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Abhisek Roy

Today, most companies are trying to integrate data-backed decision methodologies into their existing business workflows. This calls for better data sources that can provide updated data streams. Since the web is the biggest source of data, many companies are tapping into it, to gather information and derive insights. But every website and every webpage follow a different structure and scraping data from websites is not a one-night job. Most companies that are not intrinsically tech-based or do not have their tech teams, choose one of two solutions web scraping tool or web scraping services that can be cloud-based, completely offline, a mix of both, or DaaS (Data as a Service) solutions.

What Are Web Scraping Tools?

When it comes to web scraping by writing your code, it can be a little complicated.  You will need the right infrastructure, storage mediums, and most importantly, developers with the required skill set to write and maintain the code. These constraints can pose challenges to the business teams which need to scrape the web data. Web scraping tools or web scraping software can be a solution to this.

Even though the web scraping tools do not involve any coding, it requires basic technical know-how. Several other constraints come into the picture when we speak of web scraping tools.

Learning to Master A Web Scraping Tool

Even though one does not need to learn to code. The learning curve for using a web scraping tool effectively might still be a little steep. This is because not every website has a similar layout and those with complex AJAX and Javascript code may need to be scraped differently. The same goes for pages sitting behind a login page or a captcha. As new front-end technologies expand and companies change the way they design and build their UI, these Web Scraping Tools need to be updated to handle newer webpages. These updates involve installing new patches but also require you to retrain the business team based on how massive the changes are

The Complexity of Scraping Data

The whole complexity lies in the fact that scraping data from webpages is not the end of the story. One needs to clean the data and store it in local databases or cloud storage like Amazon S3 or RDS. Based on whether you are scraping data from structured or unstructured sources, the cleaning process can vary anywhere between a few minutes and a few days. The level of automation provided by the tool will decide on the amount of re-work you may need to do for such actions. Data storage options for such web scraping tools are usually constrained, and you will need to work out the exact arrangement you need, before getting the tool, so that your business process does not need to be paused while a data flow integration is done

Workflows of Data Scraping

The business team should essentially be involved only in the growth of your business. Involving them in complicated data scraping workflows that need to be updated and maintained regularly can affect your core business and that is something you simply cannot afford. People who need the data to produce insights should not need to worry about fetching the data themselves. Having to learn a new tool will also add to the workload. If the same person scrapes the data and stores it, and later on runs algorithms on the data and produces insights. There is one thing that can be lost. This is the feedback on the scraped data and how it can be better, cleaner, or backed by more sources

Subscription to A Web Scraping Tool

When you subscribe to a web-scraping tool. You need to pay a price, upfront, based on the infrastructure required and the other setup requirements. Now whether you scrape 100 websites with the tool or 10, your monthly subscription costs will remain the same. Even if you find a new website that this tool cannot scrape. You will still need to pay the monthly fees. These fees usually run into hundreds of dollars and can seem to be a waste if you do not need to scrape data regularly and it is only a periodic need in your company.

Complete Web Scraping Solutions (or DaaS)

DaaS or managed web scraping solutions can seem to be more expensive than web scraping tools but in reality. They provide you with more functionalities. And the costs are based on different factors like the number of websites that need to be scraped and the data points that need to be derived. If you do not require any data for a month, there will be no charges. Charges are only based on the amount of data that you need.

Web scraping Services usually take care of basic data cleaning and storage for you as well, and our team at PromptCloud allows you to convert the scraped data to any format and store it in any cloud-based storage such as AWS S3 or Dropbox. Even how you access the data, is dictated by you. You may want to access the data via REST APIs, or download files based on which day or month they were generated, etc. These are the knick-knacks that you can sort out with your service provider before you commit to them. This way there will be minimum disturbance and business can continue as usual while data scraped from the web is streamed into the system.

Apart from the benefits that we spoke of. Many web scraping service providers like ourselves offer you extra services such as running analytics on the data that was scraped, data cleaning and normalization, data-enhancement, and more.

What Would Work for You?

Based on the size of your company. The number of people in your team that will be handling the data. The number of websites that you need to scrape. And also the frequency in which data needs to be updated. You can decide on which of the two options that we spoke of, fit you best. Using a low-cost tool or web scraping software may work for the websites that you need to scrape today. But if the requirements change tomorrow, you will be facing two harrowing tasks- reskilling employees and changing the integration and infrastructure that was handling your data flow earlier. Data Scraping Services is a better one-size-fits-all solution since they have different plans for different types of companies. And even if you end up changing your service provider, the changes in your internal workflow will more or less remain the same. Thanks to managed infrastructure and data storage.

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