11 Basic Questions To Think About Before Introducing Your Business to Web Scraping

In today’s day and age, web scraping has become an online arms race no internet marketer can avoid. Market giants like Amazon and Walmart have been using this growth technique for ages and turned around their businesses to a great extent. Smaller and middle organizations have begun to realize the importance of scraping valuable data from the internet that essentially helps businesses drive decision making using big data insights. While web scraping is perceived as a relatively new technology, most professionals are under-informed about the nuances of involving web scraping into their businesses.

Let’s start with the basics:

1. What is web scraping?

Web Scraping (also termed Screen Scraping, Web Data Extraction, Web Harvesting etc.) is a technique employed to extract large amounts of data from websites whereby the data is extracted and saved to a local file in your computer or to a database in a table (spreadsheet) format. 

While all websites display data that can only be viewed using a web browser, there is no means to save this data for personal use.  This humongous amount of data is difficult to be copied and pasted manually over spreadsheets. Web Scraping automates this entire time consuming process and performs the same task within a fraction of the time.

2. What is a web scraper or crawler

A web scraper or a crawler refers to a computer program or software that automates the process of web scraping.

3. Why do I need a Web Scraper to scrape data in the first place?

Most websites lack an API to allow you to extract relevant data, with less than 1% of websites having an active API. However, the data available via the existing API would be lacking in major aspects. In other cases, an API won’t be able to work properly due to the website’ s design and can be even more costly. Hence, the requirement of a 3rd party web scraper to bring down the cost of data extraction.

4. How else can I get data from the internet?

To extract data from the internet, you could do either of the following

  • Code it yourself
  • Self-service tools
  • Data as a service

5. What is code it yourself?

If you have a capable technical team, you can build web scrapers yourself using the technologies listed below:

  • Scrapy
  • Nokogiri
  • Apache Nutch

6. What is the investment like if I choose to code it myself?

While the ‘code it yourself’ may seem like an independent cost-effective option, it entails the following:

  • You need to pay for Developers, Servers etc
  • On an average, a developer needs 10 hours to code a web scraper.
  • It takes 4-6 months to build a stable infrastructure to run these web scrapers
  • You need to build systems for maintenance and Q&A

7. What are the advantages and disadvantages of the code it yourself option

Key Benefits of the code it yourself option include:

  • You have control over data extraction
  • You have ownership and access to the source code

But the drawbacks are:

  • Very costly compared to DaaS and DIY tools
  • Time to market is slow
  • Lack of expertise can hurt
  • Need a lot of human resources

9. What is the ‘do it yourself’ option?

DIY tools make it possible for professionals with little or no technical know-how to get data from websites. In theory, a guy with basic computer skills should be able to configure DIY tools. In most cases, you’ll end up hiring a developer to modify the data and write scripts to get the data the way you need it. Customizations and modifications will be necessary depend on what you do with the data.

10. What are some self-service tools available in the market :

Some well-known self-service tools in the market are

  1. Datahut
  2. import.io
  3. Grepsr
  4. Mozenda

11. What is the investment like if I choose self-service tools?

  • You need to pay a monthly /yearly subscription to get a license.
  • Customization of Data requires a developer it can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days to get it done properly.
  • You need human resources and tools to do Q&A
  • You need a full-time tech guy to monitor the health of data extraction
  • DIY tools won’t work well on websites with heavy Ajax or javascript. In those cases, you need to write custom scripts for which you need a developer.
  • You need custom programming to extract data from websites with anti-scraping technologies. This also requires a full time developer to function smoothly.

When it comes to understanding the utility of Web and data Scraping for your business, the above Q&A only touches the tip of the iceberg. However, this information is paramount to understand before opting for a web scraping software for you data extraction needs.

Datahut provides Web data Extraction and Scraping services at an affordable price. Visit Datahut to know  more about how to obtain a fully managed ready to use data to drive your business. 

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