This week Steve Jobs “announced” cloud computing to the world with the release of iCloud. The truth is, though, that cloud computing has been around for quite some time. If you use gmail or hotmail or any email pretty much anywhere, you’re doing so in the cloud; if you tweet, you’re in the cloud; Facebook exists in the cloud. The only time you’re not in the cloud these days is if you’re saving all of your files on your own personal PC or on at network at work that resides on its own dedicated server.

So why is it now so relevant for businesses? As we’ve heard in previous sessions at Meshwest today, the cloud is not only “awesome marketing” – the social web is making it relatively easy for startups to propser because it allows them to make their businesses scalable.

Daniel Debow (@ddebow) of Rypple and Corey Reid (@barsoomcore) of Freshbooks, describe cloud computing as “the tipping point of a lot of technology that has been around for a while”. Data centres now hold all the information off site, so we are moving away from PCs and network files. This is a concept that is easy to explain and very relevant to small- and medium-sized businesses because, as Corey explained, “it makes scaling your business someone else’s problem.”

Freshbooks (http://www.freshbooks.com/) started out in a basement and was able to grow because the specializations needed already existed and could be outsourced. “It’s not a cost-cutting thing, it’s a quality thing.”

Similarly, when Daniel started Rypple (http://rypple.com/blog/author/ddebow/) in a small office in downtown Toronto three years ago, there was no need to spend vast amounts on buying a server or an operating system, so they could instantly focus on what they could add value to, and could “leave the technology behind.”

The core of a cloud business is not just outsourcing. Instead, it’s about “intense specialization” – non-tech people don’t have to worry about buying Oracle or their own server now, they can go straight to the specific service provider they need. This takes all of the chores involved in scaling a business out of the equation. Business owners can focus on their services and  expertise and leave the cloud to the techies.