Top 7 Proxy Solutions for Web Scraping: Using the Best API, Datacenter, and Residential IPs
Without web scraping proxies, data extraction would hardly be possible. Either your IP address would get blocked by the targeted website, or the process would take way too long to be worthwhile.
But why? Simple, anti-bot protection.
Bot detection tools have come a long way and more power to them! Captchas and IP blacklisting functionalities stop malicious bots and make the Internet safer. Sadly, these tools also hinder harmless web scrapers.
If you want to know how to avoid anti-bot protection while scraping, as well as the pros and cons of different types of proxies and proxy providers, you’ve come to the right place!
I’ve prepared for you a list of the 7 best solutions for Proxy APIs, datacenter, mobile and residential proxies.
Proxies: definition and primary uses
The different types of proxies
The use of proxies in web scraping
Top 7 Proxy Service Providers
∘ 1. WebScapingAPI
∘ 2. NetNut
∘ 3. Zyte
∘ 4. Oxylabs
∘ 6. Luminati
∘ 7. Shifter
So, which should you choose?
Proxies: definition and primary uses
We’ve established that proxies are an integral part of a data extraction system, but what are they, really?
In as few words as possible, proxy servers are intermediaries that act as a gateway between you and the websites you visit.
Accessing a website isn’t a one-way interaction. As you’re browsing its content, it also collects information from you. The site can see things like your IP address, location, and device details. Additionally, it will store a cookie so that when you revisit the site, it will already know your preferences, passwords, and so on.
That is considered a normal user-website interaction. By adding a proxy, you’d make a request to a middle-man server, and it would make the same request to the website you want to access. Instead of getting your info, the site gathers data about the proxy server, which has its own IP, location, and so on.
So, proxies offer you more privacy from the websites you browse. They’re also an extra layer of protection: if the website’s information gets hacked, the hacker doesn’t get your real data from it, just the proxy.
Depending on the location of the proxy, you might also get access to more content than you would without it. That has to do with region restrictions on the website. Probably the most classic example is using a proxy to get full access to streaming sites, which have region-locked shows. I’m looking at you, Netflix.
The middle-man server can also cache websites for you. This way, when you come back to the website you don’t actually have to wait for the website to load normally. The proxy sends you the archived version it already has unless changes have been made to the site since your last visit.
Another benefit you can get from proxies is control over the requests sent through it. For example, a company can use a proxy to route all requests from its employees and certain websites, like social media platforms.
The different types of proxies
It’s important to know what you want to gain by using a proxy before using one, especially if it involves a fee. There are many types of servers, each with its own uses, advantages, and disadvantages.
Let’s have a quick look at the most commonly used proxies and why one might choose them over others:
- Transparent proxies: Unlike all others, transparent proxies don’t mask your information or change the response from the website. Its purpose is just to act as a buffer between you and the site. As such, it can log your activity as well as block requests to certain websites. These proxies are primarily used in companies or schools to better monitor and control what users do on the Internet.
- Anonymous proxies: These are as standard as it gets. The proxy doesn’t send your IP to the site but identifies itself as a proxy. So, you have a degree of anonymity while the website knows that they’re not getting your information. Since the site knows it’s being accessed via a proxy, it might block your request.
- High anonymity proxies: These servers are also known as elite proxies. They completely conceal your data and fool websites into thinking that the request is coming from a normal user, with the proxy’s IP. Since the site doesn’t detect the proxy, it’s the most anonymous and low-risk option.
- Public proxies: If you want to try out a mix of transparent, anonymous, and elite proxies for free, you can. Just search for public proxies. These are offered freely on the Internet and can be a huge help if you know where to look. A word of warning, though — some of these proxies might be made available by hackers. Some have done so to get personal data from the people using their proxies. Make sure you only use public proxies from trustworthy providers.
- Datacenter proxies: While IPs are meant to represent a virtual address on the Internet, they’re not necessarily tied to an actual location. That’s the case for datacenter proxies, which are stored in the cloud. The advantage with these proxies is typically their speed and large number, as hundreds can come from a single host. While all IPs are different, they share the same subnet, so there is the possibility that a website will ban all IPs with that subnet.
- Residential proxies: These IPs are indistinguishable from normal users. The IPs have actual addresses and are supported by internet service providers. As such, these proxies are the least likely to get banned or blocked, as websites have no reason to see them as anything other than a regular user.
There’s also the subject of how you interact with proxies. The standard way, which we talked about until now, is by using forward proxies. By that, I mean that you set up which proxy to use, and any requests you make go through that proxy. If you want to change the server, you need to do it manually.
