Does the US understand cloud computing?

Does the US understand cloud computing?

Summary: According to a new survey, apparently not.


The average American consumer doesn't understand what cloud computing is or how it works, according to a national survey.

The survey, undertaken by Wakefield Research and commissioned by cloud-technology firm Citrix, showed that many U.S. consumers believed it was weather-related, or something to do with pillows, drugs, heaven, outerspace and toilet paper.

However, the research -- which included over 1,000 participants and was conducted this month -- did show that even when people did not fully understand cloud computing, they often recognized that it has economic benefits and can drive business growth.

When asked what "the cloud" was, 29 percent said "a fluffy white thing", whereas only 16 percent connected the phrase with a network used to store, access and share data across Internet-connected devices.

Cloud computing was found to be widely misunderstood. The survey found that:

  • 51 percent of respondents, including a majority of Millennials, believe stormy weather can interfere with cloud computing.
  • 95 percent are actually using cloud services today via online shopping, banking, social networking and file sharing, even though a third believe it to be a "thing of the future".
  • 59 percent believe the "workplace of the future" will exist entirely in the cloud.

However, those that want to appear more knowledgeable aren't against pretending. 22 percent admitted to feigning knowledge about cloud computing -- one third faking in the office and 14 percent during a job interview. Strangely enough, 17 percent pretended to know about cloud computing during a first date.

Americans under 29 years of age were most likely to know what the cloud is and how it works (36 percent). In comparison, only 18 percent of those 30 or older had a functional knowledge of the cloud. 26 percent of the Gen-Y believe that the cloud could spur on job growth, whereas only 19 percent of Baby Boomers felt the same way.

54 percent of Americans claimed never to use cloud computing, although the majority don't realize that they do. The results found:

  • 65 percent bank online,
  • 63 percent shop online;
  • 58 percent use social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter,
  • 45 percent have played online games,
  • 29 percent store photos online,
  • 22 percent store music or videos online,
  • 19 percent use online file-sharing.

Despite widespread use of services hosted on cloud computing platforms, the top three deterrents to using the cloud were cost (34 percent), security concerns (32 percent) and privacy worries (31 percent).

Kim DeCarlis, vice president of corporate marketing at Citrix said:

"This survey clearly shows that the cloud phenomenon is taking root in our mainstream culture, yet 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 favorably 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."

It seems that a number of Americans do enjoy the softer side of cloud computing. 40 percent enjoyed being able to use the cloud to work from home in their "birthday suit", 25 percent liked keeping embarrassing photos off their hard drives, and 33 percent enjoyed a sunbathe while accessing their files.

Topic: Cloud

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  • Just a marketing trick

    "The average American consumer doesn't understand what cloud computing is or how it works, according to a national survey."

    Neither does most engineers, bloggers or journalists.

    As the "Cloud" is just a new marketing trick to sell old Unix technology in new form to companies. It is catchy name and reason is to get people to give their information to corporations what then can market their own services with userbase size and sell anonymous information to universities and other corporations what then build algorithms of collective habits, what are then sold to corporations to sell products for people who don't actually need that stuff.

    How hard it is just to call old Unix technology with its original informative names like "File server", "Email server", "HTTP-server" etc?
    Then sell those to people, give them to create first account and then choose what services they want and enable them (free or for price) and everything is then nicely join to one WWW-page via WWW-server. If you want to store pictures, videos, music etc, then you need fileserver. If you want to store contacts, emails and calender, you need Contact and Calender Server and Email server. If you want to get them just stored temporary and delivered to your machines (for Email server), you don't need much. Then having a domain controls and everything in easy way edited trough text file or some fancy WWW-page (like webmin) or using app what writes data to text files, it is easily possible.

    Whole cloud is just such a bogus and vendor lock-in that not even those who thinks are clever to sell their services under that name knows what they are doing.
    • Close.. but not exactly..

      You're right about much of the technology in play, but what you did describe was just a particular usage for a cloud service.

      What a cloud service truly is, is remotely hosted and rented data store and processing. Basically, as a company or individual, it's outsourcing your server/storage infrastructure or needs to some third party for maintenance. It allows a company to maximize up time if their web presence allows for lateral scaling. It can take a better part of a day to set up a server to handle increased web traffic for a site. In a cloud service environment, that server can be set up in seconds, and can be decommissioned just as fast to save expense during slow periods. It also provides secure automated replication/back-up of data across spans of geography (basically copying data to servers around the country and sometimes the world so that it can live on a server physically closer to you, which is a faster experience). It also assures a business can keep running and data is available, even if the home base of that business is destroyed by a natural disaster because the data and app lives in several places.

