Tutorials

Starting a Web Scraping Project: Where to Begin?

Tech innovations and tools are cropping up every other day on the internet, and some like web scraping is highly misunderstood. The process has quickly become a focal point of the ongoing race towards data gathering. Data scraping is the process of collecting data from online pages at rapid speeds for businesses or individual use cases.  

The hunger for new and actionable data has never been more significant for business. It is, therefore, expected that every company would need to scrape data for business excellence and survival. Studies show that by 2025, global data creation will have ballooned to 163 zettabytes. 

Every single day, businesses and individuals create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data. This massive explosion of data is excellent for companies, but how can you harness it? One of the better options would be to start a web scraping project for your business. How do you get started? Well, you either need to create or buy a web-scraping tool. 

What are web scraping tools? Web scrapers automate the copy and paste function for massive data sources. Necessary to the tool are proxy servers.

What is a proxy?

Proxies are gateways that act as intermediaries between your computer and the online world. The server separates your identity from the website that your computer is scraping, providing security, functionality, and privacy. 

It seems that the need for a proxy server makes it sound like the process of data scraping is illegal. However, it is anything but that. As an illustration, the California appeals court last year declared data scraping from public websites a legal activity. LinkedIn and HiQ, a data analytics firm, had been embroiled in a legal tussle over the latter’s web scraping activity on LinkedIn.  

The professional networking platform served a cease and desist notification to HiQ. The data analytics firm countersued to prevent interference from the employment-oriented service. The court finally laid the matter to rest, leaving HiQ free to web scrape since it was only accessing public data. . 

Proxies can aid web scraping projects

Since businesses gather data for competitive advantages, it is natural that their competitors will try to stop this sort of data collection method. Your competitors and critics might, therefore, sabotage your web scraping projects through disinformation.

There are e-commerce sites, for instance, that display false prices to mislead competition. Others will design website features that block any web scraping activity. The proxy server, hence, is a crucial element to web scraping since it channels all your web activity through its servers, on its way to the website queried.

It will veil your IP address from websites and keep your activity private and free from tracking. This ensures that your business’s identity, physical location, web activity, and data is kept safe from prying eyes or malicious actors online.  

Different kinds of proxies

There are two main types of proxies – data center, and residential proxies:

  1. Data center proxies are the most common type of proxies because they are easily accessible and affordable. They are sometimes given out for free by various cloud-based providers. The primary reason why data center proxies are so affordable is that unlike your computer’s IP address, a datacenter IP is not factual.

It is instead a combination of numbers that mimic an actual IP address, but can easily be picked up by intelligent web content protection protocols. Accordingly, it is effortless to block data scraping if the proxy in use is a data center proxy. You can, however, use data center proxies for activities such as accessing geo-blocked content. 

  1. Residential proxies provide a better but more costly solution to this problem. Internet service providers issue them, and consequently, they are real IP addresses. They are, ergo, more difficult to flag and block during web scraping. You can use residential proxies in data scraping, privacy, and data protection enhancement as well as in accessing geo-blocked content.

How to start web scraping

A web scraper is required for data scraping. If your business has a robust IT department, then your employees can write data scraping code for your web scraper’s engine. Alternatively, you can access point and click web scraping frameworks at a subscription fee.

These tools have a visual interface that can be used to annotate data. You can apply them in web scraping projects, especially if you are mining massive amounts of data at a go. 

Most common issues that might occur during project planning and scraping

You have to ensure that your web scraping project-planning phase is thoroughly researched to ensure that you do not meet challenges during your scaling operations in the future. Native data scraping prototypes are, for instance, very efficient for minimal web scraping activities.  

They, however, hamper practical data mining and become tedious for use when applied in large-scale use. Some of the issues that you need to address in your web scraping strategy include:

1. Data warehousing

The process of data scraping produces massive amounts of information that can cause a breakdown in poorly thought out data warehousing tools. A weak data warehousing process will hamper the search, filter, and export functions of your web-scraping device.  

One vital feature that you should thoroughly examine before paying for a data scraper tool is its data warehousing features. They should be fault-tolerant, secure, and scalable.

2. Web scraper upgrades

The design and development of websites are always changing to keep up with technological advancements and the competition. The user interfaces of many sites will change to improve user experience and attraction.

These structural changes in web pages can hamper the data scraping process. Your web scraper has to adjust its code elements to keep up with these changes. You, therefore, need to use a web-scraping tool that receives constant updates to ensure that you receive complete data from it. Updates will also prevent it from crashing.

3. Anti scraping features

Websites are engaging in anti-scraping technology used to prevent web scraping. These technologies use dynamic algorithm codes to prevent bot access or that block suspicious IP addresses or honey pot traps. 

It would help if you used a web scraper with rotating IP pools to ensure that your data scraping activity is not easily recognized and blocked. Use data scrapers with private rotating proxies, which have not been used for other illegal activities online. These are much more easily identified and blocked. 

Conclusion

Your business’s web scraping projects will power its future growth if it is well planned and executed. To ensure the best return on investment and effort, use robust data scraping tools from recognized industry specialists.

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