Data mining has led to a number of important applications. One of the biggest ways that brands use data mining is with web scraping. Towards Data Science has talked about the role of using data mining tools with web scraping. Unfortunately, the power of Hadoop and other modern data mining technology is eclipsed by limits that Google and other brands place on data queries made from the same IP.
We have talked in the past about scraping web data with the R programming language. However, it is important to understand how to deal with other challenges, such as limits on proxy requests.
This is where proxies come into play. They make it much easier to make numerous data mining requests. Proxies play a vital role in a web scraping project. They are even more important in the age of big data. As web scraping is becoming increasingly popular, many websites have started placing scraping detection tools. Proxy servers can help you overcome this barrier and make the most of your data mining efforts.
Let’s take a look at proxies, their types, and their importance in data scraping over the web.
What are Proxies and How Are They Used with Scraping Web Data?
When we surf the internet, a numerical label is assigned to the computer network device. This label is known as the IP address and looks something like this: 152.6.691.84. An IP address helps with host/network interface identification and location addressing. In simple terms, one can use your IP address to find out where you’re located.
A proxy refers to a third-party server that lets you route your request through it and use its IP address. When you use a proxy, the website you access doesn’t see your IP address. Instead, it sees the IP address of the proxy. This allows you to scrape the website safely and privately.
The cost of proxy servers can vary based on your location and requirements. Know more about proxy costs here.
Why Do You Need a Proxy for Web Scraping?
Let’s discuss the main benefits of using a proxy for web scraping.
1. Hide your IP Address
The primary purpose of using a proxy is to hide your source device’s IP address. As discussed, websites can see your IP addresses. When you use a proxy, the site sees the IP address coming from the proxy and not from your original scraping device. And since the IP address looks similar, the site has no idea what your actual IP address is.
In addition to scraping, using a proxy helps eliminate geographic internet restrictions, also known as geo-IP based restrictions. For example, if you want to watch a British TV program from Australia, but the content has geo-IP limitations, you can use a proxy server located in Britain. This way, the website will receive a request from a British IP address.
2. Get Past Rate Limits
Website owners are mainly focusing on website security. Many prominent websites have plugins or software in place to detect suspicious requests coming from an IP address. Several requests at a time usually indicate an automated process, like web scraping or security-related fuzz testing.
Websites set up a rate-limiting program to avoid this rush. When a suspicious number of requests come from an IP address in a short period, the site blocks future requests for some time. And if you’re planning to scrape thousands of pages of content, you’re likely to hit the limit.
To surpass these restrictions, you’ll need to spread your requests across different proxy servers. The target site will, therefore, see a few requests coming from several servers. All the server requests will stay within the rate limit and won’t trigger the scaping detector. This way, you’ll be able to scape all the data you want without alerting the website.
Types of Proxy Servers
There are different types of proxy servers. When choosing a proxy for web scraping, consider the following types.
Public proxy servers are the most common and the most insecure. In most cases, they are managed by unreliable third-parties, and they can do down anytime. You’ll find many free proxies; however, finding a trusted public proxy will be a hurdle. Yet, many people use them just because they’re free.
Shared proxies are slightly better than free proxies, but they’re the cheapest options available. In shared proxy servers, the users split the proxy costs, and they can all access the server simultaneously. These proxies also have a complex architecture, and they could be slower than your IP address.
A dedicated proxy is a specific private proxy where only one authorized user can access the server and send requests. In dedicated proxy servers, the provider has full control over who can access the server.
4. Residential IPs
Residential proxy servers use real IP addresses, i.e., IP addresses of real computers. These are the best proxy types to use as they look like regular IP addresses. Moreover, any proxy type can be a residential proxy as long as its address is linked to an actual device.
5. Datacenter IPs
Datacenter IPs are opposite of residential IPs, i.e., they have computer-generated IP addresses that are not associated with physical devices. You can consider datacenter IPs are proxies in the cloud. And since they’re located in the cloud, they provide the best speed.
How to Use Proxies for Web Scraping?
In a nutshell, proxy servers allow you to scrape the web safely and privately. Web scraping is entirely legal, but it can cause an excess burden on the target website. Websites use scraping detection tools to avoid this piling up of requests. When you use a proxy, you can avoid these detection mechanisms
However, make sure to use proxies the right way. Avoid scraping mistakes like sending too many requests or damaging the target website. Always be respectful. If the target site detects that you’re scraping, slow down or stop immediately.
Proxies Are Critical for Scraping Web Data
With data being the fuel in today’s digital environment, the importance of web scraping is continually rising. But the increased use of web scraping has also led to websites using scraping detection tools. Here’s where proxy servers step in.