Nowadays, it seems that the Cloud is everywhere. It’s trendy, it’s cool, and it’s for everyone. People are literally using it without even knowing it. And therein lies the problem.

From a consumer perspective, I find that the language used to advertise the “Cloud” is vague, especially when it’s targeted at audiences who are, like me, not IT specialists. The most obvious example of this is Apple’s description of iCloud as something that “…connects you and your Apple devices in amazing ways. It makes sure you always have the latest versions of your most important things – like photos, documents, apps, notes and contacts – on whatever device you are using.” Furthermore, it “…does it all automatically. Just like that.”

Amazing ways? What are these magical “amazing ways” that you speak of Apple?

I know that the Cloud means I can take photos on my iPhone and then access them almost instantly on my iPad, and that I can edit a Google Docs spreadsheet at the same time as someone else across the world, but as an everyday consumer, I’m a little in the dark as to how these helpful “Clouds” actually work!

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To be fair, vague descriptions are probably part of the reason why the majority of people love iPhones (it is certainly part of the reason of why I love mine); the requirement to be tech savvy is taken away from the user at the same time as making them feel secure that all of their incredibly important phone data can be salvaged if anything goes wrong. The messaging reassures me that if disaster strikes and I lose my phone, all my holiday selfies will be safe! However, although Apple (quite rightly) describes what their Cloud can do for me, the user, it tells me absolutely nothing about the Cloud itself. It is the equivalent of putting all of your personal (and sometimes professional) valuables in a suitcase and checking it in at Heathrow and expecting it to be undisturbed by the time it gets to Australia. You assume that it will not be stolen or interfered with en route despite not knowing who is handling your luggage. There is a reason why you always keep your wallet, devices etc in your carry on isn’t there?

The Cloud is advertised as some mystical container in the sky, limitless in size, available everywhere, yet absolutely secure. To some, the Cloud is perceived as an all-encompassing simple entity; this is something that it is certainly not. The Cloud is a term that depicts the means of delivering computing capabilities (processing, storage, etc) using shared or dedicated resources that are housed in a secure, centralised platform (“the Cloud”), rather than using the customer’s own servers. When described like this, the illusion of simplicity can be quickly shattered.

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Perhaps this is because I work for an IT company and regularly deal with Clouds on the B2B end of the spectrum, but to me, consumer messaging seems to underestimate not only the concept of the power of Cloud computing in everyday life,  but also the real benefits to the person operating it. Almost everyone I know has a smart phone and almost everyone uses it as a personal device as well as for work. Smart phones hold an incredible amount of personal and professional information that, by design, can be accessed from multiple devices at multiple times. A little bit dangerous, don’t you think? If a CEO, for example, has had a poor experience with a smart phone, either having lost a phone that they hadn’t “backed up to the Cloud” (because they perhaps thought it was done automatically…), their confidence and trust in the Cloud may be damaged.

When using Clouds in a business and/or consumer environment, the messaging needs to be a lot more refined, educational, informative and, on the whole, a lot less vague. If you magnify the simple example of using the Cloud to store your personal photos on your phone to a business level, so that all of a company’s financial, HR, product development and customer information is stored on the Cloud, then you start to realise the scale of it and how imperative it is that we, the consumer, know more about what lies behind it.