by August 31, 2000 0 comments

Based on your budget and the number of prospective visitors, your cyber café could range from 1-3 PCs and go up to any number

Cyber Café seems to be the buzzword these days. They are
rapidly gaining popularity and this success is largely due to the increasing
popularity of the Internet.

In case you are new to this term, a cyber café is basically
an Internet access center. It’s a place to chat, check or send e-mail, surf
the Internet, etc. They are especially useful for those who don’t have access
to the Internet, and are also very handy when you’re out of town and need to
stay in touch with your office or family.

We have received repeated queries from people who want to
open a cyber café. Given the growing usage of the Internet, it appears to be
the hottest business around.

So, if you plan to set one up, here’s what it takes.

Setup for a small (1-3 PCs) cyber café

You could start a cyber café with just 1-3 PCs, and increase
the number later depending on your requirement, that is, the amount you’re
willing to invest and the number of prospective visitors.

As shown in the figure, such a setup would typically require
one telephone line, a modem, a PC running a proxy server, a hub, and of course
2-3 PCs.

A proxy server is used to share an Internet account with
other machines on a network. It also improves performance by caching pages. To
set up a proxy server, you’ll need to install an application, like WinProxy,
on the PC that’s connected to the Internet. The hub, as shown in the figure
above, is used to connect the rest of the PCs with the PC running the proxy
server.

If you are on a tight budget, you could also start with just
two PCs–one running the proxy server and one more. The proxy server can also
be used as one of the access terminals. You could connect both these PCs using a
BNC connector and save the cost of the hub too. However, BNC networks aren’t
viable if you increase the number of PCs. For that, you’ll need a hub.

Larger (5-10 machines) setup

As you increase the number of PCs, you’ll have to provide
more bandwidth. You could do so by adding more telephone lines. For this, you’ll
need devices like the WebRamp or the MultiTech ProxyServer, that are capable of
handling multiple lines. These devices are also commonly-known as Internet
gateways.

You connect the gateway to your network and hook-up the modems to it.
Configuration can be done through a Web browser. You’ll need to define the ISP
and your account details in its configuration. After that it automatically dials
up the ISP and connects the moment it receives a request for a page from a
client. You can also define load levels for the multiple modems. So if one modem
is choked up, only then will the other one kick in. You could also place a proxy
server between the PCs and the Internet gateway for caching.

Setup for ISDN-based cyber café

If you further increase the number of PCs, you’ll need an
ISDN (Integrated services digital network) line. With ISDN you could provide 64
kbps or 128 kbps of bandwidth. You have two options for ISDN devices. One is an
ISDN router. This device is similar to the Internet gateway mentioned above. It’ll
directly hook onto your network, and allow clients to access the Net through it.
The other option is an ISDN Terminal Adapter, or TA. This device is similar to a
modem, and it connects to the serial port on your PC. Connecting to the Net with
it is similar to the process used in a modem. You could also use a software
proxy server with these ISDN devices.

In both cases, you’ll also need an NT-1 box with your ISDN line. An NT-1
box lets you connect multiple devices to your ISDN line. One NT-1 box usually
contains two connectors, but if you need to add more devices, you could daisy
chain multiple NT1 boxes.

Setup for a caching server

This is suited for very large setups, where there is very
heavy Net usage. The caching server is a hardware proxy server that provides a
large cache for storing frequently-visited Web pages. This saves precious
bandwidth, thus making Net access faster.

Once you’ve decided on the kind of setup you want, you may
want to calculate your expenses. Apart from the equipment mentioned above, you
may also have to include the cost of software, telephone handsets, UPS, monthly
expenses, etc. We’ve attached a separate sheet "Cost heads for setting up
a cyber café" on the next page. You can use this to calculate your
expenses.

Krishna Kumar and Neelima Vaid

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