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Saturday, 10 June 2017

Things to Consider when Evaluating Options for Web Data Extraction

Things to Consider when Evaluating Options for Web Data Extraction

Web data extraction possess tremendous applications in the business world. There are businesses that function solely based on data, others use it for business intelligence, competitor analysis and market research among other countless use cases. While everything is good with data, extracting massive data from the web is still a major roadblock for many companies, more so because they are not going through the optimal route. We decided to give you a detailed overview of different ways by which you can extract data from the web. This could help you make the final call while evaluating different options for web data extraction.

Different routes you can take to web data

Although different solutions exist for web data extraction, you should opt for the one that’s most suited for your requirement. These are the various options you can go with:

1. Build it in-house

2. DIY web scraping tool

3. Vertical-specific solution

4. Data-as-a-Service

1.   Build it in-house

If your company is technically rich, meaning you have a good technical team that can build and maintain a web scraping setup, it makes sense to build a crawler setup in-house. This option is more suitable for medium sized businesses with simpler requirements when it comes to data. However, building an in-house setup is not the biggest challenge- maintaining it is. Since web crawlers are really fragile and are vulnerable to the changes on target websites, you will have to dedicate time and labour into the maintenance of the in-house crawling setup.

Building your own in-house setup will not be easy if the number of websites you need to scrape are high or the websites aren’t using simple and traditional coding practices. If the target websites use complicated dynamic code, building your in-house setup becomes a bigger hurdle. This can hog your resources especially if extracting data from the web is not a competency of your business. Scaling up with your in-house crawling setup could also be a challenge as this would require high end resources, an extensive tech stack and a dedicated internal team. If your data needs are limited and the target websites simple, you can go ahead with an in-house crawling setup to cover your data needs.


- Total ownership and control over the process
- Ideal for simpler requirements

2.   DIY scraping tools

If you don’t want to maintain a technical team that can build an in-house crawling setup and infrastructure, don’t worry. DIY scraping tools are exactly what you need. These tools usually require no technical knowledge as such and can be used by anyone who is good with the basics. They usually come with a visual interface where you can configure and deploy your web crawlers. The downside however, is that they are very limited in their capabilities and scale of operation. They are an ideal choice if you are just starting out with no budgets for data acquisition. DIY web scraping tools are usually priced very low and some are even free to use.

Maintenance would still be a challenge that you have to face with the DIY tools. As web crawlers are susceptible to becoming useless with minor changes in the target sites, you still have to maintain and adapt the tool from time to time. The good part is that it doesn’t require technically sound labour to handle them. Since the solution is readymade, you will also save the costs associated with building your own infrastructure for scraping.

With DIY tools, you will also be sacrificing on the data quality as these tools are not known for providing data in a ready to consume format. You will either have to employ an automated tool to check the data quality or do it manually. With these downsides apart, DIY tools can cater to simple and small scale data requirements. 


- Full control over the process
- Prebuilt solution
- You can avail support for the tools
- Easier to configure and use

3.   Vertical-specific solution

You might be able find a data provider catering to only a specific industry vertical. If you could find one that has data for the industry that you are targeting, consider yourself lucky. Vertical specific data providers can give you data that is comprehensive in nature which improves the overall quality of the project. These solutions typically give you datasets that are already extracted and is ready to use.

The downside is the lack of customisation options. Since the provider is focusing on a specific industry vertical, their solution is less flexible to be altered depending on your specific requirements. They won’t let you add or remove data points and the data is given as is. It will be hard to find a vertical-specific solution that has data exactly the way you want. Another important thing to consider is that your competitors have access to the same data from these vertical-specific data providers. The data you get is hence less exclusive, but this may or may not be a deal breaker depending upon your requirement.


- Comprehensive data from the industry
- Faster access to data
- No need to handle the complicated aspects of extraction

4.   Data as a service (DaaS)

Getting the required data from a DaaS provider is by far the best way to extract data from the web. With a data provider, you are completely relieved from the responsibility of crawler setup, maintenance and quality inspection of the data being extracted. Since these are companies specialised in data extraction with a pre-built infrastructure and dedicated team to handle it, they can provide this service to you at a much lower cost than what you’d incur with an in-house crawling setup.

In the case of a DaaS solution, all you have to do is provide them with your requirements like the data points, source websites, frequency of crawl, data format and the delivery methods. DaaS providers have high end infrastructure, resources and expert team to extract data from the web efficiently.

They will also have far superior knowledge in extracting data efficiently and at scale. With DaaS, you also have the comfort of getting data that’s free from noise and is formatted properly for compatibility. Since the data goes through quality inspections at their end, you can focus only on  applying data to your business. This can greatly reduce the workload on your data team and improve the efficiency.

Customisation and flexibility are other great advantages that come with a DaaS solution. Since these solutions are meant for the large enterprises, their offering is completely customisable for your exact requirements. If your requirement is large scale and recurring, it’s always best to go with a DaaS solution.


- Completely customisable for your requirement
- Takes complete ownership of the process
- Quality checks to ensure high quality data
- Can handle dynamic and complicated websites
- More time to focus on your core business


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