The world wide web – the entire world and its many wonders is congregated at the tip of your fingertip. But how do you access all relevant data to make an informed decision? Who will do that for you? Web scraping service providers. If you do a quick and simple Google search: web scraping service providers. It returns over 3,79,00,000 results related to it.
While there is a strong wave of outsourcing web scraping projects to service providers, the bigger challenge is knowing how to evaluate this mountain of web scraping services. What makes one better than the other? How will one suit your requirement? Hence, it becomes absolutely important to analyze the features that act as differentiators between two different web services providers.
Evaluate Web Scraping Services
There is barely any data available on what you should look for in a web scraping service. Let us crack the code to figuring out what questions to ask and what to look out for when you are outsourcing web scraping services. This will serve as a benchmark for every project you partake.
A). Crawling Frequency: Extraction and Data Timing
While these services crawl through websites to extract data on a specified date or for a specific time period, as we move ahead in time this data becomes out of date. This has to be supported and replenished by a new and fresh data list. A legitimate web scraping service provider and decides whether the new data supports the old data or contradicts it. It then makes evaluations accordingly.
B). Technical Expertise
The main reason why web scraping services are usually outsourced is because of the level of technicality that is required. So evidently, one of the most defining features of a scraping service provider is the level of technical expertise they have and the value addition they can provide to the extracted data. The ability to transform unstructured data into the structured ready-to-use format, in quality time, makes for a superior web scraping solution.
While looking for a service provider, ask for the credibility of the team. See if they are experienced in SQL development, creating and administering databases, integrating multiple data sources, and performing ETL processes in various tools.
C). Sample Custom Data
On the basis of the aforementioned, some premium web scraping services offer you customized data. This is derived from newer resources (and past resources which are relevant; it is usually an amalgamation of the two) and can prove to be one of the most reliable consolidation of data. These services are not only software-driven. They usually offer exclusive market reports before the data is scraped based on your project. You can, in fact, detail out your custom requirements and the pre-study happens basis that.
D). Level of Customisation and Scale
You can always obtain a single streamlined service on an as and when need basis. In this case, you need to prepare a project outline in which you need to describe all your data requirements, filter criteria, short listing patterns, preferred format etc. Depending on these, the data crawling will be initiated.
Identify your requirements – do you need the services on a pilot basis or are you looking for a long-term partnership. Most DIY scraper tools can meet your requirements for short term, but if you are looking for an enterprise solution then service providers are the way to go. The level of customization and complexity that is required for a mature organization, can barely be accommodated by a scraping tool.
E). Real-time Scraping: Live Crawls
The world we are living in and the pace at which it is moving at, data retrieved yesterday can be deemed ‘old’ today. The validity expires in the blink of an eye. If the data you seek is extremely elastic to time, you seek to avail recurring web data scraping services. This is usually a contractual package service for obtaining the service regularly: weekly, monthly, or even daily. After every crawling session, you will be given the data in your required format.
F). Customer Service Support
What separates any good service from a great service is their support team. Sustained support from such services is an extremely strong but often ignored essential factor. Delivery above and beyond what is promised, prompt responses, and speedy delivery: these little things can play so much of a difference and act like a huge differentiator. Companies don’t mind paying a little extra for excellent customer support. You have to feel that you’re not being taken for a ride. Most web scraping services have realized this upping their ante, for data-backed reasons of course.
Checklist To Evaluate Web Scraping Service
Over and above the aforementioned there are still a bunch of pertinent questions you should ask before zeroing in on a web scraping service provider. Some of them are:
a). Is their scraping infrastructure scalable? Can it keep pace with your requirements ranging from ten sites daily to a million sites?
b). How fast can their software scrape? It can range between anything from one page per second to 5000 pages per second?
c). What is the flexibility in pricing? Is it cheaper to extract per page when there are thousands of pages to scrape? Or does it not decrease in proportion?
d). Can their web scraping technology handle roadblocks such as captcha?
f). Do they use the public/hybrid or private cloud? Do they, in fact, use cloud computing at all?
g). Do they have automated data quality control checks?
h). How often do they renew the checks?
i). How often do they revisit and update these checks accordingly to ensure they are performing in line with the changes and adapting well?
j). What kind of technology, techniques, and algorithms are used in the Data Quality Assessment process?
k). How good and quick is their responsiveness to your queries and modifications in the requirements?
l). Do they have subject matter experts in your industry or a working knowledge of the context in which the data is being gathered?
m). And most importantly, how are they priced to their immediate competitors? What is the value of money to be derived from them?
While everything we have said is by no means exhaustive, they provide a very strong starting point when you are spoilt for choice. Also, asking pertinent questions and drawing up a solid framework will keep the web scraping service providers on their feet and stop them from taking you on a ride.
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