Static vs Rotating Proxies: A Comprehensive Guide
When web scraping the internet, one tool that often proves indispensable is a proxy. The decision between static and rotating proxies can significantly impact your success rates in data extraction activities.
For any developer engaged in web scraping, understanding the difference between static vs rotating proxies is an important foundational concept to understand.
This guide will explore the complexities of both types of proxies, helping you to make informed decisions about your approach to proxies. Once you understand that, we will then introduce you to a web scraping API that automates away the complexity of proxy management.
Before we delve into the specifics of static and rotating proxies, let's briefly discuss what proxies are.
A proxy server serves as a gateway between you and the internet. It's an intermediary server that separates end users from the websites they browse.
But why would you need proxies for web scraping?
The answer is both complex and very simple, proxies offer varying levels of security, functionality, and privacy based on your use case, needs, or company policy. But ultimately they are mostly used to request a web page using an IP address from a different country, or where you want to use proxy IPs to navigate around website countermeasures.
Now, let's dive deeper into the world of proxies.
Defining Static Proxies: A Closer Look
Static proxies utilize IP addresses that remain unchanged over time (also known as static IPs). When you connect to websites via a static proxy server, you'll always be associated with the same IP address, even if your own IP is dynamic.
Generally, only datacenter proxies and ISP proxies can be static. That’s because they’re hosted in servers that are always online and allow assigning a fixed IP address.
Mobile proxies can technically be static too if they run on a phone farm; but, due to their technical qualities, mobile carriers will rotate the address sooner or later anyway. Static residential proxies always rotate.
Key Features of Static Proxies
Consistent IP Address: With static proxies, your IP address remains unchanged, providing a consistent online identity. This can be particularly useful for tasks that require a consistent IP address which can be whitelisted such as crawling your own site with a SEO crawler.
Fast Servers: Static proxies are often hosted on high-speed servers, ensuring a smooth and efficient online experience. This can be particularly beneficial for tasks that require a high-speed connection, such as streaming content or downloading large files.
Limited Flexibility: Once you have a static proxy IP, changing its parameters, such as location, can be challenging. This means that if you need to connect from a specific location, you'll need to ensure that your static proxy IP is from that location.
Static proxies are perfect for tasks that require a consistent identity over a long period. For instance, if you're managing multiple accounts or going through a multi-step flow (like checking out from an online store), a static proxy is ideal. This is rarely the case for web scraping though - for that you may need rotating proxies.
Defining Rotating Proxies: A Closer Look
Simple rotating proxy services automatically provide you with a fresh IP address from a large pool of IP addresses. The rotation interval can be based on time (1, 10, 30 minutes) or number of connection requests previously routed through that proxy.
For example, you can send 10,000 connection requests to a website and have each one come from one of 10,000 different IP addresses.
More advanced services, such as Zyte API, have a large pool of proxies but use a smarter approach to the rotation of the proxies, switching between IPs depending on the outcome of the requests, internal metrics and fine-tuned analysis of specific websites countermeasures, making it much more effective in terms of success rate and speed.
Key Features of Rotating Proxies
Ideal for Bypassing IP Bans: If your project involves heavy data scraping, rotating proxies will let you counteract IP banning issues. By constantly changing your IP address, you can avoid being detected and blocked by websites.
Enhanced Security: By constantly changing your IP address, rotating proxies provide an added layer of security. This makes it harder to track your online activities.
High Level of Anonymity: With a new IP address for each request, rotating proxies offer a high level of anonymity. This can be particularly beneficial for tasks that require a high level of privacy, such as browsing the web anonymously or accessing geo-restricted content.
Proxy Pools and Services
If you have been following along you should understand now that, rotating through a pool of proxies is only useful if it contains fresh, non-blocked, IP addresses in plentiful supply and in each of the geographies required.
There are a range of commercial services available to rent proxies from, which you can buy and write code to rotate through, or there are more complete proxy services with the rotation, management and customization built in, which makes them easier to use and offloads the work from you into a service.
Data Centre vs Residential Proxies: A Quick Overview
Data center proxies are the most common and cheapest form of IP addresses often used by developers as proxies hosted in data centers. The benefits of data center proxies to a developer is that they are cheaper than other types of proxies while still offering good privacy, anti-ban protection and geo-location abilities. The disadvantage is they are easier to detect and ban as the IPs they offer tend to sit in blocks/ranges of IP Addresses.
Residential proxies are IP addresses provided by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to homeowners. These proxies are tied to a physical location, and appear as regular users to most websites making them less likely to be blocked compared to data center proxies. Due to their reliance on real people with potentially unstable connections, residential proxies are harder to procure and manage. However, they do have several benefits and providers can offer a sticky IP address, a type of IP that remains constant for a certain period before rotating to a new one, typically staying unchanged for 10-30 minutes.
Proxy Rotator vs Rotating Proxies: A Quick Overview
Rotating proxies and proxy rotators are different. While rotating proxies are a type of proxy that automatically changes the IP address after a certain period or number of requests, a proxy rotator is a tool that manages this rotation process and has to be maintained by the user.
