Public still hazy on cloud computing, survey finds

As Cloud computing continues to take the business world by storm, new research has found that the public’s understanding of ‘the Cloud’ is still poor, some five years after the term became widely used in the IT industry.

A new survey from Webfusion – one of the UK’s biggest hosting groups, polled more than 1,000 of the general public to gauge their understanding of what the Cloud meant in the context of computing. The research found that almost two in five (38 per cent) said that they had little or no understanding of the term, while only a third (34 per cent) said they were confident that they knew what it meant.

Although the poll found that ‘cloudy’ applications such as file hosting services similar to Dropbox, email services like Hotmail or Gmail, or online music hosting such as iTunes were each seen as cloud services by around 30 per cent of the population, a similar proportion did not recognise these to be Cloud. A much smaller proportion (15.7 per cent) said that scalable hosting across multiple servers counted as a cloud service.

Responding to the findings Thomas Vollrath, CEO of Webfusion’s parent company Host Europe Group, said that the results validated the marketing approaches of the brands mentioned in the survey questions, and pointed the way for other consumer services looking to increase their market share.

“The word ‘Cloud’ is a nebulous one at the best of times, and it can mean a whole host of discrete things to different people,” said Vollrath. “However, the term itself – and its underlying message of bringing lower costs and greater flexibility to IT – is only really relevant to businesses.

“The research shows that providers of online services to the consumer market should be very wary of using the word ‘cloud’,” continued Vollrath. “Most users don’t understand the technicalities of what defines a Cloud service, and probably care even less. All they want is innovative applications that give a great user experience on a variety of personal devices, and consumer marketers should concentrate on those messages.

“Cloud remains strictly a business term, but even then I would argue that it is just as important – perhaps more so – to focus on the specific benefits of the service that you provide. Telling a business owner or MD that you can significantly lower their hosting costs and improve availability is usually a much more compelling message than simply to rely on the cachet of Cloud,” he concluded.

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