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Data is one of the most potent weapons available to businesses today. This advantage is tied directly or indirectly to the emergence of concepts like Big Data and internet adoption reaching new highs. Companies that hold the largest volumes of relevant, actionable information are slowly moving to the forefront. Their key competency here is the ability to gather important insights and make smart, informed business decisions with the help of this data. To effectively gather the data from the huge minefield of unrelated, unstructured, random information that the internet is, and to make use of it, needs certain very specialized, targeted tools.
A web crawler is one such tool which remains at the very basis of data-driven operation. It is the one tool that allows people to draw in relevant information from internet data streams, customize and categorize that information, and have it stored in a neat and ordered fashion so that it can be further analyzed when needed.
Web crawlers have been in existence for over a decade. During their initial stages, they were crude and often ineffective, but it was clear that they can help us make some kind of sense of the large amounts of random data on the internet. Over time, careful development and evolution, today’s web crawlers are faster, more efficient and more accurate. If you want some web data extraction done to suit your requirements, you now have the option to choose between a multitude of web scrapers, each with its own feature sets and abilities. Newer, more powerful web crawlers are also being actively developed as the data requirements of companies are becoming more and more massive.
A recent, interesting development has been the marriage of the web crawling technology and cloud hosting. This gives rise to cloud-based web crawlers which represent renewed scope, versatility and options. These cloud-based web scraping tools are fast becoming popular with associated companies. It also helps those that provide DaaS solution as the preferred, streamlined way of collecting and making sense of information from Big Data.
The Basics of Crawling
A web crawler, as a concept, might sound to be something simple and uncomplicated. It is, in essence, a program that uses a set of criteria to visit internet locations, send requests to web pages, collect an as-is impression of these pages and store them inside a database. While this sounds rather simple, building an accurate, efficient web crawler is actually a nuanced, complicated process with a number of different influencing factors. There is an exponentially increasing body of unstructured information to be tapped into, which consists of a variety of languages, codes, formats and expressions. Consequently, web crawling solutions have evolved and improved over time to take care of ever-expanding requirements. And cloud-based web crawlers are currently some of the best tools available if you want to harvest data efficiently. They add value to an enterprise at multiple levels thus rendering them especially effective in a variety of situations.
The Benefits of Cloud-Based Web Crawlers
Cloud-based web crawlers reside in the cloud, and there is no need for companies to physically host the programs in their own, on-site servers. Rather, these are deployed on the cloud and managed by third-parties you can hire for customization, operation and data collection. These companies are essentially SaaS (Software as a Service) or DaaS (Data as a Service) solution providers, and they can do all the heavy lifting for you and furnish you with a tailored, efficient solution to your web crawling needs. Opting for cloud-based web crawling over in-house efforts has a number of distinct advantages. Let us take a look at some of the more compelling ones –
Hardware that can run web crawlers can be expensive, and so can the dedicated bandwidth needed to run hundreds of crawling threads at the same time. For companies, that is the bare minimum needed to be successful in their web scraping pursuits. As a business, in most cases, it might not be a reasonable investment to purchase the kind of extensive hardware required to run your web crawler and also to acquire the required bandwidth. Furthermore, you then need to hire personnel to maintain the hardware, troubleshoot and implement the networking. They also need to develop the web crawler itself and oversee its use, modifications, maintenance and updates.
While very large organizations can see this as a reasonable investment with suitable returns over time, for small to medium scale companies this is a highly prohibitive expenditure. If not handled correctly, this can turn out to be a deterrent and prevent them from being able to use Big Data, thereby seriously diminishing their chances to make an impact on the competition.
Working with a cloud-based web crawler solves all these problems instantly. For a reasonable monthly fee, you can use a cloud-based crawler customized to your needs and get the desired results. The hardware and bandwidth belong to the solution-providing company, and therefore need not be a cause for concern. With a cloud-based web crawler, your web data extraction efforts can commence smoothly without you having to put a dent in your company budget just to get things started. You also do not have to worry about overheads, maintenance costs and extensive costs of training and employing specialized labor.
If you have an in-house web crawling environment, and there is a sudden spike in your data requirement, what do you do if your existing hardware and software are not up to the task? The only option is to invest in further hardware and software, integrate them into your workflow and expect that this would be enough to help you meet your demands. In-house systems are very difficult to scale, and that is where a cloud-based crawler comes in handy. Companies that offer these services have more than enough hardware to service multiple clients and their ever-growing needs. If you need to scale up your crawling, all you need to do is opt for a plan that allows for the increased work volume. For a small step up in expenses, you can get your extra work done. Also, the scope for expansion in most cases is virtually unlimited, allowing you to grow as a company and handle your growing data needs without breaking into a sweat.
The beauty of outsourcing any important business procedure lies in the simplicity with which you can get your work done without having to undergo too much of a hassle. The scenario is no different when it comes to web crawling. Instead of having to go through the entire paraphernalia of having your in-house crawling system ready, all you need to do is pay a specialist company to do your work. The funds and the man-hours this frees up can be put to great use on rewarding aspects of the company like business development, infrastructure improvement and product innovation.
When you pay for a cloud-based web crawling service to do handle your web crawling duties, you are not just paying for the data extraction, processing and delivery. You are not just paying for the hardware, software and personnel. You are also paying for the innate expertise that these companies possess when it comes to the ins and outs, the intricacies and the complexities of web crawling.
While doing business with them, you can take advantage of their expertise in fashioning the right web crawler for your needs. If you do not want to use a generic crawler, you can commission an expert to create one for you from scratch. You can get helpful advice about advanced techniques and tools so as to get the most accurate and relevant results from your crawling efforts, and enjoy the data that you require.
Above all, the one great thing about cloud-based web crawling services is the convenience involved. All you need to do is just get started with such a service, configure your crawler, decide on a few basic matters and you can see data coming in. Most of these services use decentralized, grid-based networks of hundreds or even thousands of computers, so you do not have to worry about IP bans or processing power.
Any snag anywhere in the machine, and you will not have to worry about getting maintenance done. The whole system can run like a well-oiled machine without you having to actively take part in its operation, upkeep or maintenance. This is the only way you can get the best web data extraction done without inconveniencing yourself or your business in any way.
To wrap up
To sum up, for those companies that want to make a difference in their respective niches and want a stable, scalable, versatile, cost-effective and affordable web crawling option, cloud-based crawling services can be an excellent choice. There are many companies that offer a plethora of similar services, and you can pick and choose the one that fits the bill for your requirements. With an efficient cloud scraper and the right service provider, you are sure to get all your data inputs on time like a breeze, while having enough headroom to be creative and innovative with the data without other considerations bogging you down.