A Beginner’s Guide to Proxies and Web Scraping

Data is the currency of the world wide web. Each website that you visit has information that you can use in your personal and professional life.

But, what happens when you need to gather data from lots of websites with different data formats, ranging website speeds, and inconsistent styles?

That’s where a quick and dirty beginner’s guide to proxies and web scraping can help.

What is Web Scraping?

Web scraping is the process of taking general or specific data from a website automatically.

You could visit each site and copy the information manually, but there are automated tools to scrape web pages for you.

people sitting down near table with assorted laptop computers
Web scraping with a proxy server – Photo by Marvin Meyer

For example, if you want the size and price of ankle socks on Amazon, but not the pictures or customer reviews, you can use a web scraping tool to pull the information and compile it into a clean database or spreadsheet. Most automatic tools, such as ZenScrape, are relatively inexpensive and easy to use.

A web scraping tool consists of two components: a crawler and a scraper. The two components work together to find and extract the data.

Crawler

The crawler does what a person would do on a dull day – it clicks through websites and finds the data you need.

SEO-built links like those created by Art of War Seo help this system to work correctly. A web crawler finds relevant information and clicks through the links to track more data.

Scraper

After the crawler locates the desired information, the web scraper goes to work, taking all that data off the website and arranging it into a final product. Usually, the scraper consolidates the data into a spreadsheet or list, but the tool can export to several other formats.

Let’s find out how the scraper saves you hours of manual copying and pasting.

What are the Different Kinds of Web Scraping Tools?

There are several different kinds of web scraping tools, but they all perform the same function and vary in price and ease of use.

Web scraping tools come in four different categories, but any particular device can combine the four. The variety is due to the different styles of web scraping and the varying needs of a customer.

There are other online data tools, such as Code Capsules, that publish data on the web. Taking the data off is just as easy.

Desktop or Extension

Some web scraping tools need to be installed on a personal computer. These are generally longer-lasting and give more consistent results.

Extensions are added directly to a web browser for a quicker, easier way of collecting data from websites.

Self-Built or Pre-Built Tools

Scraping tools can be built to customize data extraction and the final document layout. However, most web scraping tools have are pre-built from a standard model.

Unless there is a lot of data to collect from hard-to-access websites, a pre-built scraping tool usually works well.

Cloud or Local Tools

Local scraper tools use computer and energy resources to do their job, while cloud tools run off a separate online server.

If you don’t have a lot of extra space on your computer, a cloud-based scraper tool might be ideal.

Varying User Interfaces

The biggest difference between web scraping tools is the user interface.

Depending on the software, a web scraping tool may need to reload the entire website to find your data, or it may only need to run a few instructions on the command line.

Beginners should find a web scraping tool that has a robust and easy-to-use interface.

What Are Proxies?

How do proxies work? A proxy network is an intermediary between a user and the internet. Essentially, proxies filter out unwanted content, keep data private, and access blocked web content.

When a user sends a request to a proxy network, the network sends the same request to the internet, adding or subtracting whatever information is set for the proxy filters.

selective focus photo of person's hand with gold-colored ring in it
Hide your IP address – Photo by Drew Hays

It does all the work while protecting the original computer’s privacy. Often, companies and schools use proxy networks to keep track of what their employees and students are doing online.

Proxy networks work according to their settings. Moderators add filters to the proxy to block or remove certain content from websites.

If data tracking is an issue, the proxy will block websites from monitoring users. If the content is blocked in a region by governments, you can use a proxy to appear to be in a different country to access the website.

One of the leading privacy benefits of a proxy network is that it has a separate IP address from the computer connected to it. The server’s IP address will reflect its internet history instead of your private computer. This added security means that any data scammers or trackers won’t find any essential information.

What are the Different Kinds of Proxies?

There are many different types of proxies, but only four main privacy settings. Of course, it’s always essential to know a proxy server’s privacy and security settings before investing in one. There are plenty of scams on the internet ready to sell IP addresses, data, or credit card numbers.

Transparent Proxy

A transparent proxy is the least secure. While it does web searching for the user, it doesn’t hide any personal computer’s information. The IP address and internet history will be visible to anyone who wants to find it.

Anonymous Proxy

Anonymous proxies are a step up from a transparent proxy. They will hide IP addresses from the accessed websites and ensure that privacy is secure from prying eyes. An anonymous proxy is the most common type of proxy server.

Distorting Proxy

Even if the private IP address is hidden in the proxy’s firewall, someone can still find it with some hacking work (or a government-issued warrant). A distorting proxy takes care of this problem by hiding the actual IP number underneath a fake one.

High Anonymity Proxy

The highest level of anonymity is a proxy server that not only scrambles an IP address but changes up the pattern every once in a while. A high anonymity proxy makes it almost impossible to trace your actual location.

Final Thoughts

The web is made up of data, and secure web access entails finding the correct data and hiding personal information. Tools such as proxy networks and data scrapers are vital to achieving online privacy, freedom, and information. With these tools, finding important data and safely exporting it can be easy.

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