Data is an important aspect of our daily lives. It influences nearly every decision we make. Whether you are doing research for a school assignment, planning a vacation, or running a business, information from multiple sources is essential. Web scraping with proxies will collect that data for you.
If you’re not particularly tech-savvy, or are merely inexperienced, figuring out everything necessary to get started may seem like a daunting task. Let me help you.
In this article, I’ll go over the types of data scrapers that are out there, the relationship between data scraping and using proxies, and also why those proxies are crucial.
What Is Web Scraping?
Keeping it short and sweet, web scraping is when a program visits websites on your behalf to gather the information you requested.
That might not sound very impressive at first, but consider the speed and scale at which a computer can run. A single program running through proxies can do hundreds, if not thousands, of requests in the time it would take you to do a single check manually.
For a more robust explanation, as well as a bunch of example use cases, check out this article.
Is Web Scraping Legal?
Short answer: yes! As determined by law, if you are collecting data that is available in the public domain that isn’t copyright protected then you’re good to go. Of course, this is assuming that what you plan to do with that information is legal.
However, confidential information or private contact info that you gather without permission and intend to sell to a 3rd party is not legal.
Even though it is legal in most cases, use your scraper respectfully. When using a scraper through a proxy to send numerous requests a second, directing them all at a single server can overwhelm it. This can manifest as service slowdown, or even outright crash the server.
In light of this threat, many websites have restrictions in place that block sources that exceed 600 requests in an hour.
What Kinds of Scrapers Are There?
There are 3 types of web scrapers: browser plugins, software, and cloud-based scrapers.
Software web scrapers are a bot you run that then send out requests as per how it is programmed. There are no-coding-required ones out there that are point and click to set up, like dexi and Octoparse. Of course, you have to pay to use more than their most limited features.
To do anything advanced for free then you need to be willing to do some coding. If you have some experience with Python, then BeautifulSoup is a beginner-friendly tool to get you going.
Lastly, cloud-based scrapers are externally run and are capable of much larger-scale scraping. All the info they gather is saved to the cloud, and no downloads are required on your part. A prime example is Diggernaut, although their free option is extremely limited.
What is a Proxy?
Proxies serve as the middleman between you and the websites you are accessing. Everything you do online will involve an IP address, which is effectively the digital equivalent to your street address.
The proxy will hand out its IP address instead, so it looks like those bot requests are coming from different places. There are a lot of different kinds of proxies out there, which can seem pretty confusing. I’ll go over them in just a little bit though, don’t worry.
Why Do I Need A Proxy When Web Scraping?
As I mentioned earlier, websites often have anti-bot measures in place to protect themselves from negative use cases. When your proxy hands them different IP addresses though, it can look like a bunch of different people are all doing normal requests. This way they won’t ban you due to spamming them.
Not only that, but certain proxies can make it look like you’re from a designated part of the globe. This way you can view location-specific information on the sites you’re collecting data from. Unfortunately, this feature often limits your available IP addresses and also raises the cost of the proxy.
Similarly, you can make it seem like you’re on a mobile device from a PC, or vice versa if you want to access the site’s alternate version.
What Kinds of Proxy IPs Are Available?
There are three primary types of proxies with sub-variations within them. They are datacenter IPs, residential IPs, and mobile IPs.
Datacenter IP proxies are the most plentiful and affordable type of proxy. They’re a massive pool of IPs from collections of servers within data centers. Their downside is that the fact they are a proxy is detectable. Depending on what websites you are gathering data from, they might mass-ban the IP range that the data center has as part of their anti-bot countermeasures.
Residential IP proxies use collections of IP addresses that belong to private residences. This way any website you access via the proxy thinks it’s just a normal person doing a regular request. They can’t identify it as a proxy. Of course, this aspect raises the price of the proxy service, but it isn’t necessarily expensive. This is the optimal proxy for web scraping.
Mobile IP proxies use collections of mobile device IP addresses. These are the rarest type of proxy services and are also the most expensive. When data scraping, it’s generally advised to only pay extra for mobile IPs when you specifically want to see mobile-targeted results.
There are two types of residential proxies, rotating and static, which I’ll cover briefly.
Types of Residential Proxies
The majority of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) give users rotating IP addresses by default. You’ll be assigned a new IP address each time you plug your modem in after having it unplugged for a while. Some ISPs let you sign up for a static IP address so it will never change. This is generally reserved for commercial use though.
A static residential proxy mimics this behavior, giving you one fixed IP address. This isn’t well suited for web scraping purposes though.
Sticky sessions can give you a specific IP for 1, 10, or 30 minutes depending on the proxy’s settings. There are many use cases for this style, but generally when web scraping you’ll want to go with a rotating residential proxy.
However, you’ll want to use a sticky session if the site you are gathering data from requires a login and a continuous session to access.
Can I Use A Free Proxy?
Regardless of what you’re using a proxy for, you always should steer clear of free proxies. They’re the lowest quality, and can often be potentially hazardous to use. Because they’re free to use, they are usually blacklisted by most websites thanks to people using them to slam requests on their servers in the past.
Even worse, those public proxies are often carrying malware that can infect you. To add insult to injury, they might also expose your scraping activities if your security isn’t set up properly. In much lighter news, any respectable paid service won’t allow such antics.
Now that you’re familiar with a few of the various web scraping tools that are available along with the proxies they are best paired with, I have one last piece of advice for you. When you’re setting up your scraper, avoid using direct links. Set it up to act like a ‘real’ user that finds the site from a search engine, goes through the site’s built-in search features, maybe even make it wander through a few random pages.
Whether you’re going to dip your toes into coding a scraper or use one with no coding required, you’re going to need a reliable proxy. Except for a few niche scenarios, you’ll want a rotating residential proxy. KocerRoxy is easy to use, affordable, and has top-tier customer service. Now that you know what to do, it’s time to start web scraping with proxies backing you up!