It’s 2021 already, and data is more important than ever for making business decisions. Web data collection provides a way to collect valuable public information, and proxy networks enable this process to scale.
Yet, when faced with the task of procuring proxy IPs, enterprise IT departments often find themselves in a conundrum: build or buy? The draw toward the former can be strong, considering the control it gives.
But is it really the superior option?
In this article we will discuss:
- Running an in-house data center
- Renting infrastructure from others
- Using a proxy network
- Adding residential proxies into the mix
- Simplifying data collection further
Running an in-house data center
The biggest benefit of setting up a proxy infrastructure on-premise is the absolute control it provides. An enterprise can scale up or down as needed, ensure compliance to strict data security and procedural standards. Having everything at hand also allows for quick troubleshooting when it’s critical to sustain uninterrupted data flow.
On the other hand, complete control also means complete responsibility. The IT department has to train and assign manpower, maintain facilities, and have 24/7 technicians on call for resolving incidents. This incurs significant initial and operating costs, unless the company already has the resources or runs on a very large scale.
This is only one part of the equation. Running a datacenter proxy farm involves further challenges. Tasks like provisioning new IPs take time to authorize and implement, not to mention the costs of getting increasingly scarce IPv4 spaces. Setting up, rotating, and monitoring proxy IPs requires a particular skill set that might be hard to find. Finally, this approach limits reach because physical locations of the servers strongly impact latency.
Renting infrastructure from others
Another approach is to rent both the servers and IP spaces from other companies. It’s the middle-of-the-road option between an internal data center and a proxy network.
Renting infrastructure relieves some of the headaches of an in-house data center. There’s no longer a need to maintain a facility, hardware, or keep trained technicians. All that can be replaced with one customer support agent to contact the data center when needed. Moreover, it gives much more flexibility in choosing server locations for the IPs.
On the downside, infrastructure rental sacrifices control over important aspects of the service. For example, if an incident occurs, you can’t really impact how soon problems will be fixed, or sometimes even know the full scope of the problem. Downtime may lead to service interruption, unless you account for redundancy – but keeping idle resources increases costs.
Assuming that everything works as expected (and for the most part it does), you still have the challenge of managing a proxy pool, with everything it entails. One of the bigger pains involves juggling between multiple suppliers if one fails to procure enough IPs for the company’s needs. Still, it can be a very efficient option if done properly.
Using a proxy network
Proxy network providers use the first, second, or both approaches to provide ready-made resources for data collection. Their main – and often exclusive – task is ensuring uninterrupted access to functional proxy IPs.
This brings several advantages:
Less load on the IT department. Facility and hardware maintenance, IP procurement, and support – everything is covered by the proxy provider. This lets the IT department assign resources toward more productive tasks, such as actual data collection and analysis.
One point of contact. Instead of negotiating several data centers and IP vendors, there’s only one party to deal with. Major proxy providers are large enough to cover the needs of most enterprises by themselves.
More variety. Proxy networks reach into millions of IP addresses, spanning diverse ASNs, subnets, and locations. Their sheer scale enables a variety that is impossible to match with an in-house setup.
Better scaling and redundancy. With a proxy network, it’s easy to buy more IPs as needed. If the addresses go down, providers can always replace them with others. For example, Bright Data ensures a 100% uptime by automatically switching to fallback IPs once an issue arises.
Fewer commitments. No need to manage internal data centers makes it easy to plug in a proxy network into the company’s web scraping infrastructure, and then remove or replace it as needed. Providers like Bright Data are very flexible in this regard with a credit-based pricing model.
Simplified accounting. Expenses for a proxy network boil down to one or several transparently defined parameters, such as traffic or number of IPs. They are easy to monitor using provided dashboards. Implicit costs, such as electricity, amortization, or payrolls are already accounted for in the invoice.
Of course, these privileges come at a price – literally. By renting a proxy network, you’ll be covering part of the provider’s server, IP, administration costs, as well as all the value-added features built on top. Some of those can be superfluous or less efficient than when run in-house. But overall, the benefits speak for themselves.
Adding residential proxies into the mix
So far, the article has dealt with proxies coming from a data center. But nowadays, some domains stand behind elaborate security mechanisms that data center IPs simply can’t crack. In such cases, proxy networks become a must.
By borrowing IPs from real mobile and desktop devices, providers like Bright Data are able to control huge residential proxy networks all over the world. These addresses have a better reputation in the eyes of websites, so they can reliably access protected websites like Google or social media platforms.
Running a residential network introduces new operational, legal, and ethical challenges, which can be more than many enterprises would be willing to take upon themselves. IP sourcing is a particularly contentious issue that still few providers are willing to openly address. And yet, residential and mobile proxies are becoming a bigger necessity with each passing year.
Simplifying data collection further
Lately, providers have been bolstering their proxy networks with capabilities aimed to further simplify the data collection process. They have overtaken such aspects as data parsing, CAPTCHA handling, and IP cooling that were traditionally managed by web scraping professionals. So, it has become possible to expect 100% successful data retrieval with every request.
Bright Data is among such providers with its Web Unlocker and Search Engine Crawler. Both tools keep the format of proxy IPs, while outfitting them with extra capabilities. They not only increase data collection success but also make spending more predictable by charging only for requests that reach the target.
These proxy-based APIs experienced a strong push in 2020, and we can only expect them to become more prevalent going forward.
The bottom line
Running in-house data centers has its benefits. But just like cloud computing, proxy networks offer more convenience and on-demand scalability. They also include features that a data center simply can’t provide – a fact that is getting increasingly hard to ignore.