Confused About the Cloud? You Are Not Alone

By Will Stevens, Webfusion

If someone asked you "what is the cloud" how long would it take you to come up with a good answer? Thirty seconds? A couple of minutes? Or would you have to regretfully shrug your shoulders and admit you don't really understand what it is?

It's fair to assume that most people in the IT industry would fall into the first two categories - even if you're not raising bootstrap funding for an innovative cloud-based start-up, the chances are that if you work in the sector in any capacity, you'll have some knowledge of the cloud. But it seems the general public are lagging behind when it comes to understanding one of the hottest computing buzzwords around, as this infographic demonstrates.

(Infographic credit: The Webfusion VPS Server team)

So what should we take away from a survey that indicates a huge number of Americans use cloud services, but appear to do so without realizing?

It's tempting to dismiss the findings as being no big deal - after all the public doesn't want to go on a crash course in computing, they just want to be able to access their emails and listen to their music. This attitude might be understandable if the IT industry didn't keep pushing the concept of cloud services as if it was a phrase that was well understood, but surely marketing your products using a buzzword that people haven't grasped makes little sense.

After all, among those 60 percent who profess to be ignorant about the cloud will be a significant number of existing and potential small business owners - exactly the kind of person business-related cloud services should be targeted at. But the demands of a small business owner go beyond those of casual users of services such as Gmail and iTunes - if you're looking to turn a profit it's not enough to know that something works the way it should most of the time, you need to know you're getting the cheapest, most reliable solution around.

If you work in the IT industry, you'll be aware the cloud does indeed offer a cheap, reliable solution for any number of business needs. But why use a term that has to be translated before your target audience understands what you're trying to sell them?

What's the point in telling someone the service they want will be delivered through the cloud when all they really want to know is if the product will save them money? If the words you're using carry little meaning for your target audience then you have drifted into the realm of empty buzzwords - small business owners are as likely to feel as engaged by "the cloud" as the average employee is by the kind of management speak which still dominates many companies. So perhaps it's time the IT industry forgot about the cloud and focused on the benefits of individual products. After all, small business owners aren't interested in some overarching buzzwords - they just want a service that's right for them.