If there was ever a perfect example of why it's good to consult more than one news source to get the whole story, it's a little item about the cloud and people's perceptions of it.
Recently, an item in Fierce Enterprise Communications caught my eye. With the headline "Workplace of the Future Will Be in the Cloud," I plunged into the story, which concerns a Citrix-sponsored survey of just over 1,000 U.S. adults about the cloud.
It described the survey, relating how it shows that "most Americans" think the future workplace will be cloud-based, and how a majority of the survey respondents recognized the economic benefits of cloud computing. But it also noted most people are a bit unclear about what cloud computing is, exactly.
My first reaction was to wonder who these adults were. Are they all in the business world, or even technology? If it's just a random collection of 103 adults, how are they so knowledgeable about the cloud? I don't know about your non-business circle of friends and family, but mine couldn't ever be described as cloud-savvy.
And then someone sent me a link to a Network World article about the same survey, with a different take. The headline: "Survey: One-third of Americans believe 'the cloud' is related to the weather, not tech." This article emphasized the fact that only one out of six adults in the survey could accurately identify the cloud as the technology world knows it.
It also noted that 20 percent of surveyed adults had "faked it" when the question of the cloud came up in conversation, acting as if they knew what it was. Sixty percent said they doubted that most other people really knew what it was, either.
Interesting contrast in how the survey was reported, but what does it really mean? Well, I went straight to the survey source. If you have a few minutes, the survey's findings are detailed at that link. But if not, savor these highlights:
• Just over half of respondents believe stormy weather will interfere with their use of the cloud (well, maybe if the storm is Hurricane Isaac, they have a point).
• One-third of respondents think the cloud is something far off in the future, and one out of seven think it's something only for people who work in technology.
• Once the cloud concept is explained to them, two out of three people do agree that it offers economic benefits and nearly that many saw it as the workplace of the future.
• One out of three people like the idea of the cloud because they figure it's a way to share information with people they'd just as soon not be interacting with personally.
• Politically, 51 percent of Democrats and 42 percent of Republicans said they wish they could cast their ballot via the cloud.
In the end, it is all about how a question in a survey is asked and explained. I am very confident that once we start to explain to people how they use cloud-based applications such as Facebook, or store their pictures in Picasa, they will realize that probably 80 percent of them are using the cloud every day.