A proxy rotator assigns a new IP address from the pool for each connection request, making it harder for websites to detect and block the scraping activity. The effectiveness of a proxy rotator depends on the quality and diversity of the proxy pool it manages, and the logic it applies to rotate the IPs.
When to Use Static vs Rotating Proxies
Broadly speaking, rotating proxies are better for tasks where you need to constantly change your IP address to remain anonymous to the site. This primarily concerns scraping large amounts of data from e-commerce, travel and hospitality, and other websites. If you make too many requests from a single IP address, the website will likely start throttling your requests (slowing you down), showing you CAPTCHAs, and finally blocking your static IP; to avoid this you should use rotating proxies often through a proxy rotator, or web scraping API.
Static proxies work best when you need to keep the same identity for a long time to go through a multi-step flow like checking out from a sneaker store and such. Many of these functions can be achieved by creating sticky sessions with residential and mobile IPs.
In terms of security, rotating proxies take the lead. By constantly changing your IP address, rotating proxies reduce the chances of detection and blocking.
On the other hand, while static proxies provide a consistent online identity, they can get blocked if used for certain activities, such as e-commerce web scraping or making too many requests from the same IP address.
When it comes to performance, both types of proxies have their strengths. Static proxies, with their consistent IP address, often provide a more stable connection. This makes them ideal for tasks that require a consistent identity over a long period, such as managing multiple accounts or going through a multi-step flow (like checking out from an online store).
On the other hand, rotating proxies can offer superior performance for tasks that involve heavy data scraping or require a high level of anonymity. However, the actual performance can vary based on several factors, including the quality of the proxies, the speed of the servers, and the specific requirements of the task at hand.
The cost of proxies can vary greatly depending on the type and provider. Generally, the pricing model hinges on the type of IP address being used. Whether it's a static or rotating proxy, DC/ISP IPs are typically priced per IP. For rotating residential IPs, however, the pricing is often based on traffic; that is, the more IP addresses you utilize or connections you make, the higher the price. There are, of course, exceptions to these generalizations, and it's always essential to check with specific providers for precise pricing details.
The overall cost can also be influenced by factors such as the provider's reputation, service quality, and the level of support they provide. In contrast to most proxy servers available, Zyte API (our web scraping API) employs a smart pricing approach. By using rotating proxies intelligently based on the scraping task requirements, Zyte API ensures optimal cost-efficiency for each request.
Choosing the Right Proxy Provider
Choosing the right proxy provider is as important as choosing between rotating and static proxies. A good proxy provider should offer a range of IP addresses from various geographical locations. They should also provide good customer support and have transparent pricing. When choosing a proxy provider, consider factors such as the speed of the proxies, the number of available IP addresses, and the provider's reputation in the market. Whether you opt for static or rotating proxies, a reliable provider can make all the difference in your online activities.
Conclusion: Static Proxies, Rotating Proxies, and why you should consider using a Web Scraping API
The choice between static and rotating proxies ultimately depends on your specific needs. If you need to maintain a consistent identity over a long period, static proxies are the way to go. For web scraping tasks, the ideal approach is to use a web scraping API with explicit sessions, which will ensure continuity and stability throughout the scraping process.
However, if your tasks involve crawling websites with more stringent scraping countermeasures and require a high level of anonymity, rotating proxies are a better choice.
Remember, the debate of static vs rotating proxies isn't about which is universally better, but rather which is better suited for your specific use case. Both types of proxies have their uses, and understanding these can help you make an informed decision.
In the end, the choice between static and rotating proxies boils down to your specific needs and the level of flexibility you require.
Whether you choose static or rotating proxies, it's crucial to select a reputable provider to ensure optimal performance and security.
A simpler (and more powerful) approach: using a web scraping API
Given the complexities of managing proxies for web scraping, you might be wondering if there's a simpler way. Web scraping APIs are a new and advanced approach to solving bans and simplifying web scraping. Zyte API, our web scraping API, is packed with features that go much further than proxy rotation management.
The API automatically selects the most cost-effective and efficient proxies for your scraping tasks. It utilizes a combination of static and rotating residential proxies under the hood, ensuring high success rates even when scraping difficult websites.
Moreover, Zyte API comes with built-in features such as smart ban monitoring and detection, geolocation, intelligent proxy scheduling, and a scriptable browser. These features not only save you time but also increase the efficiency of your web scraping tasks far beyond what can be achieved with proxies alone.
Can I web scrape using free proxies?
While free proxies may seem tempting, they often come with limited capabilities and can increase the chances of you getting blocked, as well as having security concerns (for example, man-in-the-middle attacks). Beginners may feel tempted, as free proxies allow you to learn without committing to any pricing, but they also require a much more thorough understanding of the fundamentals to get results and are not reliable. Nonetheless, if you want to start your journey with the right infrastructure to back you up, sign up for a free trial of Zyte API so you can focus on using the data instead of trying to get it.
You can access a 30 day trial with enough credit to rigorously test drive the REST or httpProxy API by visiting zyte.com/zyte-api/