Organizations have realized the importance of web scraping that essentially helps businesses drive decision making using big data insights. While web scraping is perceived as a relatively new technology, most professionals are underinformed about the nuances of involving web scraping into their businesses.
Let’s start with the basics:
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.
Data displayed on most websites can only be viewed using a web browser. They do not offer the functionality to save a copy of this data for personal use. The only option then is to manually copy and paste the data – a very tedious job which can take many hours or sometimes days to complete. Web Scraping is the technique of automating this process so that instead of manually copying the data from websites, the Web Scraping software will perform the same task within a fraction of the time.
What is a web scraper or crawler
A web scraper or a crawler is a computer program or software that automates the process of web scraping.
Why scrape data in the first place?
Most websites don’t have an API that allows you to extract relevant data. Less than 1% of websites have an active API. In most cases, the data available via the existing API would be lacking. In other cases, an API won’t is able to work properly due to the website’ s design and can be even costly. Hence, the requirement of a web scraper.
What options are available for me to get data from the internet?
To extract data from the internet, the following options are viable
- Code it yourself
- Self-service tools
- Data as a service
What is code it yourself?
If you have a capable technical team, you can build web scrapers using technologies listed below:
- Apache Nutch
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
What are the advantages and disadvantages of 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
What is 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.
What are some self-service tools available in the market :
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 people and tools to do Q&A
- You need a full-time tech guy to monitor the health of data extraction
- You need custom programming to extract data from websites with anti-scraping technologies. This also requires a full time developer to function smoothly.