Data has become the mainstay of many businesses today. The age of Big Data and machine learning will build businesses that embrace the power of data and drive those that do not to extinction. For this reason, businesses worldwide are in search of data harvesting tools such as web scrapers.
For a long time, anyone in need of data from third-party websites would use official APIs to pull it. Web scrapers offer an easy way to download content programmatically acting as universal APIs. Businesses do not depend on their APIs as well as on their websites. If you are highly dependent on APIs for data access, you will often receive less than stellar structured data since websites care more about their public-facing visitor site.
Some businesses also tend to move their feeds or change their APIs without any warning. In contrast, they have webmasters in place that oversee the management and health of websites. They rarely worry about their offline structured data sources.
By performing web scraping, data miners can access no rate-limited data anonymously. Unlike APIs that force their users to register for keys, web scraping uses proxy servers to keep your IP address hidden. Since web scraping can be done on any website, you do not have to wait until a website of interest creates a data API. Simply browse the website and study its access patterns then send your web scraper to work.
Is there a universal scraper?
In the past data, miners had to create their scraping code from scratch. They would study websites to figure out their web structures then write code for them. There have been many developments in the web scraping industry such as universal scraper tools that can harvest data from different websites.
If you are not a coder, you do not have to hire professional coding services for your web scraping needs. Simply access a universal scraper from the current enlarging list of visual web scraping tools. Businesses that require heavy-duty web scrapers should talk to scraper tool developers that can provide custom scraping tools.
Types of Universal Scraper Tools
Choosing the right type of scraping tool can be very confusing for the new user. Below are different types of web scraping tools, each with its benefits and disadvantages.
1. Browser Extensions
These scraping tools are perfect for small-scale data mining activities. With the plugin scraping tool in place, you can go about your browsing activity as you scrape. The extensions are installed on web browsers and will at the end of the scraping activity download the data in a readable format such as .CSV.
These universal scrapers are easy to use but have their limitations. As an illustration, they can only scrape a minimal amount of data at a go meaning that if you need to scrape multiple pages at a go, you will require a robust scraping tool.
Browser extensions are also limited in features. If you, for instance, need to scrape data using rotational pools of residential proxies, a browser extension will not work well for you. Browsers are not designed with scraping in mind so they will not easily integrate with premium scraping features.
2. Software Scrapers
These universal scraper tools are installed in the hard disk of a computer. Most of these tools are built for Windows, so they are compatible with most computers. Once the software is downloaded and installed, configure it as per documentation and set it to scrape.
The scraper tool will download data in formats such as .CSV. These scrapers are medium weight data scrapers and allow more scraping at a time than plug-ins do. They also allow more features such as sticky IP sessions.
They are however not as easy to install and configure as extensions. They also will utilize your computer’s resources, which could significantly affect the speeds of your PC.
3. Cloud-based Scrapers
A cloud-based universal is the ultimate web scraping solution. These scraper tools do not infringe on your computer’s resources since the tool is cloud-hosted. You will therefore not have installation or configuration hassles. Simply, download the scraper API and get scraping.
These tools are perfect for large scraping projects. You can trust them to scrape massive amounts of data at a time reliably. The best cloud-based scraper tools do not cap the amount of data extracted because they have multiple servers, well maintained by professionals.
They are highly automated offering an easy proxy rotation, web crawling, scraping and data download process. These tools are more expensive than other universal scrapers.
There are various types of web scraper designs in the market today. Your scraping needs should dictate your choice. Choose the best universal scraper tool for your business and enter the world of Big Data use.