As data has become an essential component to keep a business running whilst the competition is at its peak, some companies are turning to in-house web scraping to meet their data needs. In-house web scraping is essentially about setting up a team of right people who can handle all the processes involved in web crawling — starting from crawler setup to quality analysis and maintenance. This should also be backed by a robust technical infrastructure that can handle the various aspects of web crawling like extraction, deduplication, cleansing and so on.
However, companies that are new to the web scraping arena aren’t really doing this right. We’ve seen a trend of organizations doubling up their current engineers as web crawl engineers. This approach is short-sighted and might not yield the desired results.
We say this from the experience of having been in the web scraping space since 2009. It takes a lot more than just engineers to build a web scraping team. This is considering the various aspects of web data extraction that demands unique and different skill-sets. Let’s delve a little deeper.
The importance of having the right team cannot be stressed enough. By the right team, we don’t mean just a group of people building features and checking off a list of things that needs to be done. You should have the right people for the different processes that are part of the web scraping activity. Having the right people for each process will give you peace of mind, because you can trust them with the respective things they’re good at. This is true for any business operation and not just web scraping.
Over the years, we have perfected the craft of identifying and hiring the right people for our web scraping team. To help you understand this better, here are the different roles that should be divided between the web scraping team members.
1. Crawler setup and extraction
Crawler setup is one of the most crucial aspects of web scraping. It starts with URL discovery and goes on to page download and data extraction. URL discovery is the phase where the setup engineer identifies a set of URLs to be scraped by coding custom scripts suitable for the pagination structure of the target website. Once the list of URLs is ready, the respective pages are downloaded and saved locally for extraction.
The extraction process involves identification of the CSS selectors of the required data points and building a crawler for extracting the same. Since this process especially demands strong coding skills, individuals responsible for it should be good at programming for the web.
DevOps is responsible for maintaining the harmony between various processes involved in web scraping. Since web scraping requires an extensive tech stack and infrastructure, things can easily get out of hand in the absence of a dedicated DevOps team. It would be a big mistake to double up your existing developers to handle the DevOps tasks as it requires specialization. When setting up an in-house crawling setup, it is imperative to look for someone who can handle the pressure of dealing with the complexities that are part of web scraping. Having a great DevOps team will ensure harmony between the processes and ensure better efficiency for the whole team.
3. Data cleansing
Data cleansing might sound like a simple process. However, it’s an umbrella term for many other processes associated with the extracted data like deduplication, normalization and structuring. These are the processes that would determine the quality of the data that you’d get from your web scraping setup. Hence, it’s important to have a separate team for such post processing tasks. Attention to detail should be the quality you should look for when selecting team members for the data cleansing tasks.
4. QA team
The QA team makes sure only the good quality data is passed on to the other departments for consumption. The individuals handling QA should have a deep understanding of the motive behind the data project and its nuances. Since the realization of your big data plans are entirely dependent on the data quality, you should have a reliable QA process and dedicated team to follow it in place.
Considering that web scraping is not exactly your company’s specialization, it may not always be a good idea to try and build your own web scraping setup in-house. Building the infrastructure and bringing together a team of talented engineers who can do justice to the web crawling tasks can be intimidating if you’re new to it.
Since there are companies like PromptCloud, specialized in large-scale web scraping with almost a decade-long operational experience, you don’t necessarily have to take the bumpy road of building and maintaining a web scraping setup.
Apart from this, you’d also significantly cut the costs when you outsource your web scraping project to a dedicated service provider. If you’re looking to get data from the web in a certain way, you are sure to find PromptCloud’s fully managed and customizable web scraping solution a perfect fit your requirements.