In recent years, big data has become the new gold and led the trends of data collection and data analysis. Web scraping or web data extraction has become a popular way for collecting web data. While being well recognized for its flexibility and adaptability, this new technology has helped many individuals and businesses to retrieve loads of data from nearly all websites or databases.
However, web scraping is not as welcome for website owners on the hand. It can increase heavy loads of traffic to the websites’ servers which can potentially crash the sites in the worst scenarios. As a result, with new technologies being developed for web scraping, the means of defense against it has become more sophisticated as well.
The most common way to fight back web scraping is to limit the access rate of any single IP. A web scraper that has made too many requests in a short period of time using a single IP address can be easily detected, and sooner or later get blocked by the target website. To reduce the chances of getting blocked, we should try to avoid scraping a website with a single IP address. The easiest way is to use proxy servers. In this article, we will introduce what is a proxy server and some popular web scrapers that have IP proxy features.
What is a proxy server
The word proxy means “to act on behalf of another,” and a proxy server acts on behalf of the user. When we browse a web page, a proxy is a system that provides a gateway between end-users and the web pages we visit online. Therefore, it helps prevent cyber attackers from entering a private network.
When a computer connects to the internet, it uses an IP address. This is similar to your home’s street address, telling incoming data where to go and marking outgoing data with a return address for other devices to authenticate. A proxy server is essentially a computer on the internet that has an IP address of its own. All requests to the Internet go to the proxy server first, which evaluates the request and forwards it to the Internet. Likewise, responses come back to the proxy server and then to the user. Therefore, proxy servers provide varying levels of functionality, security, and privacy depending on your use case, needs, or company policy.
How does proxy server work for web scraping
As we mentioned above, websites usually block the IP addresses you use to access them. So using a proxy server is a good solution as the server has its own IP address and can protect yours. When using a proxy, the website you are making the request to no longer sees your IP address but the IP address of the proxy, giving you the ability to scrape the web anonymously.
Using a proxy pool allows you to scrape a website much more reliably and significantly reduce the chances that your crawlers will get banned. You need to build a proxy pool, which includes different proxy IP addresses to rotate. Integrate your proxy pool with your web scraping tool or script and you can get the web data under protection from blocking problems.
Web scraping tools with proxy features
IP proxy works quite effectively for bypassing website blocks and an easy way to make use of IP proxy is to opt for web scraping tools that are already offering such proxy features, like Octoparse. These tools can be deployed with the IP proxies at your disposal or with the IP proxy resources built into the specific tools.
It is always recommended to use a web scraping tool that runs with IP proxies when you need to scrape websites that use some kind of anti-scraping measures. Some popular scraper tools out there include Octoparse, Mozenda, Parsehub, and Screen Scraper.
Octoparse is a powerful and free web scraping tool that can scrape almost all websites. Its cloud-based data extraction runs with a large pool of Cloud IP addresses which minimizes the chances of getting blocked and protects your local IP addresses. The newly released version, Octoparse 8.5, has multiple country-based IP pools to choose from so you can effectively scrape websites that are only accessible to IPs of a specific region/country. With Octoparse, even when you run the crawler on your local device, you can still use a list of custom proxies to run the crawler to avoid revealing your real IP. (Here is a tutorial that introduces how to set up proxies in Octoparse.)
Mozenda is also an easy-to-use desktop data scraper. It offers geolocation proxies and custom proxies for users to choose from. Geolocation proxies allow you to route your crawler’s traffic through another part of the world so you can access region-specific information. When standard geolocation doesn’t meet your project requirements, you can connect to proxies from a third-party provider via custom proxies.
Parsehub is an easy-to-learn, visual tool for gathering data from the web which also allows cloud scraping and IP rotation. After you enable IP rotation for your projects, proxies used to run your project come from many different countries. Additionally, you have the option to add your own list of custom proxies to ParseHub as part of the IP rotation feature if you would like to access a website from a particular country or if you would prefer to use your own proxies instead of the ones it provides for IP rotation.
Apify is a web scraping and automation platform to collect data. It not only offers data collection service but also a proxy service reducing the blocking of your web scraping. Apify Proxy provides access to both residential and datacenter IP addresses. Datacenter IPs are fast and cheap but might be blocked by target websites. Residential IPs are more expensive and harder to block.
Now you should have a basic understanding of what a proxy server is and how it can be used for web scraping. Even though proxy makes web scraping more efficient, keeping the scraping speed under control and avoiding overloading your target websites is also important. Living in peace with websites and not breaking the balance will help you get the data continuously.
Originally published as https://www.octoparse.com/blog/proxy-server-for-web-scraping/?DE= on March 30, 2022.
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