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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!
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.
Might give you some ideas...
Many complaints from other tenants
Some hire a security guard to enforce the rules.
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! ;)
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! :)
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! ;)
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.
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.
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). :)
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... :(
what is required?
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.
<edit> spell check </edit>
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.
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).