to outdo each other, which will eventually lead to more and better products and features for each individual customer.

In the beginning, most server-side tracking providers offered a simple hosting service with 1-5 integrations. After 18 months, we are already seeing a large number of additional tools, new privacy features, complicated raw data and personalisation applications, plug-ins and much more.

Would you be able to keep up with these trends all by yourself?

In summary, the move to server-side tracking increases technical complexity on many levels. There are a number of critical requirements to look out for now and in the future – data quality, compliance, connectivity, hosting and innovative new features.

This is where a specialist server-side tracking provider can be of great value, just as it is when implementing consent management platforms. This is especially true as website data is essentially responsible for our online performance.

Learn more


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White paper: How to achieve maximum data quality for your marketing with server-side tracking while remaining privacy-compliant.

Case Study: Google Analytics 4 with 100% Server-side Tracking

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