If you are looking for means to pull a lot of data from various online sources, you’ve probably crossed paths with web crawling and proxies for web crawling. What is a web crawler? How does it work? What is the role of proxy servers in web crawling? The chances are that these are the questions you want to answer.
You are on the right path. Finding more information about web crawling and proxies can help you make informed decisions. Let’s see what you need to know to be able to make the right choice.
Web crawling basics
Web crawling refers to indexing data found online. The data is found on web pages, and the script is able to do it mimics the spider movements. That’s why the process is called crawling, and scripts that execute it are called crawlers. Since the web crawling scripts mimic the spider movement, they are also called a spider, spider bot, or simply crawler.
Search engines use crawlers to learn what web pages are about, to index them, and help you find what you are looking for. A crawler provides you with an opportunity to find any type of data found online, download it to your own servers, and analyze it. This link explains more about the subtopic.
Why is crawling important?
The total amount of online data keeps increasing year after year. However, all of this data is unstructured, and you can’t make much use of it. Let’s say you want to run a price analysis on your competitors. You would need to make a spread shit, structure it, and then proceed to hours upon hours of copy/pasting. By the end of it, the chances are that the prices have changed and your data is useless.
Web crawling makes finding, downloading, and parsing data almost automatic. It’s important because it can feed your business analytics with the most recent and accurate data enabling you to make data-driven decisions. Now that you know what a web crawler is and why it’s important, let’s see how proxies fit in the web crawling big picture.
Web proxies explained
Understanding web proxies is easy. You should look at it like an intermediary that stands between you and the rest of the web. Web proxies are specifically configured servers to act as gateways. They assign you a new IP address, and your entire traffic is routed through them.
Let’s say you make a web request. Usually, it goes directly to a web server. And the server delivers the response directly to you. With a web proxy, your request goes to the proxy, the proxy forwards it to the webserver, the server sends the response to the proxy, and the proxy routes the response to you.
How proxies can be used
Proxies can have a variety of use cases. Generally speaking, their use cases can be divided into two groups — proxies for personal and proxies for business use.
Individuals often use proxies to mask their real IP addresses. It helps them anonymously browse the web or circumvent certain geo-block restrictions. Businesses, on the other hand, use proxies to:
- Monitor the internet usage;
- Control the internet usage;
- Web crawling and web scraping;
- Competition monitoring.
Types of proxies
There are a number of types of proxies. The types are based on the configuration and technologies proxies use. The most important types to be familiarized with are residential and data center proxies. Residential proxies use real IP addresses which have a corresponding physical location. These are particularly useful for web crawling operations as they help bot traffic appear just as an organic one.
Datacenter proxies don’t use real IP addresses. They use generic ones, but it gives them the advantage of having huge IP address pools. With datacenter proxies, businesses have private IP authentication, which enhances their anonymity online.
How to choose the best proxy for your crawling application
There are a couple of factors you need to consider when choosing the best proxy for your crawling operation:
- Number of connections per hour;
- Total time needed to complete the operation;
- The anonymity of the IP;
- Scope of operation;
- Type of anti-crawling systems used by targeted websites.
Any type of proxy can be sufficient for small operations to get the job done. However, web crawling operations at scale need a structured approach. For instance, you can have both residential and datacenter proxy pools, but you also need to use proxy rotators, address reiteration issues, and manage different user agents.
See, understanding the answer to the what is a web crawler question is not that hard. However, it is essential to understand proxies and their role in web crawling operations. As you can see, there are different proxy types, and each one delivers additional perks for specific user types. To choose the right one and minimize the chances of getting blocked, you first need to assess your crawling tasks and their requirements.