During 2020 and beyond the world's businesses will thrive when they take advantage of web data for uses such as competitive intelligence. Many successful businesses have already been using data collection to make decisions which ultimately drive their growth and success.
With data spread across thousands of potential sources with a multitude of complexities in place - including proxy management, user simulation and parsing multiple content types such as HTML, XML or JSON - this quickly becomes no easy task. To get started, a business needs to decide between a DIY approach, and DaaS (Data-as-a-Service). The latter is often the more cost and time effective decision.
The DIY approach involves using a web scraping tool which allows someone with little to no coding knowledge to collect data. This will involve purchasing software which you will need to configure, within the bounds of the software itself. If you have any more complex requirements, the software may not work by itself. This technique is pretty complex to setup, and generally limited in possibility - slow to gather data, high in error rate, and time consuming to maintain. The DIY method will generally be cheaper for smaller projects - if you do not consider your time come at a cost. If your time is valuable, the DIY method will be far more expensive. For larger projects, this method will be far more expensive as you will have a rapidly increasing infrastructure requirement - proxies and servers.
The DaaS approach involves using a company who provides a web scraping service, simply meaning all you need to do is order data and have it delivered. The company handles the complex collection process for you - including data parsing, code, server and proxy management, error handling and more. This makes your life as a business owner easier - all you have to do is order the data, freeing your time up for more important tasks. You don't need to worry about code, purchasing infrastructure or any of the other complexities involved with data collection. This approach will be faster, more flexible and reduce errors. The DaaS method will be cheaper for smaller projects if you consider your time to come at a cost, and far cheaper for larger projects. Web scraping with DaaS means you simply order data and wait for collection to complete - often just a couple of days later.
Read on to find out why DaaS is generally more value for money than DIY scraper tools.
In most cases, DaaS is more cost effective (and pricing is clearer) compared to DIY scraping tools. With DaaS, businesses know exactly how much data collection will cost before committing to a project. With DIY tools, there are a multitude of potential hidden costs (beyond your time) such as proxy, server and captcha solving requirements. Beyond the raw cost, your time will also be saved.
Even after configuring a DIY web scraper it may not work in the future - when a website receives some updates. You will then have to identify the error and re-configure your scraper. With DaaS services businesses do not have to worry about updating their scraper - this will be taken care of by the web scraping company.
DaaS providers have processes in place to reduce and solve errors, before you even see them. Errors can include cloaking - when a website produces fake data for identified scraper bots. With a DIY tool you would have to solve these issues yourself. Accuracy of data is immensely important especially if you are using it to drive business performance and production decisions.
DaaS services have the infrastructure in place to collect data at a much higher rate than you could do with any scraper tool. They offer the highest turnaround time, and even periodic updates.
Compared to using a scraper tool, a data as a service company will save you a huge amount of time. You don't need to configure anything, handle ongoing updates, find hidden costs or setup infrastructure or find errors. You simply order the data, ask for a selected format and identify required fields. The data is then delivered to you at an interval of your choice.
Of course the other benefit of using DaaS over DIY is that you will have access to a support team to help with any questions you may have regarding the data collection process, reformatting or anything else you need.
Written by Ollie Cox