We’re living in an era of overflowing and chaotic data. We seem to have more on our plates nowadays than ever before in all the domains of life. However, having access to more choices is a double-edged sword. Faced with myriad options, it’s now even harder to make a decision than it was in the ‘pre-Internet’ era. This equally holds true for the practice of web data extraction. Imagine this situation: an HR professional of a major organization needs to find information about potential job candidates for a vacancy, and this is not his/her only task on the agenda.
Doing it manually will mean hours (or, even days) of monotonous work in front of the computer, and…missed deadlines for other assignments. A stressful situation, indeed. The good news is that there’s an effective solution – the company can hire a web scraping company to do the job and thus save time and efforts.
For the uninitiated, web scraping may sound one of those scary tech buzzwords. But, it’s more conceivable than you think. Web scraping, sometimes called data extraction or web harvesting, is simply the process of collecting data from websites and storing it on your local database or spreadsheets. Web scraping tools come in handy not only for recruitment purposes, but also in e-commerce, marketing, weather forecasting and many other industries.
In one of our previous posts, we discussed the pros and cons of using web scraping tools by yourself and hiring a data extraction service instead. Of course, for more accurate results and time saving purposes, it’s preferable to reap the results of a professional ‘web harvester’. However, choosing the right vendor can be tricky, given your budget, requirements and other priorities. To this end, before making the final decision, you’d be better off taking into account the following nuances.
What happens to your data if the company shuts down?
No matter how reliable your vendor is, you should always consider the risks that your data will be exposed to others, whether customers or competitors, if something goes wrong. Perhaps, the saddest scenario is when your service provider goes bankrupt and shuts down the company – a frustrating yet possible situation you can’t completely safeguard yourself against: no one can predict every kind of a force-majeure the vendor may face- lawsuit, economic crisis etc.
What happens to your data in this case? The thing is that you are not capable of feeding your app that depends on data, as you don’t have direct access to the equipment and technology that powers scraping. To avoid this situation, you should make sure that you have chosen a vendor that has been in this game for a long time, that if they use proprietary technology they aren’t just some overnight startup. If you pick the wrong company you may very well end up with half-scraped data and wasting time. Half-scraped data essentially forces you to start from scratch, because what is the point of only being able to see half the picture?
How does the vendor ensure the quality of data?
Naturally, you don’t want your reputation and revenues to be affected, right? So, the second important thing to consider while choosing a web scraping vendor is how it deals with the quality of data. Under no circumstances should you compromise it! Make sure the company extracts the data not only based on programmatic approaches: with all of the benefits, they cannot be flawless. What is more preferable in this case is the balance of human and machine intelligence.
A top-notch professional web scraping company usually makes considerable investments in a solid suite of technology and equipment as well as skillful ‘data harvesters’. This combination gives successful companies a competitive edge over the ones that only go for programmatic approaches. Neglecting this key criterion will affect the data analytics and visualization phase, which will consequently harm your reputation and income.
Is the vendor able to handle large-scale data?
In fact this is not a single but a set of important questions to ask, especially if you’re planning to raise the bar of demand from a service provider. Will it be able to handle this increase in demand? What steps will the company take to manage the spike in the load? How will it maintain the high quality levels in case of such load spikes? (By the way, this list of questions to ask is not exhaustive).
The thing is that developing an average-capacity web scraper is not difficult. However, what is indeed hard is to deal with the data as its volume and the number of web scrapers go up. Therefore, before choosing a vendor you should make sure it has access to solid technology infrastructure to manage the skyrocketing volume of information and web scrapers.
Besides, if you get positive answers to the above-mentioned questions, the chances are that your future web scraping vendor will be able to handle scalability without affecting KPIs, ETA or quality.
How flexible it is when it comes to pattern changes, prices and other key factors?
When you get down to finding a vendor, you should consider if it is competent and ready to quickly respond to website pattern changes, which frequently occur nowadays. The vendor should also be able to find out and tweak scrapers so as the quality of the data is not compromised.
As for the price, transparency is the key parameter. The web scraping company should offer a simple pricing package to grasp at a single glance. Also, ideally, the pricing should be predictable in the cases you ramp things up.
Finally, while choosing the right web scraping service, it’s important to check if the suggested data model is flexible. During the data harvesting, it is first passed through a data warehouse, then it’s processed and eventually passed through BI and data analytics tools.
A quality web scraping service should know the way to provide the data warehouse with data that meets consistency and uniformity standards, that will lead your business to the next phase of ETL faster.
A bonus tip: always keep in mind that as the legality of web scraping is still disputable, many websites launch anti-scraping mechanisms that block the access of web scrapers. So, it begs the question: how does your vendor deal with anti-scraping mechanisms? There is more than one way to do so, but they are all expensive and quite cumbersome. So, before entrusting your data extraction to a company, check out how they tackle the issue.
In conclusion, web scraping is no longer an out of reach luxury for companies; it’s a necessity that helps companies and individual entrepreneurs collect the important information from the web efficiently and accurately. However, finding the right web scraping vendor that meets your company’s needs can be challenging. Before opting for one, you should first find out whether it ensures the quality of the extracted data, is able to manage larger volumes of information, reliable enough to protect your data against any force-majeure and sufficiently flexible to respond to web pattern changes.
Good luck finding the company meeting the criteria!
Already found one? Feel free to leave your feedback on the comment section below.