Web scraping is essential for virtually all businesses in this digital age. Scrapping facilitates quick and efficient data mining from the World Wide Web. The extracted data helps to grow your brand and business. It provides companies with accurate insights into their potential customers. The process allows brands to make informed analysis that leads to improved lead generation.
Is it Legal?
Web scraping is an entirely legal process that is performed using scripts and other software. Any meaningful web scraping process has to involve proxies. The challenge arises in integrating and troubleshooting these proxies to function as desired. It’s easier for us, as developers, to design and deploy the crawlers or spiders than it is to set them up and maintain the proxy servers.
This guide lets you in on everything you need to know on how to properly configure and troubleshoot proxies for a seamless web scraping experience. Additionally, the post will enlighten you on the best types of proxy servers to integrate into your crawling scripts, and where to source them.
But first, let’s refresh up on some basics.
What are Proxies?
Proxy servers act as intermediaries when you’re surfing the web but want to remain anonymous. There are instances when it’s best to hide your real IP addresses from the search engines. For example, when you want to access web content that’s restricted in your region or country.
Or, when you’re phishing essential data and information on a competitor, and you don’t want to spook them. Your private information in your HTTP request travels to your proxy servers before proceeding to the final target or destination. That way, the target site assumes your IP address to be that of the proxy server.
Proxies and Web Scraping?
Proxies confer lots of benefits to the web scraping process. The main upside is that your IP address will never be revealed as you dig up vital info and data from target sites. Two, using proxies allows you to overcome the challenge of passing the rate limits. Most, if not all, sites have a rate limit to the amount of data and information a person can extract at a given instance. Proxies allow us to override that shortcoming.
Proxies come in handy when you’re trying to extract valuable data from websites that have geo-IP restrictions. Think of a scenario where you are interested in crawling a real estate website meant for US audiences, but, you’re in Australia.
The only solution here would be to mask your original Aussie IP address with an American one to get the job done. Woe unto you also if the US site has software in place to detect suspicious requests originating from a particular IP address. In such scenarios, it becomes virtually impossible for your scripts or software to execute the scrapping process.
That is unless you have a reliable proxy server to hide your original requests. Proxies allow you to split your data requests into smaller packets within the set rate limits of the site you’re scrapping.
Using Proxies to Scrap
The target site’s source codes determine the number of proxies required to scrap large websites successfully. The rate limit threshold for extracted data is dependent on the target site. By default, however, most sites function on the principle that a human user can only take roughly 5-10 requests per minute.
That becomes the threshold rate limit for extracting data on that site. That means an average user is expected to take approximately 300 to 600 legitimate requests, or clicks, on that site per hour. Anything above that figure and you are likely to be flagged for suspicious activity. Therefore, when experts set up proxies, they often limit their requests to 500 per proxy server to avoid detection and improve user experience.
Number of Proxies Needed
The number of proxies you’ll need to scrap a site entirely is calculated by dividing the threshold requests per IP by the total number of IP addresses you are intending to output. In other words, if you plan on crawling through 2,000,000 URLs per hour, you’ll require: 2,000,0000 divided by 500 requests to give you 200 different proxies to get the scrapping task safely completed. To err on the side of caution, you should scale up and use 300 to 500 proxy IPs for that particular scrapping job.
Of course, it’s impossible to run hundreds of proxies simultaneously manually. Using automation software to change the pooled IP addresses periodically is also a daunting task, not not the effort. The best remedy here would be to piggyback on proxy software to overcome these challenges.
Two primary concerns determine the choice of proxy software you can use. One, are you looking to use dedicated or shared proxies? Two, do you prefer using HTTP or SOCKS proxy connection protocols?
The main advantage of going with dedicated proxies is that you’re guaranteed that no one will interfere with your requests as you scrap. But, to use reliable software, you have to pay. Alternatively, go for the more affordable, cheaper shared proxy servers and still get the data you want from the target sites.
It would be best to try trusted proxy server providers such as Squid proxies and Proxy Bonanza for a hassle-free and affordable scraping experience.
Adding your proxy servers to the scrapping scripts or software is not that complicated, once you get the fundamentals right. To integrate them, you first pass your scrapper requests to the dedicated or shared proxies. Then, you keep on rotating the servers’ IPs as the requests come in.
Developers often use Python language to handle the incoming HTTPS or SOCKS requests. All you need is a simple code snippet to connect to the target sites’ libraries and extract the information required. The second step involves setting up parallel requests to the target site to get documentation.
As you’ve seen, web scraping is best performed using proxy servers. These servers allow you to extract the data you need anonymously. Additionally, the proxies will enable you to circumvent the limitations set by most sites to incoming requests.
Therefore, use datacenter, residential or mobile proxy IPs the next time you want to scrap sites, of any size and complexity, and you’ll get the job done in record time. Scraping data will help your brand or business make better and more informed decisions, moving forward.