Good Day Coffee Professionals,

I would like to ask for your opinions on the topic of Guest Use Computers for use in in coffee shops and cafes.

What are the features and expectations you would want in a computer you are providing for customers to use while in the store. Examples would be: security, removing personal information after each user, free to use or pay-2-play, easy to use interface, reliability, restriction on functionality or more flexible, links to any special websites on the interface, any cool "drink education" software out there that might be neat to have on the box, etc.

I appreciate any and all feedback. Feel free to contact me directly also.

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You would want to allow downloads (this can be helpful for viewing simple email attachments), but certainly have virus protection. Automatically removing all cookies, caches, downloads, etc. after session log out would be good. I say limit use to web, unless you plan on marketing to "cyber-cafes" which seem a bit archaic now. A "parental control" type setup for blocking lewd websites would also be useful...

I don't think people would respond well to additional advertisements or "education" if they are just trying to check email/web. That being said, the ability to set the browser's homepage to the establishment's website would be good.

Having been behind the bar at several shops that did have computers, a way to limit session time (if free-to-use) or automatically track time (if pay-2-play) would be the biggest feature lacking from traditional PC setups.

Oh, and if your company is actually going to be selling hardware: make it look good on the outside.

Just a brainstorm here, but what if you integrated a wireless transmitter and an easy-to-use network configuration interface so that the proprietor could control their network through the same box?
Anthony

I've worked in a cafe once before where we had both free wireless connectivity and one desktop computer available for public use. The wi-fi was never a problem but the desktop ALWAYS had a user and many times we had to defrag the volume or go through it to remove harmful downloads and inappropriate content (xxx). The was no real security on this computer. (It had windows 98!). The only solution was to turn the computer so that the monitor was visible to the entire cafe.

The cafe in which I work now only has free wi-fi and the problem there is that individuals will come in, not buy anything, and then sit at tables reserved for four people for several hours. We have to ask them to buy something, move to a different table, or just leave (which makes for an unpleasant confrontation on both sides). We're considering a program that issues a password to paying customers for two hours, but it really sounds like more hassle than it's worth.

I'm personally a big fan of free wi-fi and computer use but the downfall is that you have to be prepared for those unwanted campers who will try to screw you over...

Best of luck.
Thanks for the quick replies already folks. I would like to follow-up and ask: What are the best ways to market the following 2 products to coffee shops and cafes?
1. Guest use computer - a secure, reliable, all-in-one solution for having a internet terminal for guests. Users’ privacy is protected and the shop owner does not have the headaches of maintenance associated with using a computer not designed for this application.
2. WIFI Access Controller - a highly reliable and very easy way to do either free to guest, or pay-2-play wireless internet access, or even a combination of the two. Limit bandwidth available to each user, and to the WIFI group as a whole. Offer slow internet for free and charge for higher speed, have a required password for free that changes regularly, and other options available.
Mitch said:
Anthony

The cafe in which I work now only has free wi-fi and the problem there is that individuals will come in, not buy anything, and then sit at tables reserved for four people for several hours. We have to ask them to buy something, move to a different table, or just leave (which makes for an unpleasant confrontation on both sides). We're considering a program that issues a password to paying customers for two hours, but it really sounds like more hassle than it's worth.

I'm personally a big fan of free wi-fi and computer use but the downfall is that you have to be prepared for those unwanted campers who will try to screw you over...

