Not very long ago, the collective thinking of the time was to license tools and maintain in-house web data extraction operations. This made sense. The IT teams had a lot of control this way, and felt they could quickly react to business needs. With the legality of web data extraction still being grey, it also ensured confidentiality. The only challenges that were expected were that of site changes, but the tools promised it will be as simple as changing channels on TV.
The reality was far from this. No tool could ever work with complex sites. Site changes can be very tricky – almost as tricky as the baby boomers understanding ‘smart’ remote. Multiple website changes required a dedicated team that keeps track of scripts working – and all that was then, when things were easy.
In recent years, the challenge has evolved from tracking site changes to actually managing the operations aspect of consistent data flow. With the sites incorporating hurdles like captcha and other blockages, the reliability of data flow and the total cost of operations managing the cloud and service providers have become the real show stoppers.
There are three straightforward solutions that resolve all your operational challenges in web data:
Having invested heavily into homegrown or licensed systems for data aggregation – fully integrated into workflows, having an army of techies internally to manage this simply won’t be worth your while . You need to find a better alternative. Internet technologies are and will always be a rapidly evolving environment and unless it is of core importance to your business, you don’t want to invest in keeping your team abreast of the evolving technologies and motivated to do what might look like a mundane job. The sensible alternative is to outsource the work to experts in this area. The professional services team of your licensed product is a good option but it usually is expensive to most enterprises. Looking for third-party options who have the expertise and are willing to commit to a few hours SLA just like your in-house team, is perhaps the most sensible way to go. The payment model could be full-time or part-time based on resources employed and could end up being 50% of your inhouse costs.
Data-as-a-Service simple means outsourcing the entire operations and getting a data feed on an hourly, daily or any pre-determined schedule. This is the simplest and easiest option, especially if the data sources are publicly available and there aren’t any proprietary in-house information involved. The outsourcer takes care of all the hassles of managing the scripts, the operations, and the data quality & delivery. You could go one step further and have them perform all the pre-processing steps like cleansing, deduplication, classification, etc and deliver ready to use data. The data will be in any format you want including CSV, XML or even through an API call. The payment models can be a fixed fee or even linked to the number of records delivered.
This is a ‘Best of Both Worlds’ model. In this hybrid approach, have your outsourcer set-up scripts, manage the infra and operations but with everything real-time through a dashboard that puts the control in your hands. You can schedule and run the scripts, monitor progress, do sample quality checks and also download the data on a single click. The pricing model is similar to DAAS, giving you the benefits of low cost and hassle-free operations but having the control you need and the visibility you need for critical operations. An even better scenario is when the operations become stable, you could even ask the platform to be deployed on-premise or on your private cloud for more control.
At X-tract.io, we’ve been working in this area with global leaders for more than fifteen years and have seen how internet data technologies and its usage has evolved. We have been a pioneer in all the three options listed above and also provide free consulting to help the end-users evaluate their choices, with no strings attached..
Drawing upon our expertise and experience, we built our crawl management platform Mobito that manages cloud infrastructure for data crawl and has built-in efficiency and risk management features which help our clients manage their enterprise-scale data aggregation needs.
With internet content doubling every year and digital transformation bringing all aspects of business integrate with the web, businesses rely more and more on what information is available and accessible in real time from the world’s largest free database, the Internet. The legal grey areas relating to accessing the web have also diminished over the years, and the industry is more open now.
The only real stumbling blocks for enterprises are the legacy operation models which haven’t kept pace with changes in the Internet. But as outlined above, it is but a small step and takes bare minimal effort to cross the hurdle.
It is a small step for the operations team but can be a big leap for your organization.