Another, more advanced method is to use rotating proxies. With this method, every time you make a request, the proxy service provider generates a new IP for you to use. With rotating proxies, your details are always changing, which means that you benefit from a high degree of anonymity.
The use of proxies in web scraping
Proxies have plenty of uses, but what do they accomplish in the web scraping process?
Quite a lot, actually.
First off, they help you access region-locked content. If you want to extract data from a website that blocks access to any IP within your country, you use a proxy from a location that isn’t blocked.
Secondly, and more importantly, it enables your scraper to work more without stopping. Websites don’t take kindly to IPs that make a large number of requests instantly. It’s a telltale sign that it’s being visited by a bot, not an actual user. The standard response is to ban said IP.
You could make your web scraper move slower, but that would defeat the purpose of scraping. That’s why you do it through a proxy server. You get the necessary data and if the website tries to block you, it will only restrict access to the proxy you’re currently using. So, you change to a new one and keep going.
In fact, without a considerable proxy pool, you can hardly scrape en masse. For example, if you want to extract data from 20 different pages on the same website, you’ll need 20 proxies. Each one goes simultaneously. Each one has a different IP. The site’s anti-bot measures won’t view it as a mass of requests, all coming from the same spot, but 20 different users.
Top 7 Proxy Service Providers
From the start, WebScrapingAPI has a leg up compared to a few other service providers on the list. Their product was designed specifically for web scraping.
The API handles JS rendering, captchas and helps you choose the headers and cookies associated with the requests you send. But let’s focus on the proxies.
They have more than 100 million proxies, with the option of using datacenter or residential servers. Moreover, the API automatically rotates servers between calls, which automates a big part of the users’ job. For residential proxies, you have access to hundreds of Internet service providers, supporting real devices.
WebScrapingAPI offers a free plan, which doesn’t include geotargeting functionalities. Of the three paid plans, the most inexpensive lets you choose locations only in the US. The other two give users the option of choosing from 12 different countries to route their requests through.
Pricing is based on API calls, not on bandwidth used, so you can choose the plan by estimating how many pages you need to scrape. An extra bit of good news is that only successful calls are counted towards the monthly total.
You can also ask for a custom plan, with the possibility of extending your country pool to more than 195 locations. Unless you’re planning for a massive web scraping project, you should opt for fewer countries, though.
Make sure you can use servers on all continents and in most major countries.
One major advantage of WebScrapingAPI is the prices. The cheapest plan starts at only $20 per month for 200,000 successful API calls. Of course, you can also devise a custom plan that accommodates aspects like geolocation, dedicated support, and custom script creation.
NetNut prides itself on the speed of its proxies and for good reason. While the company doesn’t provide you with a crawler or scraper, the proxy services offered are designed to be easy to integrate with such scripts. After choosing the location you want to use, the NetNut network automatically chooses the most optimal proxy to use for maximum speed.
While they may not have their own scraper to offer, they do have extensive documentation on how to connect NetNut with some common web scraping tools. So, the process can be very straightforward, if a bit costly, since you’re using several different products.
If you just want to browse the Internet through a proxy, their Chrome extension is also a big timesaver. After logging into the extension, you can easily turn the proxy on or off, change location, and start rotating your IP, straight from the interface.
Another cool NetNut is the user statistics section in the dashboard. With it, you can monitor how much bandwidth you used, segmented into geographical regions. Or you may want to compare data usage between different dates, which you can also do.
NetNut offers only residential proxies, which can be a bit limiting if the proxy pool is too small. Fortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case here.
You can try it out for free with a 7-day trial, after which you have plenty of plans to choose from. A word of warning — NetNut is geared towards offering enterprise solutions. As such, many of their plans would be quite steep for freelancers or small businesses.
Unlike the previous entry, Zyte has several stand-alone products that can integrate together to form a complete web scraping solution for any user. No programming knowledge required!
So, Zyte can offer you a data extraction tool and a smart proxy manager. In this article, we’ll be focusing on the latter.
To use the proxy manager, customers send the needed pages’ URLs to an API and they receive back structured web data from the pages.
With Zyte, the upper limit of how many requests you can make per month is 11 billion, which is very impressive. Of course, maybe you don’t need to make so many requests, in which case you can choose a less extensive (and expensive) plan. The cheapest starts at $29 per month, with a limit of 50K requests, of which you can do up to 50 at a time.
Regardless of the package you pick, the manager handles proxy rotation, geolocation, automatic retires, and proxy optimization.
