Data scraping is now gaining momentum as an ace method for obtaining valuable data from the boundless information space of the World Wide Web. Businesses looking to gain a competitive edge in their markets use web scraping as a fast and fuss-free way for capturing and analyzing crucial information about products, customers, and competitors. This process provides for competitive intelligence and informed business decisions.
When you need to extract structured information from a huge amount of Internet sources for all kinds of good reasons, there are two major solutions – data scraping tools and data scraping services. But this seemingly simple dilemma can be a tricky one, since there’s a huge number of free, freemium and premium tools and services promising the best result in the shortest timeframe.
In this article we’ll walk through the main cons and pros of both data scraping bots and web scraping services to help you find out which of these solutions fits your personal or business needs.
Web Scraping Tools
The most common way of turning a website into data is to buy a data scraping tool and operate it either on your own or with professional help. The most tangible advantage of web scraping tools is that they are easy to use and enable the user to customize the way the harvested data is structured and stored.
There are hundreds of scraping tools out there with functionality and pricing varying vastly – from simple desktop applications to AI-enhanced bots with bells and whistles. Some of them even offer free trial periods so you can check if the tool fits your needs before subscribing to the paid version. You can easily download and install a tool on your own but it will probably take you some time to learn how to operate it.
If you need to harvest data to support a small-scale project with a tight budget or back up your academic research, simple web crawling bots can be the best way to go. However, they are less scalable and viable, if you are looking to conduct a comprehensive monitoring of a larger amount of information for your enterprise.
Another advantage of this method is the level of flexibility it provides. If you know what kind of data you exactly need for your research, you can “point” at the website you want to crawl and define the frequency of data extraction. Depending on your price plan, you may also be able to scrape data from sites in different languages and store it in the format of your choice.
However, it is not likely that the extracted data will immediately be ready to be used for your business needs, and this is one of the main drawbacks of web crawling tools. Most of them operate on objective-focused algorithms, simply harvesting raw data from a given website without refining the information for immediate consumption. So when going for web crawling tools you should be ready to spend some extra time and involve professionals to manage the lists of crawled information and arrange the massive dump of data. While some advanced tools provide custom extraction and parsing, these features usually imply a higher pricing model – affecting the overall cost-effectiveness of the process.
Data Scraping Services
The second option for gaining insightful data from the Internet is to rely on web scraping service providers, otherwise known as DaaS (data as a service) companies. In this case, you purchase the service which provides you with clean, accurate and structured data, relieving you of the time-drain and headache of installing and running your own extraction tool.
With web scraping services you will have less freedom to customize the structure of the extracted data, as the data will already be processed and parsed by the service provider. However, service providers like Datahen provide flexible extraction, delivering the data in the format you like, in any frequency.
If you need to capture large chunks of information for a big project, DaaS companies offer some significant advantages over web crawling bots in terms of cost-efficiency, scalability, and a relatively short time-frame. Having your data provided by a professional service saves you precious time and enables you to concentrate on your daily tasks and business growth. Web scraping companies use advanced crawling technologies providing a full coverage of Internet sources, so you don’t need to pay for a tool upgrade to access new sources or features.
And finally, using a web scraping service saves you from being entangled in nasty legal troubles or damaging your brand reputation. While many are oblivious to this fact – some websites have issued data extraction policies to prevent the outflow of information. Unlike data scraping bots that can’t be aware of these policies, a professional data scraping service provider will ensure that no rules and policies are violated. Moreover, if any mishaps still occur due to the data extraction process, the provider will have to take responsibility for it.
These advantages make web scraping services the best solution for large-scale operations, financial analysis, brand and media monitoring and other cases which require fast access to accurate, comprehensive and well-processed data.
Both web scraping tools and web scraping services come up with a number of advantages and drawbacks. While the idea of doing it on your own can be a tempting one, data scraping tools are rather limited in what they can do. Data scraping services, on the other hand, do cost you money but they are cost-effective in the long run, since they provide access to accurate and well-processed data from any source, in a relatively short time.