You might have heard a lot about cloud computing – it’s certainly on my mind as I’m writing a bit about it for a supplement in one of the newspapers. Basically it’s a matter of having all of your applications hosted elsewhere – so instead of firing up Word or Excel on your computer you log in through a web browser and use them on someone else’s computer.

The idea has been through many iterations and a few different names – I first came across it in the guise of ‘Application Service Provision’ (ASP) in the days before broadband made it affordable. Many people blame that for the fact that it failed a bit, but personally I think there was more to it than that.

The thing is, particularly for the smaller business, there is a more important issue – that of trust. In order to host all of my accounts elsewhere, for example, I have to be prepared to put not only my financials into someone else’s hands but also my customer list. This isn’t an easy leap of faith to make. It means I have to allow myself to hand every customer, every commission, to a third party and assume they’re not going to be hacked and that they’re going to be financially solid enough to last out the recession and not take my data down with them if they don’t (fill in your own gag about ‘That’s government-level security and bank-level finances out, then’).

This and the psychology of having your word processor on your computer rather than logging in and hiring someone else’s are what’s going to hold the market up for a fair while yet. Which is a pity, because when I’ve used it in anger and been out with the laptop (or staying with family and using their laptop) it’s been incredibly useful to be able just to log on and pick up precisely where I left off on another machine.

It’ll catch on. But the shift in mindset we’ll need is substantial.

This is a guest-post from Guy Clapperton, a freelance journalist who has specialised in the small business arena for over a decade. 

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