Proxy management can be a serious issue and anyone who has worked on a web scraping project knows it very well. Proxies are (or at least should be) an integral part of the web scraping process because they offer many benefits.
However, it can be slightly overwhelming to choose the right proxy, especially if you’re still learning the basics. There are a couple of different options to choose from, and to decide on the right one for your project, you need to consider a few different elements.
When picking the right proxy, it’s important to really understand the differences between residential and datacenter proxies, as well as some other details on the topic. That way, you can make an informed decision and be sure that is the right choice for you.
Why use proxies for scraping?
People generally use proxies for their two main advantages:
- the ability to hide the IP address of the machine you’re using to access the internet
- getting access to sites which would otherwise be unavailable to you due to certain restrictions
The first and main benefit is useful for multiple reasons. When you use a proxy while trying to access a website, it won’t send out your scraping machine’s IP address. And, when your IP address is hidden, you can reach content which isn’t available in your country.
For instance, when you visit a site that will only allow access to IP addresses that come from the same region, your proxy will mask your location and you will be able to access it without any issues.
Aside from this benefit, another use of proxies during web scraping is getting past rate limits.
Rate limits become a problem if you access your target site too many times in a short period. When one IP address sends multiple requests, the server detects it as suspicious and the person accessing the website could be blocked.
What are your proxy options?
There are two options when it comes to proxies, both unique in their own way and both catering to different needs.
- residential proxy
- datacenter proxy
Let’s look at the basic description of both and see how each works.
To understand residential proxies, you first have to understand what residential IPs are. A residential IP is a connection that everyone has. Basically, it’s the connection which you are assigned by your internet service provider and when you utilize that connection, you’re assigned an IP address.
Residential proxies work by assigning real residential addresses from around the world. Also, they can constantly rotate and give you a new IP address at specific time intervals, allowing you access to rate-limited content.
These proxies hide your identity on the internet and serve as a sort of wall between you and whoever is trying to read your IP address. This makes it easy for anyone interested in scraping to work on their project with a new address every couple of minutes.
Datacenter proxies are more common and they work in a very different way. Unlike residential proxies, they have nothing to do with your service provider or internet connection. Datacenter proxies are usually acquired in bulk and they are assigned to servers housed in data centers.
These proxies work by connecting through a country-based proxy IP.
When you use a datacenter proxy, you will have an assortment of IP addresses to choose from and hide your identity behind. When you want to access a website located in a specific region, all you need to do is use a proxy from that region and you’ll be good to go.
Datacenter vs. residential proxies for scraping
It’s good to know what each type of proxy does and how it works to mask your IP address. However, there are pros and cons you should be aware of before rushing into a decision and potentially choosing a proxy that wouldn’t suit your needs.
Pros and cons of datacenter proxies
With datacenter proxies, you’re able to hide your identity on the internet and work inconspicuously. They make it easy to change your location to accommodate your browsing and access geo-blocked websites. Also, datacenter proxies are slightly faster than residential proxies and are also better for harvesting data.
You can purchase them from many different providers and they are also more affordable. They can cost only a few dollars a month, especially when they’re bought in bulk. With a small investment, you will ensure a secure connection for a small price.
However, this feature can be a downside just as much as it is an advantage. If you buy them from an unreliable provider, there is a possibility that they won’t be secure. If the product you chose turns out to be sold by suspicious providers, your proxy will be easily detected and blacklisted.
Even though they do offer protection, datacenter proxies are not always legitimate, and getting a datacenter proxy can sometimes be a gamble.
One of the biggest issues that can arise while using a datacenter proxy, however, is that they aren’t traced back to an internet provider. Therefore, if someone finds your activity suspicious and decides to inspect the proxy, it will be easy to figure out that you are the one using the proxy and you will be banned.
Pros and cons of residential proxies
The main advantage of residential proxies is that they are completely legitimate since you get them from verified providers. For the same reason, it’s almost impossible to detect or blacklist them.
Of course, total anonymity is guaranteed and another benefit is that these IP addresses are unique. Additionally, with residential proxies, you get a much wider geographical range than you do with datacenter ones, which usually reach a maximum of five countries.
Still, the biggest downside of residential proxies is their high price. Since there is a very little chance of being blocked, you get great anonymity and a wide geographic range. Accordingly, it can be expected that the price will be higher.
Another drawback is the fact that it’s much harder to acquire a quality residential proxy since there are fewer providers. That means that if it somehow happens that your proxy ends up getting blacklisted, it will be much harder to replace it, not to mention more expensive.
What type of proxies should you use?
Some people believe that it doesn’t matter which proxy they chose as both types get the job done. However, such thinking ultimately leads to issues later on. So, which is the better choice?
While most people use datacenter proxies, they do so because they’re easily available, more affordable, and usually bought in bulk for convenience. However, as they’re easier to detect and blacklist, they can pose a certain risk. This is especially true if the provider selling the proxy is unreliable.
Residential proxies, on the other hand, are on the more expensive side of the spectrum. But they are definitely worth investing in, especially if you’re serious about your online privacy, particularly while scraping.
So, if you have the financial means for it and are willing to invest in the more secure option, residential proxies are objectively a better choice. The security, broad reach, and overall performance quality guarantee a better experience.
Still, this doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t be protected while using a datacenter proxy. Millions of people use it for various reasons, without issues. However, bear in mind there is always a risk. Ultimately, the choice is up to you.
Bonus tips on scraping with proxies
Finally, here are a few tips to remember when using proxies for scraping:
- Avoid using high-risk geolocations. Whichever proxy you choose, it will alter your IP address to show you’re located in a different country. For example, if you’re using a proxy IP based in a country such as Bangladesh, it may show you are connecting from Iraq and not the country you selected.
- Make sure each of your IPs has a unique user agent. It could be possible that your browser notices a concerning number of same searches from the same device and flag it as suspicious if all of your IPs have the same user agent.
- Set up a native referrer source. A referrer source is a place the website server you’re accessing thinks you’re accessing it from. That’s why you need to have referrer sources in the native country you’re establishing a connection from according to your proxy.
- Set a rate limit on request. A lot of proxies end up being blocked because the person using them didn’t set up a rate limit. In other words, if you send too many requests, the website will assume you’re a bot and block you.
- Don’t time your requests to do things at the same intervals. Setting an assignment to be done once per second becomes suspicious. Instead, set intervals to random times such as six, ten or twelve seconds.