Data is one of the most valuable resources and powerful tools that any modern business has available to them. Whether your business sells data directly or just needs certain data in order to effectively plan and strategize, it is better to be able to source it yourself than to rely on others.
However, before you can think about scaling up your data scraping operations, you need to know where your bottlenecks are and how to overcome them.
Bottlenecks are the chokepoints where resource limitations mean that you can’t process data as fast as you can generate it. There are a number of potential bottlenecks in most data scraping operations. For example, if a scraper isn’t coded optimally, then it might be lumbering inefficiently from page to page and taking much longer than it should to scrape the data you’re looking for.
But assuming that your scraper design is sound and the website(s) you are scraping from are not actively trying to prevent your tools from working, the most likely culprit for any bottlenecks in your process is your proxy server. An incorrectly configured proxy server can cause you a lot of headaches with your data scraping, especially when you begin scaling your operations.
You don’t technically need to have a proxy in order to scrape data. However, you don’t need protective gear to go and fight fires; you just won’t get very far without it. Similarly, if you try any serious data scraping without having a reliable proxy server to use, you are going to run into problems very quickly.
Regardless of your motivations, most website owners won’t want you scraping any data from them on principle. If a website detects any unusual activity, they may decide to block the associated IP address. If you are using a proxy server, the target website will only see the IP address of the intermediary server, not the IP address of the device you are using.
The best proxy servers are those that offer their users a large pool of IP addresses to draw upon and automatic IP rotation. This means that if an IP address you are using is blocked by the host, you can simply rotate to a new IP address and continue as you were before.
Having access to a large pool of rotating proxies also reduces your chances of being detected and banned in the first instance. With enough IP addresses, you can rotate to a new one for every request that you send to the website, making it appear as if each request is coming from a different user.
Using a proxy doesn’t just enable you to obscure your IP address; it also enables you to use an IP address from a specific region and make websites think that’s where you are connecting from. For example, users in the EU might not be able to access an overseas website because of GDPR compliance. The host will refuse their connection because their IP address is from the EU.
However, by connecting via a proxy server located in the US, you can interact with the host as if you were connecting from the US yourself. You can similarly simulate a connection from anywhere else in the world, as long as you have access to a server located in that region.
As you begin to scale your scraping operations, you will find that the nature of the game changes quite dramatically. When you are only looking for relatively small amounts of data from a narrow selection of websites, it’s usually pretty easy to code an efficient scraper to gather the data for you.
However, when you are scraping at scale, you are going to need a much more advanced scraper on your side. There are various pre-built scraping bots that you can use and configure for your own needs, but there are lots of advantages to building your own if you have the capabilities. When you are deciding which framework to use or how to design your own, consider the benefits of going open source.
If you build your own open-source scraping tool, you can ask other people for input and assistance in improving it, as long as you are willing to share the source code, of course. On the other hand, if you use a pre-existing open-source scraper, you can modify and reconfigure it for your needs. Adaptable scrapers that you can repurpose in the future are always a better idea than taking the time to build a scraper that will be used and then forgotten about again.
The key to scaling your data scraping operations is always going to lie in your choice of proxy server. There are a number of components that you need figured out in order to scrape effectively at scale, but none are as important as a rotating proxy with a large pool of IP addresses. You should also look for a proxy provider that enables unlimited concurrent threads if you want to scrape a large volume of data.