Proxies for Web Scraping - The Complete Guide

Proxies for Web Scraping - The Complete Guide
Last edit: Feb 20, 2024

Web scraping is a powerful tool for collecting large amounts of data efficiently. However, it can be challenging to avoid getting blocked by websites.

Proxies are a key solution to this problem. This article will explain proxies, why you need them, the types available, and what to consider when choosing one.

Why Use Proxies for Web Scraping

Web scraping is the automated process of collecting data from websites. It's a powerful tool for data analysis, monitoring, and more. However, if you scrape too much data from a website in a short period of time, your IP address may be banned.

A proxy server acts as an intermediary between your device and the internet. It forwards your requests and returns the response. Proxies can change your IP address, providing anonymity and bypassing blocks. This makes them ideal for scraping data safely and securely. 

When you send a request through a proxy, it goes to the proxy server first. The proxy server then sends the request to the website. This hides your IP address from the website, which only sees the proxy's IP address. This is useful for staying anonymous and bypassing geo-restrictions.

Proxy work schema
Proxy work schema

For example, you want to access a blocked website in your country. You can use a proxy server in a country where the website is accessible. You send your request to the proxy server, which forwards it to the website. The website sees the proxy's IP address and grants access. The proxy server then returns the website's response to you.

Benefits of using proxies for web scraping

Proxies are essential for web scraping as they offer numerous advantages that enhance the process, making it more reliable, efficient, anonymous, and capable of accessing otherwise unavailable content.

Avoid getting blocked

Websites can restrict the frequency of requests from a single IP address. During web scraping, servers may detect unusually high activity from a specific IP and block access. Proxy servers distribute requests across different IPs, bypassing these restrictions and increasing data collection stability.

You can still retrieve data through a proxy server even if your IP is blocked due to suspicious activity. The request is made from the proxy's IP address, circumventing the block and allowing uninterrupted data collection.

Collect data anonymously

Proxies ensure anonymity when collecting data. They mask your IP address, making you less identifiable to web servers. This helps to prevent tracking and increases your privacy. As a result, you can remain more inconspicuous while collecting data.

Access geo-restricted content

Certain websites restrict access to their content based on your geographic location. This can be frustrating if you're trying to access content unavailable in your region.

You can use a proxy to change your IP address and appear to be browsing from a different location. This allows you to bypass geo-restrictions and access the content you want, no matter where you are.

Increase scraping speed

Proxies allow you to control the speed of your requests, which can prevent server blocks. Using multiple proxies and rotating them randomly, you can obtain data at the desired speed without risking being blocked.

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Understanding Proxy Types

Selecting the ideal proxy server requires a clear understanding of the available options and their advantages and disadvantages. This guide aims to classify proxies based on various parameters and provide detailed information about each category. 

It's important to note that a single proxy can belong to multiple categories simultaneously. For example, elite proxies and residential proxies can be rotated. 

We can classificate all proxies by different types:

1. By Anonymity Level:

  • Transparent proxies;
  • Anonymous proxies;
  • Elite proxies.

2. By IP Assignment Method:

  • Datacenter proxies;
  • Residential proxies; 
  • Mobile proxies.

3. By IP Assignment Type:

  • Dedicated proxies;
  • Shared proxies.

4. By IP address changeability:

  • Static;
  • Rotation.

5. By Protocol:

  • HTTP proxies; 
  • HTTPS proxies;
  • SOCKS proxies.

6. By IP Protocol Version:

  • IPv4;
  • IPv6.

Now let's dive deep into a comprehensive overview of all proxy classifications and types.

Proxy Anonymity Levels

One of the most important parameters of proxies is their anonymity level. Unfortunately, it cannot be said that using a proxy is an absolute protection, and any proxy completely hides your presence. So, let's take a closer look. 

Anonymity Level Description Pros Cons
Transparent proxies Reveal your IP address to the server. Easy to set up No anonymity, IP exposed to servers
Anonymous proxies Hide your IP address but can be detected by the server. Provide some level of anonymity May still be detectable by some servers
Elite proxies Fully anonymous, do not disclose any information. Highest level of anonymity May be more expensive, harder to find

When choosing a proxy, it is important to consider the level of anonymity you need. If you need to be completely anonymous, choose an elite proxy. If you are not as concerned about anonymity, then you may be able to get away with using a less anonymous proxy.

Transparent proxies

Transparent proxies are the most unreliable. These proxies offer no real anonymity as they forward your original IP address to the web server. They are useful for caching and load balancing but not for privacy.

Anonymous proxies

Next, in terms of anonymity, are Anonymous proxies. While they hide your IP address, they reveal that you're using a proxy by modifying the HTTP request header. Some websites may be suspicious of such requests, so they are more likely to be banned and blocked.

