Speeding Up Your Internet Cafe

speed up internet cafeIf you think the market is saturated with too many internet and gaming cafes, think again. You can still enter and compete, just by providing innovative marketing and state-of-the-art equipment. Given the right location-high traffic areas, filled with your target market-the right broadband connection (dial-up will no longer do); shop interiors set up to match the customers you want to attract; and the right equipment; all you need is a little tweaking and upgrading to boost your i- cafe biz.

KNOW YOUR CUSTOMERS

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Before getting into the technicalities, you need to decide which crowd you want to serve. Are they gaming fans who like to combat with other players either inside your shop or via the internet? Or OFWs who like webcam chatting and enabling? Students and professionals interested in doing their papers and printing reports? Why are customer differences important? If you are going for gamers, you need computers with fast and hi-resolution graphics, fast network connections, fast hard disks, good speakers and sound cards and an interior conductive for gaming. Romy and Edna dela Cruz, owners of Arjen’s Computer Shop, chose to buy computers with flat-screen monitors and computers that had Core-z Duo microchips inside- the famed microprocessors that contain four microchips in one.

SPEED IS THE GAME

“In the internet and gaming business, speed is the name of the game. This is why we decided to go Intel,” says Romy. He also points out an interesting and beneficial side-effect to the decision to use Core-2 Duo technology and LCD displays. ”The advantage of the Core-z Duo is that it uses 30-40% less power compared to Centrino and Pentium IV,” Romy explains. ”Combined with LCD monitors, which have low heat dissipation, you reduce the energy consumption, conserving air-con and making it environment-friendly.” This is important, since electricity is one of the biggest expenses of an Internet cafe. An added plus is that LCD monitors have low footprints that will help you maximize space.

But don’t think that only gamers look for speed. Internet surfers — students, OFW relatives and office workers — also want fast computers and internet connections. This is why the gaming set-up will probably be appreciated by these people as well. But if you wish to save on costs, you could pick less expensive graphic cards, sound cards, monitors and speakers. Still, Romy emphasizes his shop has become popular because of its reputation for having the latest computers.

Romy adds an important note on crowd differences: “Gamers are noisy while internet surfers look for peace and quiet.” If your shop is always noisy with gaming, this will turn off the internet surfers. So if you can afford a large space, think about separating gamers from surfers.

CONFIGURATION AND MAINTENANCE

Acquiring the computers and configuring them can be a daunting task. It is highly recommended that you buy computers with equivalent specs. Configuring and maintaining similar computers will save you time in the long run. You could also utilize the ghost image technique. This process entails configuring one computer, cloning this set-up in a hard disk, and then transferring the image into the other computers.
Romy and Edna’s internet cafe came almost preinstalled and with a management system called Intel Platform Administration Technology, or IPAT package offered by PC Express in conjunction with Globe. ”With IPAT” Edna explains, ”you create only one image and deploy it in the other computer’s. This enabled Romy and Edna to speed up the set up and configuration of their I-cafe. Moreover, it made it easier for them to maintain their computers.

SOFTWARE ISSUES

Using licensed operating systems is a must. When you buy computers, ask the vendor to sell you the licenses. Windows costs approximately P3,000-5,000 per computer. Then you have to buy an office productivity suite, since students and employees need word processors and spreadsheets. To save on license costs, most I-cafes (including Alden’s) use Open Office – a freely available software substitute for Microsoft Office. If you are not keen on gaming, then you may consider installing Ubuntu Linux, an open source type of software, which is free. Make sure your PCs are compatible with it though.

OTHER POINTERS FOR RUNNING THE SHOP

Once you’ve ironed out the hardware and software issues, here are other pointers you should take note of: * Learn technical basics.You need to at least know how to put together a computer, attach printers and webcams, and configure a local area network (LAN). You also need to understand how to connect the LAN to the internet. If you don’t know these basics, you’ll be wasting a lot of time and money (some technicians may dupe you to paying too much for some trivial repair work).

  • Offer printing services because this is a money-maker. Romy points out that it takes one hour to earn P30 in computer rental, while it takes only a few minutes to earn the same amount on printing (having fast PCs will also speed up your printing time).
  • When buying printers, ask about the cost of the cartridges. The cheaper ones often have more expensive cartridges! * If your shop becomes popular, you will have to contend with long queues and missed opportunities to earn. In the case of Arjen’s, four additional computers were bought within the first month of operations. Romy believes the optimal setup is 15 units.
  • Tap a computer vendor that can quickly replace broken parts. Computer downtime increases lost earning opportunities.
  • Prepare for a deluge of viruses, worms and trojans. You would need a firewall or a virus scanner, or both. Monitor your computers and purge them of viruses regularly. Discourage customers from using their own CDs or thumb drives, or configure your scanners to auto-scan these upon loading. Setting up and running an internet cafe demands a lot of attention and monitoring.
  • Hire trustworthy assistants to minimize, if not prevent, theft. If you prefer to be hands-on, keep a close watch over your expenses. By choosing the right start-up package, like Globe’s i-Cafe kit, coupled with a few business basics, the I-Cafe could become a lucrative business for you.

    Words by Ruben Canlas Jr, MBA

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    Source: Masigasig Magazine
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