By default, Zyte uses datacenter proxies, but you can also gain access to residential IPs. To do that, you’ll have to talk to their team. Residential IPs are treated as an add-on and pricing is calculated per bandwidth instead of successful requests.
With just over 100 million IPs around the world, Oxylabs offers datacenter, residential, and even AI assistance in better parsing e-commerce pages.
So, the burning question is how can artificial intelligence improve proxy services? There are several answers:
- Extracted data parsing;
- Simulated user behavior to bypass anti-bot monitoring.
When using Oxylabs residential IPs (which make up most of their proxy pool), you can choose not only the country to route through, but the city too. You can find a map of proxy locations on their website, and you’ll see that they have IPs from just about any country.
Moreover, the company uses rotating proxies to raise success chances while scraping. If you need to extract more bandwidth-intensive data, like video streams, you can opt for SOCKS5 proxies, which offer superior speed.
Depending on your needs, you can choose to buy datacenter proxies that have unlimited traffic, and you pay for the number of proxies you want access to. Or, you can go with residential proxies, with costs depending on how much bandwidth you use.
For more niche solutions, like static residential proxies or SOCKS5 proxies, you’ll have to talk to their sales team and come to an agreement.
Companies aren’t the only ones that might need a proxy pool. There are plenty of reasons why a single person might want to use proxies to scrape the web. And SmartProxy provides options that can accommodate both hobbyists and enterprises.
The SmartProxy pool includes more than 40 million rotating residential proxies in more than 195 locations and 40,000 datacenter proxies spread over hundreds of subnets in the US.
Besides those, the company has also built browser add-ons for Chrome and Firefox which can help you navigate the web more easily through a proxy.
All prices are based on bandwidth use, with the cheapest package offering 100 GB on datacenter proxies for $50. The residential proxy plan isn’t much pricier, but you only have access to 5 GB total traffic. In both cases, you can go over the limit, with an extra tax added for every additional GB used.
The whole process is designed to be as user-friendly as possible. Clients just have to pick a location (or set it to random), choose between rotating and sticky proxies, and find the URLs they want to access.
Luminati offers its users access to over 77 million proxies, most of which are residential. Besides those, they also have more than 770,000 datacenter and 7 million mobile proxies. In short, you have options.
Handling your proxy pool is made easy through the use of their open source proxy manager, which can be used with no coding knowledge. Still, you can get even more functionalities by using your own scripts in tandem with the manager.
While the company has standard rotating residential proxies in any country, they also have over 100,000 static IPs in more than 35 locations.
If you want to test out the features, Luminati offers a 7 day free trial for their residential proxy pool. Besides that, a cool differentiator is the option to pay as you go. You can use any of their proxies in any way and you’re taxed just for that. Of course, that also means the highest cost per IP or GB of bandwidth. Still, it’s a good option if you want to test things out or don’t have a big scraping project to do.
By choosing a plan, you agree to pay a fixed sum per month and that money can be used dynamically on the services you need. All costs can be calculated by measuring bandwidth, but in the case of datacenter and static residential proxies, you can also calculate by IP.
While Shifter’s proxies aren’t specifically designed for web scraping, it’s certainly a use case they took into consideration, among others.
Besides the standard offers of residential and datacenter proxies you can expect on this list, Shifter also offers a shared proxies option.
In terms of quality, shared proxies are at best as good as dedicated ones. The IP may be shared by up to three different customers. As a result, you may experience slower scraping and more chances that the IP gets blocked. But, there’s also a considerable advantage: they’re cheaper.
So think of these shared proxies as a middle ground between premium dedicated proxies and those IPs you can find in free lists around the Internet.
For their least expensive plan, you can get ten shared proxies for $30 dollars per month. If you want to use dedicated residential proxies, it would cost you $50 for the same number of IPs.
The good news is that they have a 3-day money-back guarantee. So, if you choose a plan and discover that it’s not fit for your needs or it’s needlessly wasteful, you have the chance for a do-over.
So, which should you choose?
I’ve selected the service providers in this list based on how well their proxies would work with a web scraper. So, in that aspect, all of them are good choices.
You can check out other options because there are plenty. But do keep in mind that some proxy providers are more focused on anonymous browsing than on data extraction.
Another important aspect is if you’re willing and able to write your own code or integrate the proxy services with existing APIs and software you’re using. If the answer is yes, then an API would speed up things significantly for you and it may be cheaper too.
A closing piece of advice would be to try several options through their free trials or plans and see what works for you.
If you want to do data extraction without spending money, you can. You just have to create your own scraper (which takes time) and get some free proxies off the Internet (which takes patience).
Hope this article helped and good luck on your next web scraping project!