For those of us within the industry, it’s difficult to get a handle on the level of understanding that the ‘person in the street’ has for what we do. Even moderately technically adept people know the frustration of watching a casual computer user completely failing to take advantage of the efficiencies designed into technology. Who hasn’t been tempted to take over when they see a person carefully typing ‘google.com’ into their browser’s address bar, before entering a URL into the Google search box? It’s difficult to get back to the mindset of technological naivete, and this is even more true for highly experienced and expert people within the industry encountering the misconceptions of the general public. It can be amusing, and it can be infuriating, but the serious side to this issue is that a lack of understanding by the public can result in a slower uptake of technologies, which will have an impact on revenue and the development of a healthy market.
A recent study from Wakefield Research, sponsored by Citrix, showed that 56% of respondents claimed they had never used the cloud. In fact, 95% of them use it regularly. The most bizarre finding was that 51% of people believed that ‘the cloud’ was somehow associated with and affected by stormy weather. Now, the cynically inclined among our readers (and this writer) might pause at this point and ponder the possibility that this survey was designed specifically to illicit these sort of answers; after all, ‘haha look how dumb the public are’ is going to get more exposure than yet another dry-as-dust survey about outsourcing infrastructure.
And yet, the survey should still give us cause to consider that a lack of understanding in the general population is harmful to business. Only 16 percent of those questioned gave a comprehensive and correct account of the cloud; 34% believed it was too expensive; 32% avoided the cloud — or thought they were avoiding it — because of security concerns, and 31% because of privacy concerns. On the other hand, 40% were particularly impressed with the cloud’s ability to let them work from home ‘in their birthday suits’ or while getting a tan on the beach. Countering the security and privacy concerns, many were enthusiastic that the cloud allowed them to keep content that they wouldn’t want on their local storage, and quite a lot of people enjoy the advantage of using cloud communication technologies to deal with people they’d rather not in person.
Most will admit that ‘the cloud’ is a buzz phrase of fairly limited usage. To techs it implies a number of technologies that it’s useful to refer to under one rubric — particularly those related to abstracting infrastructure and providing it as a service; to business people it means something broader and the term is often used as a placeholder for ‘some technical wizardry on the web’ , and in the media its meaning has been expanded so that ‘the cloud’ is pretty much synonymous with ‘the Internet’. It’s hardly surprising that the public at large hasn’t got a firm grip on the ideas that are intended to be conveyed by the term.
But, ‘the cloud’ is going to become the defining technology of the next few decades, in whatever form it ends up taking, so it might behoove us to make some steps towards educating the public as to what it is, and how it will affect their lives for the good.