Elite proxies

These proxies provide the highest level of anonymity by hiding your IP address and the fact that you're using a proxy. They are ideal for activities where privacy is critical.

Methods of IP Address Assignment

The next important step is determining who owns the proxies: internet service providers and data centers, real people, or mobile ips. Residential and datacenter proxies are more common and frequently used than mobile ones.

IP Assignment Method Description Pros Cons
Datacenter proxies IP addresses are obtained from data centers. High speed and performance Can be easily detected and blocked
Residential proxies IP addresses are assigned to physical residences. Greater credibility, mimic real users Slower than datacenter proxies
Mobile proxies IP addresses are assigned to mobile devices. Diverse IP sources, less likely to be blocked Slower, may have occasional instability

Datacenter proxies

Datacenter proxies are typically provided by hosting providers and are located in data centers. They offer fast connections and a wide variety of IP addresses. However, they are also more likely to be flagged as suspicious by websites, which can lead to CAPTCHAs or even blocks.

Residential proxies 

Residential proxies use real IP addresses from home or office internet connections. This makes them more secure and better at bypassing target website blocks. However, they can also be slower and more expensive than datacenter proxies.

Mobile proxies

Mobile proxies use IP addresses from real mobile devices. This makes them the most secure and reliable type of proxy, and they can also be used to access content only available to mobile devices. However, they are also the most expensive type of proxy.

Proxy Assignment Types

Another key distinction between proxies is the number of users assigned to each IP address. This factor affects both the price and the risk of getting banned.

IP Assignment Type Description Pros Cons
Dedicated proxies Exclusive use of an IP address. Higher reliability More expensive, limited IP availability
Shared proxies Multiple users share the same IP address. Cost-effective Lower performance, potential abuse risk

Dedicated proxies

Dedicated proxies are assigned to a single user, offering the highest level of security and control. When you purchase dedicated proxies, you can be confident you're the only one using them. 

Shared proxies 

Shared proxies are shared among multiple users simultaneously. They are more affordable but can be less reliable. You may also encounter more CAPTCHAs and Cloudflare challenges when using shared proxies.

IP Address Changeability Methods

Many proxy services provide two types of proxies: static and rotating. In this section, we will look at the differences between them. 

IP Address Changeability Description Pros Cons
Static IP address remains constant during use. Stable and predictable Can be blocked more easily
Rotation IP address changes periodically or per request. Helps in avoiding detection May experience interruptions in sessions

Static

Static proxies have a permanent IP address that does not change during the use of the proxy. This means that when you buy such a proxy, you will have only one IP address, and if it is blocked, you will not be able to do anything unless the service provides the option of replacement at the user's request. 

Rotation

Rotating proxies, on the other hand, constantly change their IP address over time or after certain events. They help to avoid blocking and improve anonymity.

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In short, rotating proxies allow you to request a resource from different IP addresses that will change constantly. Thus, the chances of being blocked are minimized, as the resource will perceive these requests as if different users made them.

We have previously written about the top providers that offer rotating proxies, so if you are interested, you can read about them in our other article.

Data Transfer Protocols

Different proxy protocols support different types of traffic. Which proxy type is right for you depends on your specific needs. For example, if you need to scrape an HTTPS website, you'll need to use an HTTPS proxy. If you need to connect to a remote server using a specific protocol, you'll need to use a SOCKS proxy that supports that protocol.

Protocol Description Pros Cons
HTTP proxies Used for HTTP traffic. Commonly supported Not suitable for secure transactions
HTTPS proxies Encrypted version of HTTP, secured. Secures data transmission May be slower due to encryption overhead
SOCKS proxies Supports various types of traffic and authentication. Versatile May lack encryption for certain applications

HTTP proxies 

Only transmit HTTP traffic. It is usually used for web scraping but is unsuitable for other applications. 

HTTPS proxies

Support both HTTP traffic and HTTPS encryption. Suitable for secure connections and more efficient and secure scraping. 

SOCKS proxies

Regardless of the version (SOCKS4 or SOCKS5), SOCKS proxies can transmit any type of traffic, including TCP and UDP. This offers a wider range of supported applications.

IP Protocol Versions

IP protocols are a crucial aspect of web scraping, as they dictate the technicalities of data exchange over the internet. Here's a quick breakdown of two IP versions:

  • IPv4: The older yet widely used version utilizes 32-bit addresses, supporting ~4.3 billion unique addresses. This pool is becoming insufficient with the ever-growing number of devices and resources.
  • IPv6: The newer version designed to replace IPv4 employs 128-bit addresses, providing a significantly larger address space that will suffice for years.

