by Bill Snyder

Cloud Computing Confusion: Survey Says US is Clueless about Cloud

Aug 31, 20123 mins
Cloud ComputingInternet

Cloud computing may be the hottest technology trend of 2012, but a new survey suggests many Americans don't even know what it is.

Are you confused about cloud computing? Do you wonder what it really means, but are afraid to ask because you don’t want to look dumb? Relax. You’ve got plenty of company. Although “Cloud” has become the technology buzzword of the year, vendors and the tech press haven’t done a very good job explaining what cloud computing really is.

When Citrix, a Silicon Valley software company, recently surveyed 1000 people to find out what they thought about cloud computing, some of the answers sounded like a comedy routine. More than half of respondents said bad weather affects cloud computing, while others said it has something to do with pillows, drugs or even toilet paper. (No, I don’t get the connection to the last one either.)

Of the people who know what the cloud actually is, 40 percent said its chief advantage is that it lets them work at home while naked–I’m not making this up. About a third of survey participants said the cloud lets them work on their tans at the beach while accessing files. Another third of respondents said the cloud’s biggest benefit is that it allows them to store embarrassing videos somewhere other than on their personal hard drives.


Tech has become such an important part of our daily lives and culture that it’s not surprising people pretend to know more about it than they really do. In the case of the cloud, one in five people surveyed admitted that they have told others that they know what the cloud is and how it works – even though that wasn’t the truth. Some people said they lied about their cloud savvy at work or during a job interview, but my favorite statistic in this category: 17 percent of respondents pretended to know what the cloud is during a first date.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Goofy answers aside, many people really don’t know what the cloud is, and it’s not their fault. (Okay, if you lie about it on a date, it is your fault.) I suspect that this survey was not particularly rigorous, but I’m fairly certain that lots of people are confused when it comes to cloud computing.

Interestingly, 54 percent of the respondents said they never use cloud computing, but nearly all of them do. The services they use constitute a decent outline of what consumers (with or without their clothes on) can actually do with the cloud. Forty-five percent said they have played online games; 29 percent store photos online; 22 percent store music or videos online; and 19 percent use online file-sharing.

If you’re still wondering what exactly cloud computing is, here’s a quick definition from Merriam-Webster: “the practice of storing regularly used computer data on multiple servers that can be accessed through the Internet.”

(Teaser image credit: Carnegie Mellon Computer Club)