The majority of the general public are still confused about the cloud. This is hardly breaking news; most IT professionals are aware that the layperson would struggle to define the cloud though they most likely use it every day. But when it’s senior business people who are still struggling to understand how the cloud affects their business, and in the light of projections which say that the global market for cloud will reach $79.1 billion by 2018, is it time we asked ourselves whether the IT industry is providing enough information and training?
A lack of faith in the cloud
Plenty of white papers, cloud reports and surveys have indicated that understanding of the cloud is lacking. Just last year, 51% of 1000 American adults believed that the weather could affect cloud computing and 53% had pretended to understand the cloud.
AS recently as September a survey carried out by a UK-based cloud hosting provider of managing directors, financial directors, IT managers and other senior professionals found that a quarter of respondents only had a vague idea of what the cloud is or didn’t know at all, despite 60% stating they currently use the cloud and 15% saying they intend to in the future. It’s important to note that these are senior business people, the individuals who make critical decisions over whether to migrate to the cloud, or what cloud solution to go for.
Although understanding of the cloud is increasing (after all, for that quarter that didn’t know, there were three quarters who did) there is still a sense of unease around cloud computing. Security has been a concern for customers ever since the term cloud came about and the recent NSA scandal, though not directly to do with cloud computing, has done nothing to quieten concerns. Unsurprisingly, security is the biggest concern for CIOs. Yet as Matt Asay points out, these concerns are not slowing down cloud adoption and this is the juncture at which a worrying trend could start to develop where businesses use technology that they don’t fully understand.
Is this such a problem?
So why is this a problem? Surely an MD doesn’t need to understand the intricate ins and outs of virtualisation or encryption, rather they need to know what the cloud can offer them and that they either will get the right amount of outsourced support or have in-house technicians that do have the crucial knowledge they might be personally lacking.
Firstly, the rate at which this technology has developed means that there is a skills gap within IT departments to provide the comprehensive support needed when using the cloud. According to a 2013 IDC report, 1.7 million cloud computing related jobs globally could not be filled because applicants lacked the necessary training, certification and experience needed.
Moreover, if businesses are signing up to a service that they don’t fully understand then we’re in a situation where either the IT industry and cloud providers have a dangerously favourable balance of power, or vice versa. On the one hand, customers aren’t equipped with the knowledge to challenge us so we can improve our services, and on the other hand fallacious ideas can take hold and spread about cloud computing. The issue of security could well come in to line with the second scenario. Of course security is a real concern and there are risks involved in signing up to the cloud, but there is also an argument to say that the perceived risk has become the biggest issue within cloud security, and that as an industry we’re being forced to manage this perception more than anything else.
What can we do
There is an argument to say that customers will inevitably catch up, but in the interim it’s important to recognise that a lot of information available about the cloud is either too vague or too technical. In the meantime it’s important that we, as an industry, strive to supply customers with jargon-free, comprehensible explanations so users fully understand what cloud computing can and can’t offer them.