Application Service Providers. You're probably reading about them everywhere, including here. We did a column on them a few months back. Last month we listed dozens of ASPs that specifically cater to you, the small business owner. And finally, in this month's cover story, we take a more in-depth look at the pros and cons of using ASPs and how to select the best ones for your company.
We tried to make the coverage in this issue as balanced as possible. But on this page I'm allowed to be a little more opinionated. I personally think ASPs are a great idea for most small business owners. They save you time and money, and allow you to reap the benefits of complex applications without investing heavily or committing too deeply. Great concept. But I do have some reservations not about whether ASPs are a good idea, but whether small business owners will actually flock to them in large numbers.
By nature, the average small business owner is a bit of a control freak (I don't mean that as an insult, I promise). So in their minds, ASPs are essentially asking them to give up control over certain core-business functions. And if those functions are financial in nature, that means handing over sensitive numbers to virtual strangers. And unlike those of us in technology-related businesses, most entrepreneurs are still on somewhat shaky ground when it comes to tech talk.
For you control freaks out there, the truth of the matter is that you aren't really losing control. More often than not, the information resides on a shared server and you have access to it 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You just have to be careful when selecting your service provider. Make sure you do plenty of research and look for companies with staying power. It would not be so hot if your ASP was out of business in six months. If you do your homework, this new breed can be one of your greatest allies on the road to growth. I encourage you to give it some thought and at least look into it. This might be one buzz phrase that could help the bottom line.
I am extremely curious as to your take on ASPs. Please write to me and let me know what you think of them, whether you are currently using one, or if you have plans to use one in the future. My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.