We can debate over details, but most Lifehacker readers are familiar with the basics of cloud computing. When it comes to the general population, however, cluelessness is still rampant: one survey suggests that half of us believe cloud computing doesn't work in a storm. Does that matter?
Picture by Rainy City
The survey, conducted on behalf of Citrix, covered 1000 Americans, but I'm not going to be so jingoistic as to assume that similar figures wouldn't show up in Australia. Other notable figures: 54 per cent claimed never to use cloud computing (unlikely in a strict sense if they've ever conducted a search); 22 per cent said they had pretended to understand the cloud in a work context when in fact they didn't; and 40 per cent suggested that a key advantage of cloud technology was the ability to work from home entirely naked.
From a consumer perspective, arguably the most important feature of cloud computing is that you don't have to know how it works. As long as you get access to your emails and your hosted applications and your Dropbox, the details of how it operates aren't a particular concern. That's not an entirely healthy attitude — if you rely on everything being in the cloud, you can get a nasty shock if you don't have connectivity or your favourite service shuts down. But it's understandable: the average person doesn't spend time thinking about how IT services are provisioned. They just want to know that they can get to what they need.
If you work in IT, chances are you do think about those issues, and the figures become a little more worrying. While punters can happily assume that cloud services are "stuff that's accessed through the Internet", within tech departments the important distinguishing feature is that cloud is generally accessed (and budgeted) as a service and often hosted externally, which changes many of the mechanics involved in setting it up and supporting it.
IT departments often rely on the familiarity of consumer-grade cloud providers. Woolworths' IT head Damon Rees makes this point in a recent blog post outlining how Google services underpin a recent rollout of iPads for supermarket managers:
It was very important that we picked something that was totally easy to use and most people are familiar with the intuitive nature of Google from their personal lives. As Google is cloud-based and device agnostic, it enables us to work the system across our existing and future IT infrastructure.
That all makes sense, but there's always a risk in assuming that your end users will interact with services the way you expect. If we're going to entirely rely on cloud, it would help if more people understood it. Working at home naked might be a motivation for them to learn.