A survey, commissioned by Citrix, shows that cloud computing is a confusing topic to many, including regular users of it.

Most Americans are confused by the term “the cloud” and do not associate it with the IT business, according to a new survey.

The national survey by Wakefield Research, commissioned by Citrix, showed that most respondents believe the cloud is related to weather, while some referred to pillows, drugs and toilet paper. However, even those who don’t know exactly what the cloud is recognize its economic benefits and think the cloud is a catalyst for small-business growth, the survey showed.

The survey of more than 1,000 American adults was conducted in August 2012 and shows that while the cloud is widely used, it is still misunderstood. For example, 51 percent of respondents, including a majority of Millennials, believe stormy weather can interfere with cloud computing. Nearly one-third see the cloud as a thing of the future, yet 97 percent are actually using cloud services today via online shopping, banking, social networking and file sharing. Despite this confusion, three in five—59 percent—said they believe the “workplace of the future” will exist entirely in the cloud.

The survey shows there is a significant disconnect between what Americans know, what they pretend to know and what they actually do when it comes to cloud computing.

One in five respondents—22 percent—said they have pretended to know what the cloud is or how it works. Some of the false claims take place during work hours, with one-third of these respondents faking an understanding of the cloud in the office and another 14 percent doing so during a job interview. Interestingly, an additional 17 percent have pretended to know what the cloud was during a first date. Younger Americans are more likely to pretend to know what the cloud is and how it works—36 percent of those aged 18 to 29, and 18 percent of those aged 30 and older. Also, respondents in the west—28 percent—are more likely to pretend to know about the cloud than the overall group of those surveyed (22 percent).

And when asked what “the cloud” is, a majority responded that it is either an actual cloud, the sky or something related to the weather (29 percent). Only 16 percent said they think of a computer network to store, access and share data from Internet-connected devices. Some of the other verbatim responses include toilet paper, pillow, smoke, outer space, cyber-space, mysterious network, unreliable, security, sadness, relaxed, overused, oh goody a hacker’s dream, storage, movies, money, memory, backup, joy, innovation, drugs, heaven and a place to meet.

Meanwhile, 54 percent of respondents claim to never use cloud computing. However, 95 percent of this group actually does use the cloud. Specifically, 65 percent bank online, 63 percent shop online, 58 percent use social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter, 45 percent have played online games, 29 percent store photos online, 22 percent store music or videos online, and 19 percent use online file sharing. All of these services are cloud-based. Even when people don’t think they’re using the cloud, they really are, the survey revealed.

The survey also showed that 68 percent of respondents said they recognize the economic benefits of cloud computing after learning more about the cloud. The most recognized benefits are that the cloud helps consumers by lowering costs (35 percent), spurs small-business growth (32 percent) and boosts customer engagement for businesses (35 percent). Millennials are most likely to believe that the cloud generates jobs (26 percent for Millennials, versus 19 percent for Boomers).

Despite these advantages, Americans still have reasons why they limit their use of cloud computing or avoid it entirely. Among those who hardly ever or never use the cloud, the top three deterrents are cost (34 percent), security concerns (32 percent) and privacy concerns (31 percent).

“This survey clearly shows that the cloud phenomenon is taking root in our mainstream culture, yet there is still a wide gap between the perceptions and realities of cloud computing,” said Kim DeCarlis, vice president of corporate marketing at Citrix, in a statement. “While significant market changes like this take time, the transition from the PC era to the cloud era is happening at a remarkable pace. The most important takeaway from this survey is that the cloud is viewed favorably by the majority of Americans, and when people learn more about the cloud they understand it can vastly improve the balance between their work and personal lives.”

Source: eWeek