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Internet Cafe

Has anyone ever set one up? What advice can you offer?

     
3:12 pm on Jan 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Last April, I took an office in a very high traffic (tourist area) with the hope of expanding my business and perhaps getting walk-in traffic as well. It has worked out (to a certain extent) but there is a lot of wasted space which I really don't need.

I had hoped that someone needing office space would find me ... and we could share the rent and other overheads, but that hasn't happened. This morning, the Chief Minister's daughter wrote to me from England (she was my assistant in a kids sailing programme for several years) and said she wants me to be partners with her in an internet cafe ... using my office space.

Its a great idea and would work well. It would also bring in extra funds to help pay the rent. The problem is, I have never done such a thing before and neither has she.

Anyone out there ever done anything like this? If so, what is required? Keep in mind that I have lived in the BVI for 10 years and have never actually seen an internet cafe, so have no idea what people expect to find! I assume they want to use computers and drink coffee ... but that's about as much as I know.

I have no idea what the basic charges are or how they are calculated. What sort of equipment is needed? I need to know everything!

Help!

3:20 pm on Jan 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Oh i like the idea, i think in your situation it will prove to be a good idea, especially due to the location (all the men need an excuse to get away from there wifes (*duck* missed :P)

I would guess that most people that would come in to "your" internet cafe would be tourist, and most of them would probably not come in to destroy the computers.

I think the most common problem i've had a with a a large set of computers (150) was people trying to get around the security all the time, this often led to things breaking down.

For this i had a Backup CD which had a ghost of a functioning version of windows etc and everything was ready to go, the only thing i had to setup each time was Network settings (this was about 5 years ago)

It deppends on which operative system you will have, with Windows 2000 you can pretty much lock most of the stuff easily, so what they have is Internet Explorer access and nothing else, i would also have Word or something like it open, and a seperate harddrive where people could store things (very little space though, that way people don't download movies/songs etc, but they are able to safe pictures) due to the nature of BVI i would guess quite many of the people would have pictures taken (Digital ones) which they would like to send away, so some kind of graphics program might prove very usefull.

And when you buy computes, but the same one's this helps a lot if anything goes wrong on one, you will know how to fix it if it goes wrong on another one.

The fee varies very much from different destinations on earth, tourist places often charges a little bit more, but i would not go above $10 hours (i would say $5 is more general)
The money making thing is often snacks, drinks etc.

3:26 pm on Jan 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Liane - I have zero experience at this, but you might start by looking at what Starbucks does - here's a link to their Internet Cafe info (they operate over 1,000 of them.)

[starbucks.com...]

Might give you some ideas...

3:29 pm on Jan 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I guess the Starbucks model is a little different - I was thinking of providing access rather than actual computers. I guess the standard cafe model offers computers rather than just access, as lazerbubb discusses.
3:34 pm on Jan 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

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In Southern California what I see are signs outside Cafes that say the following:
No loitering
Put cigarette butts in the ashtray
No spitting on side walk
Put fast food rappers in the trash cans.

BIG SIGNS

Many complaints from other tenants
Some hire a security guard to enforce the rules.

3:39 pm on Jan 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Funny I was in a Internet cafe in Amsterdam last month, everyone in there was quite happy :) no rules :)
3:40 pm on Jan 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Thanks guys (except Mike :) - kidding) That's exactly the info I am looking for. I don't think there will be any real problems with loitering or needing a security gurd as the BVI is a pretty laid back place and it would be mainly tourists off cruise ships and bareboaters looking to contact home.

The photo thing might prove to be a problem though as all the cameras have different programmes to download their shots. Is there a universal programme which handles all camera makes and models?

Keep the suggestions coming :) This is great!

I like the idea of "no rules" tigger! ;)

3:42 pm on Jan 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

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The Easy Everything business model seemed to be working well enough in the UK.

24hrs - you pay more depending on how busy it was.

You usually got about 2 hrs for £1 later on at night.

Although they did need security on then too.

And I believe they just got in some trouble for letting people burn MP3's on to CD's.....so I wouldnt try that one.

I think the main thing is that the Internet access itself isnt too profitable or reliable. You need to look to generate income from the other stuff....ie focus on the Cafe element more.

This is especially important in touristy type areas as well.

Internet cafes are popular for playing network games in low tech regions - maybe try organising games nights and stuff like that to get regular business in.

For internet access in an area where there is none, then you can pretty much charge what you want.

Usually charges are per 10 minutes / 30 minutes / hour.

Offering regular member discount cards can be a good way to keep repeat business.