      Depending upon your service level agreement, that third party providing the cloud service may be liable for your data's privacy. Cloud services are typically not free, even if it may be "free" (or paid with marketing from provided information) by consumers down stream. Both Microsoft and Amazon are paid by owners of cloud-based websites/apps for processor time and disk space. The level of automated replication sometimes has a charge associated with it to.

      You are also sort of correct in the terms of vendor lock in. If a business has a lot of data stored at a cloud service provider such as Amazon or Microsoft Azure, there are going to be some challenges to taking that data somewhere else.

      It's not surprising that there's a lot of confusion about what a "cloud service" is because the term is so loosely thrown around. Online web apps like Dropbox are cloud-BASED services. But in reality, the services themselves really wouldn't need to be dependent on cloud storage if they chose to host all of it on-site of the business. They are using a cloud service to manage their storage and keeping the user experience fast.

      Why is this a big deal? As a business, hosting all of this stuff yourself is very expensive in terms of time and money. For large scale operations, even when charged for storage and processing time, it's a significant cost savings (which may be passed on to the consumer or absorbed as increased profits) Having data stored remotely in a fashion that guarantees nearly constant availability is convenient for everyone.

      And of course there are cons too. Requirement of an internet connection. Vendor lock in. etc.
      • Oh and .....

        Polymorphic Ninja, thank you. Your description helped cut through the morass of what cloud technology allows, and takes the overly broad list of too many things to accurately remember for this poor addled college student and breaks it down succinctly to it's base--and that I can remember.

        (Plus, you did it without being snarky and pompous, unlike Fri13. Kudos Sir!)
        • Cloud simplified.

          Cloud (klowd) n. - An alternate term for distributed computing and storage. See also "remarketing existing technology".
          • Oops, forgot

            Also an alternate term for "Significant data security risk."
          • Defined in one word


            Wake up people
            Mike Saboro
    • True, but....

      Not even my Networking teacher at Central Maine Community College understands what cloud computing is. (I know, I asked....)

      Plus, rather than calling it by the myriad of names you suggested, cloud is one word and easy to remember. Cloud describes the myriad of things, so they can be grouped together or spoken of individually. Bringing it to people in a way they can understand and apply that knowledge base is actually fairly important because geek speak doesn't always translate well.

      Besides, clouds are fluffy.

      Plus, my inner grammar nazi wanted you to know that, "Neither does most engineers, bloggers or journalists" should be 'Neither do' because does is a singular verb while does is plural.

      Have a nice day.
  • KISS-thinking needed

    Interesting post.

    I don’t live in the US but I assume the result of this survey would be approx the same if executed in Europe or in other areas with the approx same IT maturity. Even if people use many cloud services on a daily basis they only use it like a sort of BPaaS or upper level SaaS. BPaaS and upper level SaaS are great but I think cloud services should be used wider. The pace is good but still a too bit slow, especially in Europe. To accelerate and get more users and companies to adopt cloud services the cloud market needs to educate the potential customers even with basic information. The market has come to a point where we talk a lot of nitty gritty ONLY, and it’s very difficult to understand and adopt the information for someone who’s not an “insider”. The market needs to peak out from the cloud, think “hey, here are some potential customers who don’t understand why cloud is a great way to deliver productivity” and start to talk basics to the customers in a language the customers understand. That’s why I wrote my ‘S'il vous plait, please habla Deutsch!’ on Outsource Magazine. Lately I’ve seen some really great; either new or historical, posts tweeted or published. I think it’s a great way to go and we need to continue the job. Customers need both basic and deep level info, not only deep level.
  • ...misunderstood?...not in every case

    Where I live you can forget about cable internet, and tv for that matter. DSL internet isn't possible either. No, here it's wireless internet, mobile broadband, or satellite. Any of these systems can and DO suffer interference in stormy weather. As a user keenly aware of this limitation based on my own experience, I believe the #1 deterrent to relying on the cloud is that if your internet access is down, you've got nothing. I don't mind backing up to the cloud, but I can't depend on it.
  • The almighty cloud

    I think the people who offer cloud services, like this perception of ambiguity just fine, I've never cared for the cloud. You can't get away from it, but I don't use most of the services listed I bank very frequently online, I only check my statement, I don't use any of the other banking services offered and I don't have or use Facebook or other social media sites.

    When people don't clearly understand something like "The Cloud", it's easier to pull the wool over their eyes and convince them what's being offered is good for them.

    Letting someone else host and have access to their information on a server that can be anywhere in the world and that for all intents and purposes who really knows what these companies or their employees really do with the information.

