Is Data Gathering Becoming a Necessity?
What is Data Extraction? Every day, internet users generate over 2.5 quintillion bytes of data. By 2025, they will be creating over 463 exabytes of data every day globally, an equivalent of over 212 million DVDs each day. And as we will detail later on, businesses can significantly benefit from this data, thereby building economic wealth and solving global issues. This makes data gathering an absolute necessity. But to better understand why data gathering is becoming a necessity, you need first to understand how to extract data from websites in the first place.
What is Data Extraction?
Data extraction is the process of collecting information from any source. For example, the data can be collected online from websites and web-based applications or offline from sources such as books, questionnaires, and more. Data extraction also includes the measurement, organization, and analysis of the data.
When data extraction is solely focused on harvesting data from websites; it is known as web scraping or web data extraction. Web scraping primarily involves the use of automated bots known as web scrapers. The bots shorten the time taken to extract the required data while also keeping the cost associated with the entire process low. They can also cover thousands of websites and web pages. The use of bots, therefore, enables companies to go through and collect vast swathes of publicly available data within a short time.
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The Significance of Data Gathering
As detailed, large volumes of data are generated daily. And from a business perspective, this data, when analyzed, contains insights that can enable companies and even investors to make better decisions. For instance, Web scraping and data extraction help companies in the run-up to mergers or acquisitions as they perform due diligence. It also enables investors to make better investment decisions.
Just as the internet has increased the amount of data that people churn out every day, so too has it influenced the growth of e-commerce. It enables businesses to monitor their competitors as well as how they have priced their products. It also helps companies generate leads, track customers’ feedback, and more.
Furthermore, statistics show that 28.5% of users usually click the first result on the search engine results page (SERP). Therefore, to rank high on SERP, companies undertake rigorous data extraction to identify the right keywords for search queries relevant to their businesses.
How to Extract Data from Website
While there are various ways to extract data from websites, only three are viable. They include:
- Using a custom web scraper
- Paying for an off-the-shelf web scraping tool
- Utilizing pre-packaged data
You can build your own web scraper for a more hands-on approach to data extraction. Given that it is custom, you enjoy unrivaled control over the entire process. This allows you to specify how and what data will be collected or even stored. However, it requires you to have a programming background as the scraper has to be monitored and maintained.
A more direct way to go about it would be to opt for pre-packaged data from a specific provider. Usually, this involves procuring the services of a Data-as-a-Service (DaaS) platform. This approach eliminates the need for any set-up or even constant maintenance, unlike a custom scraping bot.
Alternatively, you can go with a scraping tool, an option that gives more flexibility and scale in terms of specifying what you want to be extracted. After all, these off-the-shelf tools designed for large-scale applications. Additionally, the scraper will help with structuring data according to your preferences.
Growth of Data Gathering Space
The growth of data gathering has been in tandem with the rise of the internet; which, as highlighted, has also led to an increase in the volume of data generated. That said, human beings have always generated data since the beginning of time. But, data collection in the early stages was through mechanical or manual methods. One example is the punch card first used in the 1890 census in the United States.
Data gathering, however, began to boom with the release of the personal computer in the 1970s. It was subsequently boosted by the innovations that followed, including the invention of the internet in the 1980s. The 1990s, which saw the increasing popularity of the internet, was also instrumental to the space’s growth. The next phase of progress came with the introduction of the Internet of Things (IoT) concept, a term coined in 1999.
The improvement in computing power, internet speeds, and data storage have also significantly contributed to the growth of data extraction. Combined, these factors have led to the increased popularity of e-commerce and also influenced the growth of the web scraping market.
Data gathering is growing more crucial with every passing day. And it is the present and the future of conducting business online owing to the myriad benefits it offers. It is significant to online businesses that need to stay competitive in e-commerce. It also enables companies and investors to make informed decisions whenever they intend to invest.