Try offering IT classes as well (charge more for them though). Having someone on hand to setup email accounts and stuff for non IT literate people helps to.

Good Luck! :)

MG

3:46 pm on Jan 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

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PSP/Photoshop (And i believe there is a few Freeware) pretty much support all cameras available, just select "import from Twain"
And it will find it.
3:50 pm on Jan 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

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No experience in cafes, but from running a training facility with many users, here's my advice:

Configure the machines simply, and lock down the desktop, etc. Use a standard machine configuration so that you can blow away and restore easily. Using Ghost or some other imaging tool, and perhaps even having a couple of spare hard drives that could be swapped out in a minute or two, would be good.

I don't know what Internet cafe protocol is, but eliminating floppy and CD drives would make sense from a security standpoint. Virus protection is essential, again in "lockdown" mode so that users can't override it.

Don't skimp on the coffee, either - get the good stuff and brew it well! ;)

3:59 pm on Jan 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Don't skimp on the coffee, either - get the good stuff and brew it well!

That goes without saying! My "partner" has an in with a capucino machine and coffee supplier ... so no problem there! That's the easy part. The hard part is having a clue what is needed but Mike1234 just stickied me some really good links which offer a bunch of info.

Maybe I can actually get this to work! The problem will be the techie stuff. As some here know ... that just isn't my baliwick! :( Thankfully, I have some friends here who are competant. The extra hard drive idea is a smart one. Getting computer parts and service here takes a lot of time! Its a lovely place, but its still a third world country.

4:02 pm on Jan 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

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If you have friends in the US, those Wal-Mart Machines might be something (very cheap, have lindows installed, but you can format the drives, and install windows instead) and then ship them to you (might prove to cost to much, not sure how much shipping is)
4:25 pm on Jan 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

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On a different matter have you considered the pros and cons of having the Chief Ministers daughter as a partner?
The pros are fairly obvious, but if I remember correctly you need to renew your work permit annually.
I don't know how things work in the VIs, but if things don't work out, and relations deteriorate, could your permit be put in danger?
4:32 pm on Jan 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Sure it could pose a problem ... but she is like a daughter to me and I love her dearly. We have been very close for quite some time. I don't see that sort of thing happening, especially considering she lives in England right now. :)
5:09 pm on Jan 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I'll just throw in my 2 cents. I was in Rome as a tourist a few months ago. "internet Pointes" are all over the place, mainly in laundromats and mail drops.

There was a laundromat just down the street from my hotel. You dropped 1.5 euros into a wall mounted machine which kicked out a slip with an access code. You got half an hour.

It all worked perfectly. You got windows, IE and high speed access.

If you go this route, it might be a good idea to have a change machine. Oops, the cost just went up.

5:14 pm on Jan 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Internet Cafes, errr the places that make it around here are the cyber cafes - the game joints where everyones playing counter-strike and all the other games. I have assisted a company setup a cyberarcade and my girlfriend was there while they first started. We saw all their flaws and what they did right. Heck we have a business plan for a cyberarcade we wanted to do but one of our partners backed out because he didnt have the money. .. still something i'd love to do, but there isnt a huge amount of money to be made.
7:16 pm on Jan 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I partnered a guy setting up an internet cafe here on the Costa Blanca about 3 years ago.
I knew nothing about them but he did, but then he had no (and still doesn't) idea about computers and the internet. Sadley he ripped me off a year later.
I'd agree with all the wise words and help posted above, wish I'd had a source of info :(
I would suggest a very good connection with a 'techy' to set the thing up and help keep it running when the unforseen happens.
The café side should be a good cafe, just as the internet side should be well put together.

There is a difference between a serious Intenet cafe and a gaming center (sorry centre, in English, too much html ;) ). We had a lot of people keeping in touch with home and recieving fotos of the grandchildren, etc. I guess a scanner would be a good ide, A lot of the accessory type hardware you can operate yourself, since many will have no idea.
Hmmmm, I'll have to think back a bit to bring up more info. If you have any questions feel free to ask (or sticky). :)

7:41 pm on Jan 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

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CAVEAT - This is strictly off the top my head. No experience with setting up a net café. (Ooh, I smell sponsorship! Too bad they don't make coffee)

What about one or two central machines, and hubs (assuming a high-speed connection), and flat screens hanging on the wall (saves space and heat, sturdier, easier on the eyes)?

As far as that goes why not Macs? Reliable, trendy, not a target of MS monkeys. Also iPhoto for universal photo format handling.

And Dilmah tea.

