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A wireless hotspot is a physical location where people can obtain Internet access. Typically, these are public locations where people can obtain wireless access for their laptops, mobile devices, or smartphones.

Wireless access in your home or office, as set up by your ISP, or the personal hotspot on your telephone, are not appropriate for this category, although the basic technology is much the same.

Hotspots are often found in places such as airports, bookstores, coffee shops, hospitals, hotels, libraries, restaurants, and other public buildings. Many hotspots are free, others are free only to customers, and some require the payment of a fee or subscription.

A business model that is similar to a hotspot, but which may or may not be wireless, is that of Internet cafes, which may also be known as cyber cafes or net cafes, and perhaps by some other names as well.

The focus of this category is on the software that powers hotspots and Internet cafes, not the hotspots or cafes themselves. Websites for specific Internet cafes or hotspot locations should be submitted to the Local & Global category that represents the city or town that the place is located in.

Hotspots and Internet cafes are not exactly the same thing. Although the software and technology that powers the Internet connection itself may be the same or similar, the software for Internet cafes address is designed to address other needs as well. We'll discuss that later.

Hotspots typically use Wi-Fi technology, through a wireless local-area network (WLAN), using a router connected to a modem powered by an Internet Service Provider (ISP). Usually, a hotspot will be controlled to some degree by the business or entity providing the service.

Free hotspots will generally use an open public network, as all that is needed is a Wi-Fi router. A closed public network will use hotspot management system software that runs either on the router itself or on an external computer, requiring a login and a password for access. Closed hotspots are often used by businesses, such as hotels and restaurants, in order to limit access to customers. Bandwidth might also be limited in a hotspot environment.

Internet cafes are commercial hotspots, in which Internet access is a product. Customers are generally charged a rate based on the amount of time they are using the system, but membership fees may also be used. Thus, software designed for Internet cafes is likely to include several features beyond those required for its role as an Internet server.

Most Internet cafe software packages are likely to include standard features, as well as several optional features that may come into play, depending on the business model chosen by the cafe owner.

The software will need to track, and perhaps to control the amount of time that a user is on the system, and the software will probably be able to limit customer activity in a manner chosen by the cafe owner. Security issues will be addressed. Of course, there will be customer account features, and perhaps a membership system, and a customizable pricing plan.

Internet access is the flagship product of an Internet cafe, but it isn't the only product. Thus, software designed to power an Internet cafe is likely to include point-of-sale features, or a customizable cafeteria system, where the cafe owner can enter the products and services that a customer might be charged for, which may include various types of coffees and other drinks, food, and gifts, as well as the cost for a customer's time on the system, memberships, printing costs, and so on, including taxes.

Like every other type of software, not every Internet cafe software package is going to be the same, but the similarities are likely to be more noticeable than the differences.

Software designed for hotspots or Internet cafes, whatever name they might go by, are appropriate for this category.



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