Best of luck.
I don't offer a free computer and have no plans to, sprang for the ongoing monthly expense of broadband wifi. I haven't gone to issued one time passwords/pay to play etc. yet though may in the future. Currently simply set my wifi to secured. This means they need to ask for a password to access the wifi network. We only give the password to paying customers. The password is good until I get around to changing it, sometimes months. I don't change the password often and haven't had much a problem with campers. If I see a problem beginning I simply change the password. No confrontations. Just the next time they try to access wifi the password doesn't work and they don't get the new one unless they make a purchase. I advertise free wifi for customers, not squatters. No one has made a commotion when the password is changed, why would they when they know I'm being more than fair simply requiring a minimal purchase for the password that's good for days, weeks even months. Nothing is free in life, most people understand that.
In my cafe we do offer free wifi to customers. I also have it set to a secure network that requires a wep key to access. I also change the password like Mike when I get people trying to sit for hours and not buying anything.
We looked in to the different companies that provide the software for the pay to play and For us it was just priced outside of our budget. The more you change the password the better you get at it so I try to change every couple of weeks or so. I also print the code on pieces of paper and give out when someone makes a purchase. We do not provide a computer for customer use but I have been know to let someone check their e mail on my computer.
I currently offer both free wi-fi and two computer terminals for customer use. I have a few problems with campers (which my employees like to call poachers). For the terminals, I purchase "disposable" computers off of ebay. I will use them for a few years and then do it again. About once a month we go through and clean up the temporary internet files and defrag the hard drive. We have anti-virus, spyware and adaware programs that run automatically every night. Most importantly, there is a note on each computer explaining that it is an unsecure system and they are using it at their own risk. I just purchased 5 IBM computers off of ebay for about $75 each. Works like a charm. I don't worry about limiting time. If there is no one waiting, a customer can use the computer as long as they need. If someone comes in and needs a computer and they are all in use, the customers using the computers get 15 minutes to finish up what they are doing and get off. In 5 years I have never had a problem. **knock on wood** My shop is located in a ski resort community in Colorado, just a few minutes from Vail. Nothing is offered for free in this community, so I really stand out. It brings in a ton of business. If I have a poacher in the parking lot, we make a big deal out of it, announcing to the customers in the shop that we are "gonna shoot down that poacher, so hold on to your hats". Then we shut down the router and everybody watches to see how long it takes for them to leave! My customers now watch out for them and let me know when it is happening. I have also found that it bothers my customers when someone comes in and sits without ordering and they take care of letting them know that it is not polite to use the free services without making a purchase.
I like how you and your customers deal with poachers. I will have to stop by your shop one day. Everyonce in awhile I take a road trip and travel through Vail.

Melissa said:
I currently offer both free wi-fi and two computer terminals for customer use. I have a few problems with campers (which my employees like to call poachers). For the terminals, I purchase "disposable" computers off of ebay. I will use them for a few years and then do it again. About once a month we go through and clean up the temporary internet files and defrag the hard drive. We have anti-virus, spyware and adaware programs that run automatically every night. Most importantly, there is a note on each computer explaining that it is an unsecure system and they are using it at their own risk. I just purchased 5 IBM computers off of ebay for about $75 each. Works like a charm. I don't worry about limiting time. If there is no one waiting, a customer can use the computer as long as they need. If someone comes in and needs a computer and they are all in use, the customers using the computers get 15 minutes to finish up what they are doing and get off. In 5 years I have never had a problem. **knock on wood** My shop is located in a ski resort community in Colorado, just a few minutes from Vail. Nothing is offered for free in this community, so I really stand out. It brings in a ton of business. If I have a poacher in the parking lot, we make a big deal out of it, announcing to the customers in the shop that we are "gonna shoot down that poacher, so hold on to your hats". Then we shut down the router and everybody watches to see how long it takes for them to leave! My customers now watch out for them and let me know when it is happening. I have also found that it bothers my customers when someone comes in and sits without ordering and they take care of letting them know that it is not polite to use the free services without making a purchase.
I had dismissed the thought of having computers in my shop because it seemed a "thing of the past", however when I was doing some market research one of the questions that arose was "will you have computers to use like they do in Europe?"
These questions came from retired folks who travel a lot and don't lug a laptop around with them. I've decided that although I will only offer Wi-Fi (password protected), I will maintain a single laptop computer that can be "loaned" out to a customer if they request it. I won't advertise it. I'll tether it to a table, just to be safe, and will probably pick up an older Apple MacBook off eBay. The Apple OS has a "Guest User" function that automatically cleans up (deletes) all signs of the guest off the computer once they log out, and there's no need to worry about the next guest being exposed to anything the last guest did.

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