Once you get serious about web scraping, you quickly realize that proxy management is critical. First of all, if you want to scrape the web on a meaningful scale, you’re going to need a proxy. There’s no way around it.
Unfortunately, more often than not, you’ll be spending more time troubleshooting proxy issues than building and maintaining your spiders.
In this short article, we will give you a bit of insight into your main proxy options and their differences, as well as the pros and cons you’ll need to consider before making a decision.
What Are Proxies and What Do They Have to Do With Web Scraping?
To answer this question, we first need to explain IP addresses and their role. An IP address or an internet protocol address is a numerical label assigned to any device connected to the internet. Your router, your computer, laptop, and smartphone – they each have an IP address. This gives them a unique identity and allows them to send and receive information online.
As the name implies, a proxy acts as a middleman between you and all the wonders the internet has to offer. When you use a proxy, every request you send to a website to access its content will first go through the proxy server, which will make the request on your behalf. Similarly, when you receive information as a response to a request, it will first go through the proxy.
The main purpose of a proxy is to keep your real IP address anonymous by masking it with another. This helps you protect your online privacy, bypass geo-restrictions, and scrape the web.
In terms of web scraping, using proxies allows you to run unlimited sessions on the same websites at the same time.
If you used only your real IP address to scrape the web, you’d have to do it on a much lower scale because you’d be limited by geo-restrictions, and you wouldn’t be able to send concurrent requests. What you need to do is split your traffic through a proxy pool.
Your proxy pool size depends on how many requests you want to make per hour, the target websites, and the type of IPs you need to access those websites.
What Are My Proxy Options?
As we mentioned above, the types of proxies you need to include in your proxy pool will depend on the types of websites you’re targeting.
Datacenter proxies are the most common type of proxies. They’re affordable, reliable, and fast. You can use them to build a stable and robust crawling solution for your business. The disadvantage is that the IP addresses they use are not tied to a physical device. They’re created artificially, and this can be detected, so you might not get access to every website.
In that case, you’ll also want to make use of residential proxies that better mimic a regular user’s online activity because they’re linked to a physical device and an ISP (internet service provider). At the same time, they tend to be more expensive, and they’re not always necessary for web scraping.
Lastly, you have mobile IPs, which are IPs linked to mobile devices. They’re useful when you want to see the results mobile users receive, but they also tend to be more expensive.
The best solution is to use mostly datacenter proxies since you’ll get the best results at a lower cost. You can use residential and mobile proxies only for web scraping projects where they’re really needed.