When it comes to web scraping, most proxies offer IPv4 addresses. These are suitable for most scraping tasks since many websites still use IPv4. Moreover, experience shows that scrapers using IPv6 proxies are more prone to getting banned.

The best type of proxies for web scraping

The primary choice of proxy type for scraping is between the datacenter and residential proxies. If you need high-speed and low-cost proxies, datacenter proxies are a good option. But if you need more reliable and anonymous proxies, residential proxies are the way to go. Additionally, the choice of proxy type may also depend on the specific requirements of your web scraping project.

How many proxies do I need for effective web scraping?

Before selecting a proxy server, determine the number of proxies needed for your project. A single rotating proxy may suffice for a small project. However, if your project involves simultaneous data collection from multiple resources, you'll need a large enough proxy pool to maintain adequate speed.

Therefore, consider the volume of data and frequency of requests when choosing the number of proxies. The more data and requests you have, the more proxies you'll need. 

Choosing the Right Proxies for Your Needs

Selecting the appropriate proxy servers for your project requires more than just understanding their classification and differences, though this knowledge is essential. Several criteria and parameters should be considered when choosing web scraping proxies. This section will highlight the key factors to consider. 

Speed

One of the most important aspects is proxy speed. Fast proxies with high bandwidth accelerate the data collection process. If the proxies have low bandwidth, it will reduce the data collection speed and increase the chance that the resource will return a "Time out" error instead of the expected data.

Before using a proxy, you can check the ping and connection speed using special services. Based on this, you can choose the most suitable option. Remember that the ping will depend on the proxy quality and the proxy server's distance from you. 

Reliability

Reliable proxies prevent data loss from connection failures and ensure sufficient security and anonymity. Use specialized tools to check reliability and read customer reviews before purchasing. 

Security

Secure data transmission between client and server is crucial, especially for confidential information. However, security depends on the proxy type. For example, you should not require and expect secure data transmission if you have an HTTP proxy.

IP pool size

Large IP pools offer more options for changing IP addresses and avoiding blocks. The more proxies in a pool, your web scraping project is more reliable. Check with the provider if this information isn't on their website. 

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Customer support

Consider customer feedback and the provider's response to support requests before buying. You don't want to be left without help or proxy replacement when you need it. 

Reputation

A provider's reputation can indicate the quality of their services. The reputation and size of a proxy provider can reveal the source of their proxies and whether they were obtained ethically. 

Pricing and value

Compare the prices of proxy services from different providers and evaluate their соотношения with the provided features and quality. Cheap proxies are not always bad, and expensive proxies are not always good.

If you use a proxy for scraping, remember that you will also need to use captcha-solving services to bypass blocking, as a proxy alone will not be enough. In this case, web scraping APIs that already use proxies may be cheaper.

But if you are sure that the reliability of the proxy is not important to you and you do not want to use web scraping APIs, you can use our free proxy list or read comparison article of the best free proxies.

Is a VPN or proxy better for web scraping

Proxies and VPNs are both tools that can be used to mask your online identity and enhance your privacy. Choosing between a VPN and a proxy for web scraping depends on your specific needs and priorities. 

If you prioritize security and anonymity for all your online activities, a VPN is the better option. However, a proxy is more suitable if you require high performance, request throttling, and bypassing blocks for web scraping tasks.

When a VPN is suitable

A VPN is ideal when you require a secure and encrypted connection for all your internet activities, not just web scraping. It offers complete anonymity, protects against tracking, encrypts your data, and allows you to access the internet through a remote server. Benefits of using a VPN:

  1. Enhanced security: Encrypts all your internet traffic, protecting your data from hackers and third-party surveillance.
  2. Complete anonymity: Hides your IP address and location, making it virtually impossible to track your online activities.

When a proxy is more appropriate

Proxies are more suitable for web scraping when high performance, request throttling, and bypassing blocks are crucial. They offer easy switching between different proxies and a straightforward configuration of proxy rotation within your scraper. Benefits of using proxy:

  1. Faster speeds: Proxies typically offer faster speeds than VPNs since they do not encrypt all your traffic.
  2. Efficient request management: Allows you to control the frequency of requests, avoiding detection and IP bans from websites.

Conclusion

In this article, we've covered the fundamentals of proxy selection. We've explained in detail what proxies are, how they work, and their various applications. We've also classified and examined different proxies to help you choose the one that best suits your needs.

We then explored the key factors to consider when choosing specific proxies and proxy providers, ranging from the number of proxies to other important aspects. Finally, we discussed which is better for scraping and when to choose a VPN vs. a proxy.

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Valentina Skakun

I'm a technical writer who believes that data parsing can help in getting and analyzing data. I'll tell about what parsing is and how to use it.