Proxies and rotating proxies for web scraping: what’s the difference?

If you’re reading this, chances are you have already started learning the basics of web scraping. So maybe you know that having a proxy pool can help you bypass a website’s anti-scraping measures. This is because some large websites limit the number of requests you can send from a single IP address. What can help you even more is rotating those proxies. So, let’s find out about rotating proxies. How are they different from non-rotating proxies? And why should you use a rotating proxy for web scraping?

What are proxies?

Proxies are a gateway that you use when you send browsing requests to acquire data. Normally, when you surf the web, there is no buffer between your browser and the website you have clicked on. When you use an online proxy server, your browser connects to that first, and then forwards your internet traffic to the website you’re visiting. They are useful for scraping because the proxy hides your real IP address. They disguise the scraping bot’s identity as regular user traffic. That means the website does not know you are scraping and so it is less likely that it will block your IP address.

What is IP address rotation?

A rotating proxy assigns a new IP address for every connection from your proxy pool. It automatically rotates IP addresses. Rotating manually would be extremely inefficient and very time-consuming. You would have to assign a proxy for every request you send. With automation, you can just send your requests to the proxy server and it will rotate the proxies for you. If you want to send a thousand requests to a thousand websites, a rotating proxy server will provide a thousand IP addresses for those requests. This gives you both anonymity and more time for your work.

What are the benefits of rotating proxies?

There are four key advantages that proxy rotation has over non-rotation:

1. The scraper keeps sending requests until you get the information you are after. Even if an IP gets blocked, you can retry scraping a page or website again and again.

2. You can access content from any country where you have a proxy. Switching addresses helps get you past geo-restrictions. You can access pages from any country if you have IPs for those countries in your data pool.

3. Websites don’t realize that bots are visiting them, since the scraping bot’s identity is disguised as normal traffic. This makes IP blocks or a banned proxy less likely.

4. You don’t need to delay your requests to get data. Some websites have anti-scraping countermeasures. With a normal proxy, you can add a request delay to extract data from those websites. With a rotating proxy, no delay is needed.

Why should you use a rotating proxy for web scraping?

How do these advantages translate into more effective web scraping? There are three fundamental benefits:

Scrape at scale

The greatest benefit of using a rotating proxy is that you can spread your requests over millions of proxies. Yes, millions. That is not an exaggeration. A rotating proxy provider will give you an API (Application Programming Interface) with which you can send your requests. That will rotate the requests among its proxy pool. This means you don’t have to set up the proxy rotation yourself.

Bypass anti-scraping measures

Many large sites try to prevent web scraping by limiting the number of requests you can send from a single IP address. So you could end up with constant IP blocks, captchas, or even a banned proxy. This would make your pool slow and ineffective. That is why a rotating proxy provider is essential. You need to have access to pools of thousands of proxies.

Scrape from anywhere

Some rotating proxy services let you split your proxy connections across different locations. This means you can access location-specific data from multiple sources simultaneously. Let’s say you are trying to connect to online stores in different countries. You could scrape results from stores in Europe and the US at the same time.

Discover the best proxy providers for web scraping in 2023 – based on data

Should you use a datacenter or a residential rotating proxy?

For IP rotation, you need a proxy pool. But not all proxies are born equal. You need to collect the right IPs. There are two main types of rotating proxy: datacenter and residential. What’s the difference?

Datacenter proxies

Data centers store and share online information. These are vast collections of servers with a huge storage capacity. Datacenter proxies are hosted by these data centers. Datacenter proxies are faster, more stable and way cheaper than residential and other proxy types, so you should always use them first, and only ever use residential proxies when there’s no other way – when datacenter proxies are heavily blocked by the website you want to scrape.

Learn more about when and how to use datacenter proxies for web scraping.

Pro tip: You need to try datacenter proxies with more than 1 request to know if they’ll work for you. We recommend trying them with at least 50 requests per IP.

Residential proxies

A residential IP is connected to the web through an internet service provider (ISP). It is a verified IP associated with a person or device. Residential proxies are therefore almost indistinguishable from normal users.

There are specialized types of residential proxies – static and mobile. Static proxies are connected to a single IP home address; mobile proxies use devices connected to a mobile network connection. Either can be used to change geographical location, but mobile proxies, though more expensive, appear more authentic and thus harder for anti-bot systems to identify.

Pros and cons of datacenter vs. residential proxies

So, which of these two should you use? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each to find out:

Cost: Datacenter proxies – Since they are set up en masse, datacenter proxies are cheaper than residential IPs.

Detection: Residential proxies – Because residential IPs look like regular visitors, it is harder to detect the scraper.

Speed: Datacenter proxies – Because they are faster than rotating residential proxies, you can get more data in less time.

Reliability: Datacenter proxies – Due to the infrastructure of data centers, datacenter proxies are very reliable.

Setup: Residential proxies – Because it is easier to build a pool from a broad range of areas, it is also easier to access location-restricted content.

What’s the solution?

We have seen both the benefits and drawbacks of datacenter and residential proxies. Wouldn’t it be great if you could have a service provider that offered both? Well, you can! Apify Proxy is a multi-purpose HTTP proxy service that enables access to websites from numerous locations. It provides access to Apify’s huge pool of both datacenter and residential IP addresses. The proxies are seamlessly integrated with Apify’s existing free web scraping solutions. If you want a healthy IP pool for multiple regions and intelligent rotation, why not try out Apify Proxy?

Unlike many proxy providers, Apify is a web scraping platform. It gives developers easy access to serverless computation, data storage, distributed queues, and hundreds of web scraping APIs built by other developers.

It’s also deeply integrated with Crawlee, an open-source web scraping library that generates human-like browser fingerprints and manages user sessions to make proxies more efficient and to protect them from burning out, saving developers money in the long run.

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