Most people don't get the term 'cloud computing' - but so what?

by | 30 August 2012

The majority are using cloud computing so why the concern about the understanding of the term?

Research into perceptions and understanding of cloud computing by Citrix has caused a bit of a stir today.

The headline figures suggest many Americans have no idea what cloud computing is, despite its widespread use. When asked what "the cloud" is, 29% responded that it is either an actual cloud or something related to weather.

Just 16% gave the correct response, which according to Citrix's definition is "a computer network to store, access, and share data from internet connected devices."

Some respondents gave frankly bizarre responses to that question, ranging from outer space, to a pillow and even toilet paper. Yes, someone said they thought "the cloud" was something to do with toilet paper.

But is this really an issue? The survey goes on to point out that despite this confusion, and despite the fact that 54% of respondents claimed to have never used the cloud, the vast majority are using cloud computing in one way or another.

In fact based on their answers to Citrix's questions, 95% have used cloud computing - 65% use online banking, 63% shop online, 58% use social networks, 45% play games online, 29% use it to store photos, 22% store music and other files online and 19% use file-sharing services.

So clearly people are using cloud computing. Does it really matter if they don't know it as cloud computing? The name is not important. It's a term straight out of the marketing department anyway; a rebranding of something that has been around in different form for years.

Who does this lack of knowledge of the term "cloud computing" affect, apart from the vendors? People do not care if they are using cloud computing; they care that storing, accessing and sharing their files is as easy as possible.

Another interesting fact to come out of the survey is that 51% of respondents believe stormy weather can impact cloud computing. "It's not just the name that's puzzling the masses, most Americans are also unsure about how the cloud works," read the report. Well, weather can affect cloud, as Microsoft and Amazon are both aware.

Kim DeCarlis, vice president of corporate marketing at Citrix, said the survey results show that cloud computing is taking root in the mainstream but, "there is still a wide gap between the perceptions and realities of cloud computing."

"While significant market changes like this take time, the transition from the PC era to the cloud era is happening at a remarkable pace. The most important takeaway from this survey is that the cloud is viewed favourably by the majority of Americans, and when people learn more about the cloud they understand it can vastly improve the balance between their work and personal lives," she added.

That last point is certainly picked up on in the survey. 68% of respondents said they can see the economic benefits of cloud computer (once the term had been fully explained to them), while many also recognised the benefits of being able to connect to their important data from wherever they are.

Strangely, and slightly disturbingly, 40% of respondents said these benefits include being able to work from home in the nude while 25% said keeping embarrassing videos off their own computer was another benefit.

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