And, I guess, a bigger fatter bank loan... :(

T

7:48 pm on Jan 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I think what I was advised to do (if I should do it again) is to have a 'web server' with 'very' basic machines connected via the hub as slaves. You should have full control and stuff like caches and history should be controllable (hate control situations, myself).
I'm no techie so what toadhall says goes for me too ;)
8:24 pm on Jan 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

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what is required?

  • Go with Intel-based PCs. Parts will be cheaper and easier to scrouge than Macs.
  • If you're short on hard drives, you can partition the drive in two and restore the drive image from second partition when necessary.
  • What broadband options are available in BVI?
    I would get a router with the ability to throttle the data output. You don't want one user hogging up all bandwidth.
  • Flat screen monitors are excellent if you are short on space.
  • Optical mouse so don't have to clean the undersides every week.
  • If you have int'l clients, try to have some computers configured for their country. I noticed while travelling Italian, French, and English keyboards all have different layouts.
  • 8:38 pm on Jan 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

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    If plan on gaming do NOT use optical mice - gamers hate em. I dont mind em, but the slighest movement can be controlled with a bally mouse.
    8:50 pm on Jan 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

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    We taped the cables of standard mouses (;)) to the desk tops to cut down friction burns.
    9:04 pm on Jan 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

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    BTW be cautious of people stealing your hardware like mice and headphones.
    12:24 pm on Jan 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

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    This is great! Thanks so much everyone. I think we have a good start here! :)
    4:20 pm on Jan 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

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    Liane

    I am also no specialist but before I got a PC access at home I would spend 2-3 hours a week in the cafe I liked in the local town.

    They offered more than just internet access which was hugely benificial to me as a student needing easy access to DTP and Web design software. Not that there might be much of a call for it but there are probably a few budding talents there who don't have the means.

    I would also say make sure you get front loading USB ports for the customers Hardware. Most modern digital cameras save the Images as JPEGs and can be accessed through the removable disk folder in windows 2000. So they can just Plug and Play without the need for additional software.

    But a good good range of applications is a definate bonus - People might need to open Spreadsheets, Slide shows MP3 files etc.

    I have also seen some internet cafes create concise deskaids(laminated for coffee spills :) ) for help with software such as imaging packages (very helpful for tourists and saves you performing adhoc tutorials)

    Lastly - Windows 2000 lets you save a web page as a desk top - Create a funky one with your brand/logo/whatever with some useful links (google hotmail yahoo etc ( WW;) )- helps create a richer surfing experiece for the punter and means if they accidently log off it still looks like they are surfing.

    Ta

    <edit> spell check </edit>

    4:23 pm on Jan 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

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    Good Anti-Virus. Remember, even removing CD and Floppy drives, people can download virus to your machine through email :(
    And with all those w32 & big boss´s crawling the net, a less savvy user can infect your machine even without knowing... it´s a very dangerous biz :(
    6:02 pm on Jan 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

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    I was in Mexico recently and there was only once internet cafe that ever had any people in it. It was bright - air conditioned and had huge game nights for network gaming. The kids would fill this place up(around 50 machines) for hours at a time. I would check my email in the morning and see the same kids there at night when I came back.
    8:53 pm on Jan 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

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    Maybe a little rum to go with the coffee, hehe.

    Go2

    10:07 pm on Jan 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

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    Maybe a little rum to go with the coffee

    Interesting, does that mix well? Come to think of it, it probably does...

    Internet cafes are certainly in vogue and will probably be a huge money maker in the future. In a couple of years, probably all cafes and bars will have a bunch of internet terminals around. Maybe embedded systems built right into the tables?

    Last summer I went to Embrun in France and did some hiking. Absolutely wonderful place for outdoors activities. Definitely the best hiking in alpine forest so far (I prefer forest walking). Anyway, in the village there was this low budget internet cafe with 3-5 old tired computers, no slot machines, no coffe machine, just plain and simple old fashion slow Internet. And still it did the trick. I got the online access I needed for a very reasonable rate.

    Liane, don't worry too much about getting fancy security software or hiring network techs, just get into business, then solve the problems as they come along.

    1:53 am on Jan 31, 2003 (gmt 0)

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    I'd use a Linux Terminal Server Project setup. This involves diskless machines running off a central server, which makes maintainance/security a breeze and cuts your hardware costs. And of course running Linux, Open Office, etc. instead of Windows, Office will save you buckets on software licenses.

    The LTSP [ltsp.org] site has decent documentation, including some aimed specifically at Net cafe setups - the contrib section has entries like "Billing System for Internet Cafe".

    You could probably contract someone to set this up - once going, it should be pretty indestructible (barring hardware failure/damage/theft).

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