    A lot of the information that gets hacked isn't always from an outside attack but from a employee(s) to former employee(s).

    The Einstein–Szilárd letter written in 1939 warned of potential and extremely powerful bombs that could be more powerful than anything the world had seen before, they were right to be concerned.

    People share so much of their private information with companies, I don't share or store anything on a cloud service like documents or pictures, there was an article recently that reported Facebook would no longer keep pictures past 30 days apparently they weren't so quick to delete them -

    Would Facebook have started a new deletion policy if they hadn't been exposed?

    Steve Wozniak stated the following only a few weeks ago - "I really worry about everything going into the cloud. I think it's going to be horrendous. I think there are going to be a lot of horrible problems in the next five years."

    Wozniak is involved in "The Cloud" industry and he's worried, if he's worried then we should be as well.
    • I read that article...

      I'd say that Wozniak is fairly guilty of misunderstanding what the cloud is as well.

      His concern is with policy regarding ownership and usage of data by companies that you freely submit your data to.

      But that's a policy level concern that exists whether they're storing it in a cloud service or on a USB drive on site of the business.
  • They really need to define the term "cloud"

    Even though I'm in computing, by what I read I always thought cloud computing was about having a "dumb terminal" at home and having all processing happening "out there" like with tablets and Chromebooks.

    Also, I never even thought of banking and online shopping as cloud activities as I was doing them years before the term "cloud computing" came around.

    Anyway, doesn't matter what the cloud is, I don't trust it. My collection of WesternD hard drives are much more likely to be the safest place for my data.

    And finally, the cloud has recently been affected by weather, didn't a storm on the US east coast shut down part of Amazon's cloud services for a while a few weeks ago?
  • With all due respect

    I really don't believe the average American, Australian, German, or name your country is going to have a real grasp on what cloud is. Even within the industry there are so many people talking about cloud but so few that truly understand what cloud is and what differentiates cloud from simply virtualization, client server, and other technologies.

    To be honest, I am not sure what the point was of this article. I don't know of many people that work in technology that would expect your average citizen to understand and articulate what a cloud solution is and what it means to them. Nor do I think that is terribly important for them to understand the underlying infrastructure of how their user experience is delivered.

    With this being an election year, what is important is that the average citizen understands the pro's and con's of who is running for various political offices and what that means to them. Who knows, maybe some of this cloud computing "stuff" can make that a little more clear.
    • Definitely have to agree

      Even my wife, who is fairly computer literate for a non-IT person, starts getting that glazed-over look in her eyes when I mention things like "RAM", "multiple cores", "gigabytes", "Ethernet", & other terms that are [b]basic[/b] lingo for us techies... let alone terms like "server farms", "virtual machines", or "cloud computing".

      The same thing happens in other areas that involve technical expertise; the average person, for example, isn't going to know what "tax bracket" they're in (even though they've been paying taxes for years), or what the sales tax rate is for their state/county (if applicable), because it's not something they deal with on a daily basis. By the same token, while I understand how easy baseball stats like RBIs & batting averages are calculated, I don't follow baseball anywhere near enough to understand how they calculate pitchers' ERAs; nor do I have the knowledge to judge whether a particular referee is truly making bad calls in a soccer/football/baseball/basketball/other sports event, or is simply being bad-mouthed by the other viewers because they're upset that "their" team is losing.
  • Cloud is here to stay, but needs education for all concerned

    According to the most common definition, cloud is Internet-based computing where shared resources, software and information are supplied to users on demand, rather like a utility company would supply electricity, water or gas. The term is not new, it just entering the mainstream now rather than being a technical backroom way to describe the internet medium. The challenge is cloud is such an all encompassing term and people want a clear definition that makes it specific. Simply put however, users now have the choice of a new way to consume computing power, applications and data. No longer is it necessary to buy software on a floppy disk or a CD. Instead, you can have immediacy of delivery through the Internet for an application you want now. Users have been educated into this way of working with iTunes and app stores, and they’ve come to expect a seamless link between their locally run application and data and information from the Internet – and at a very digestible and economic price point.

    As an average user you are also likely to be using cloud computing in the form of webmail, Flickr, YouTube, Facebook and a plethora of other services; storing what you would consider private information in the Cloud without knowing where it is in reality... or even caring. In effect, Cloud has become a very simple and trendy way of describing all things that occur outside the firewall whether it be on a corporate network or on your home PC. We have seen new form factors disrupting and changing many market sectors already. Think of Blockbuster Video, once the darling of the entertainment world and now struggling to survive against the new delivery factors of Netflix and LOVEFiLM. Tower Records, once a worldwide brand, has been put out of business by the ability for users to now purchase music faster and cheaper via iTunes and online music stores. The same trends are occurring in computing and cloud will disrupt the status quo of how many things have been done for years.

