In an Internet café, the importance of the actual computers that the clients are going to use is pretty much self-explanatory. However, choosing the right configuration is not an easy matter, as there are no universal solutions. Furthermore, there are quite a few pitfalls out there that could make a potential cybercafé manager overextend his or her budget.
The most important factor when choosing the components for your PC is, as always, your intended audience. A computer that will be used mainly for web surfing is a completely different beast compared to, say, a PC that’s going to be used for gaming or office work. Let’s take a look at the two most widespread uses of a computer in an Internet café.
A) Web browsing/Everyday tasks
Given the prevalence of smartphones and other mobile devices, it would seem that there’s little use for this kind of service. This is not strictly true, however. There’s always the business users who would like to use the web outside their work environment, without being constantly monitored by their corporate phones. Sometimes, all you want to do is search for a snippet of information that’s of interest only to you, find movie showtimes or look up nearby restaurants. Why not nip into the nearest Internet café and browse far from prying eyes while enjoying a sandwich for lunch? The need for privacy is a major driving force of the Internet café. A house wife might want to communicate with a friend of hers without running the risk of someone close to her reading her chat log, or she might want to surprise her husband with a nice gift that she will buy online.
For this kind of usage, you need a basic computer that will offer an immediately familiar experience to the user, and that usually means Windows. You could go for an Atom configuration, which is the cheapest Intel/Windows combo you can buy, or you could go for thin clients that are managed via a central server. This solution is probably the best if you intend to set up more than two or three machines for this purpose, as it allows you to monitor your systems closely and quickly revert to a previous state in case something goes wrong. Furthermore, centrally managed clients allow you to quickly intercept the installation of unwanted software by the user.
This is the main source of income for many Internet cafés. It’s also one of the biggest pitfalls when setting up this kind of business. On the surface, it makes sense to try and attract hardcore gamers with powerful gaming systems. In practice, however, this could lead to overextending your budget without securing any tangible benefits. First of all, you should keep in mind that most popular online games are not very demanding hardware-wise. League of Legends, for example, one of the premier competitive online games, should be able to run very well on a mediocre CPU and GPU combo. Same goes for other popular titles, such as DOTA 2, Starcraft 2 and Call of Duty Black Ops 2, even though the last two are slightly more demanding. After all, your average visitors are not looking for pretty graphics, they are focused on winning.
When setting up a PC for games, you should go for future-proof components. In terms of actual performance, the CPU plays a supporting role, so it won’t need upgrading so often. It would make much more sense to invest in a good motherboard and CPU combination and cut back a bit on the graphics card, as it will need upgrading more often that the rest of the components. On the other hand, you shouldn’t be overly frugal with your purchases, as a slightly more expensive component might postpone an inevitable and costly upgrade that much longer.
In closing, let’s look at the main points again:
- The ideal configuration of a PC for your Internet café, depends on your clientele
- You need to be able to manage your systems, quickly and efficiently
- Everyday needs, such as email, browsing and some light Office work can be handled by a basic computer, or even a thin client that will be centrally managed through a Windows server
- Gaming is very important, but there’s no point in overextending your budget, as gaming-grade systems need frequent upgrades
- For most popular online games, the user experience is much more important than actual power