Does it really matter that people don’t know what “the cloud” is?

English: Cloud Computing

The recently published U.S. survey (commissioned by Citrix) about the public’s knowledge of Cloud Computing makes for interesting reading.

“Most respondents believe the cloud is related to weather, while some referred to pillows, drugs and toilet paper.”

This makes for great headlines of course, but it’s the “first to mind” answer people gave when asked for a definition of “the cloud”. Some other findings of the survey worth mentioning are :

  • 95% of those who think they’re not using the cloud, actually are
  • 3 in 5 (59%) believe the “workplace of the future” will exist entirely in the cloud
  • 40% believe accessing work information at home in their “birthday suit” would be an advantage
  • More than 1/3 agree that the cloud allows them to share information with people they’d rather not be interacting with in person
  • After being provided with the definition of the cloud, 68% recognised its economic benefits
  • 14% have pretended to know what the cloud is during a job interview

All of this reminds me of that survey/vox pop Google did in 2009. They asked people in Times Square “What is a browser”.



I remember watching it at the time and being surprised that so few knew, but then thought “why does this matter?”. I concluded that it doesn’t actually matter that people don’t know what a browser is. It doesn’t matter that a lot of people type a url into google and click the link returned to get the website they want rather than type the url directly in the address bar.

Does it matter that most people automatically think of the sky when asked what “the cloud” is? I don’t think so. What matters to most is the ability to use services that make life easier. If the terminology proves to be a barrier to uptake of cloud computing services, perhaps the industry needs to look at that terminology and demystify “the cloud” for the average user.

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