    So with this growth of cloud comes a need for education and a change in skill requirements and job opportunities. One of CRN’s top 10 cloud predictions for 2012 is a growth in demand for cloud jobs as validated by an article in CIO magazine in early 2012. Cloud computing is and will have a major impact on skills across business, with IT being the most logically effected it will also impose itself onto roles in marketing, support and business roles in general. The demand for cloud-based skills already is showing signs of exploding. A recent report from Wanted Analytics, reported that hiring for cloud computing expertise showed a growth of 61 percent year over year. The cloud market is growing at such a pace that the number of job postings is accelerating and yet the talent qualifying for these roles is marginal.

    More education is needed in cloud across all sectors to enable businesses to understand and utilize this important new technology option to its advantage and this need for understanding stretches past simply the border of the IT department. Expect to see more cloud courses and exams providing the market with the required validations in this new cloudy world. Ignoring cloud is no longer an option, utilizing it to your advantage is!

    Ian Moyse
    • The so called "CLOUD"

      Has been here for 20 years or more, they just gave it a new jazzy name and called
      "Come in Spinner"
  • "The Cloud" has been here.

    The cloud to me is my own materials that are stored on some server and not exclusively stored on my computer, and that can be accessed from any computer or device connected to the internet. Reliable storage and reliable retrievability are the keys to the cloud. In August 1994 the first brokerage firm offered online trading. Today, ETrade, Scottrade, TD Americitrade, and others dominate the "cloud" online trading market.
    On of my neighbors has called me many times because she has clicked something in her email and in her documents program that locked up her computer. I fixed it by getting her a gmail account and teaching how to use Google Docs. She has never called me since with a computer problem. She cannot change her email program or change her document program because they are not on her computer. They are on "the cloud" safe from her changing anything.
    I own and run a small private school. We use gmail, Google Docs and the "Share" function. The course work is from Alpha Omega and their Ignitia program. All my records are stored on their servers. I set up a Moodle site where I offer mirror libraries of supplemental materials for their courses and additional courses. Both Ignita, their course work, and my Moodle site are on "the cloud."
    • Maybe she doesn't call you

      Because she found someone who will fix her problems instead of moving her to other technologies :-)
      • My neighbor's computer problems.

        My neighbor was using Microsoft Word and Internet Explorer. She did not install updates. Any pop up that looked "official" she would click "install." By moving her to a cloud based program Gmail and Google Docs instead of her computer based system I removed her opportunity to change her email and her document programs in any way. I also installed both Firefox (Google Chrome was not available) to use as her browser. I set up folders in Google Docs and walked her through how to use them. I convinced her that she did not have to worry about filling up her hard drive. She had deleted some important documents before. She did understand that she was using the cloud because I brought my computer over to her house and had her log on my computer to see her Gmail and Google Docs on my computer. She was amazed.
    • A few comments on your glowing description of the cloud

      Mr. Moyse,

      I find I must take exception to some of your statements as they present a slanted view of cloud computing.

      You say, “No longer is it necessary to buy software on a floppy disk or a CD.“ Yeah, you got that right. They don’t want to sell it to you once for a fixed price and then let you use it as long as you want. No, now you will pay for the software as a monthly fee... forever.

      Then, you say: “ a very digestible and economic price point.”

      B.S. And that does not mean Bachelor of Science. How is paying for your software on a regular subscription basis more economical? Not to mention that once you’re using a particular company’s software, you will have trouble changing to some other provider. No, you are locked in.

      “The same trends are occurring in computing and cloud will disrupt the status quo of how many things have been done for years.”

      True. And all in favor of those companies cramming it down our throats. A recent blog in this forum described how Microsoft would make a huge increase in revenue from Office if they sell it as a subscription service rather than a boxed package. And who is paying MS all that increased wealth? You and me.

      “More education is needed in cloud across all sectors to enable businesses to understand ... this ... new technology...”

      You got that right! Educate them to the problems of cloud computing. Explain how this will increase their costs in the long run, how it will make their data less secure, how it will lock them into vendors, how it will mean a total loss of computing ability when portions of the Internet go down. Which we all know happens now, and will continue to happen. Tell them that all their data stored in the cloud is available to the service provider, hackers and government agencies.
      “Ignoring cloud is no longer an option...” Again, you got that right. Too many people are ignoring the problems with the cloud, and will ultimately pay a price for that.

      The whole tone of your writing is a glowing description designed to give the reader a warm, fuzzy feeling about the cloud without an understanding the problems.