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How to scale up web scraping?

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By the one and only

Web scraping can look deceptively easy when you’re starting out. There are numerous open-source libraries/frameworks, visual scraping tools, and data extraction tools that make it very easy to scrape data from a website. However, when you want to scrape websites at scale, things start to get very tricky, very fast.

Having a robust proxy management system in place is critical if you want to be able to reliably scrape the web at scale and target location-specific data. Without a healthy and well-managed proxy pool, your team will quickly find itself spending most of its time trying to manage proxies and will be unable to adequately scrape at scale.

Here are the 3 steps to future-proof your proxy management and make sure you can get your data, not just today but also in the future, long-term.

1. Traffic profile

You need to define the traffic profile first to determine the concrete needs of your project. What is a traffic profile?

It includes, first of all, the websites that you're trying to get data from. And also if there are any technical challenges needed to be solved, like JS rendering.

The traffic profile also includes the volume, meaning how many requests do you want to or need to make per hour or per day. Also, do you have any specific time window for the requests, like, for example, you want to make all your requests only during work hours, for some reason? Or is it okay to get the data at night, when there's significantly less traffic hitting the site?

Then the last thing in the traffic profile is geo-locations. Because sometimes the website displays different content depending on where you are. So you need to use proxies that are in that specific region you need.

So these three elements together make the traffic profile: websites, volume, and geo-locations. Now, with these, you can determine the exact proxy situation that you need a solution for.

2. Proxy pool

The next step to scale up is to get a proxy pool. Based on the traffic profile, now you can estimate

  1. How many proxies you will need
  2. Where those proxies should be located
  3. The type of the proxies (data center or residential)

You can get access to proxies directly from proxy providers, or through a proxy management solution as well. The drawback of getting proxies directly from providers -and not through a management solution - is that you need to do the managing yourself. There are a lot of things you need to look out for if you go with a provider that doesn’t provide management of proxies.

3. Proxy management

The final step is proxy management. Because it's not enough to have just a proxy pool. You also need to use proxies efficiently. For example, some features that our smart proxy rotating network has to manage proxies and maximize their value:

  • intelligent proxy rotation
  • automatic header management
  • geolocation based on your needs
  • maintaining sessions

Whether you're using Zyte Proxy Manager (formerly Crawlera) or creating your own proxy management solution there are some key points to focus on if you want long-term scalability.

Long-term scalability

First of all, make proxy management a priority. Because if you're extracting data at scale, most probably, you will not have issues with parsing HTML and writing the spider. But you WILL have issues with proxies. That's why it needs to be a priority.

Then, if you are managing your own proxies, it's important to keep the proxy pool clean and healthy. If you use a proper management service, it's not a problem, as that handles it for you.

Finally, my last point is to be nice and respectful to websites. Ultimately, it is a huge factor when scaling a web scraping project. You don't want to hit websites too hard and you need to make sure you follow the website's rules.

But again, if you're using a management tool, you will have a much easier time with proxies because everything is taken care of under the hood, you just need to send requests and extract the data.

Learn more about scaling your web scraping

Here at Zyte (formerly Scrapinghub), we have been in the web scraping industry for 12 years. We have helped extract web data for more than 1,000 clients ranging from Government agencies and Fortune 100 companies to early-stage startups and individuals. During this time we gained a tremendous amount of experience and expertise in web data extraction. 

Here are some of our best resources if you want to deepen your web scraping and proxy management knowledge:

Written by John Campbell
1/3 Marketer, 1/3 Ops, 1/3 Techie. Currently Demand Generation Manager at Zyte. Data analytics, knowledge graph enthusiast with a particular taste for its applications in financial services, cybersecurity, law enforcement & intelligence sectors.