48% of IT workers didn't know the meaning of the term, while 54% of respondents that use apps like Gmail or Salesforce.com didn't recognize them as cloud-based, according to a Virtacore survey of midsize businesses.
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Burke said that the results highlight issues of definition and understanding in the field, noting that marketplace education will be an ongoing test for cloud vendors.
In fact, the survey showed that plenty of workers have already adopted some form of cloud computing without realizing it. Of the respondents who said that their organization used Web-based software for email, CRM, productivity, conferencing, and other uses, 54% did not identify them as cloud applications. The survey cited examples such as Gmail, Google Docs, Salesforce.com, MobileMe, and WebEx in its question.
Another eye-opener for Virtacore's Burke was that the cloud's cost-savings message -- a common one in marketing to the small and midsize business (SMB) segment -- might not be getting through. Of the companies that said they used no cloud-based applications or services, 47% cited lack of budget as the reason why. Concerns about cloud security, on the other hand, did not crack the top five reasons for steering clear of the cloud.
"We felt pretty strongly everyone knew about that," Burke said, referring to potential cost efficiencies for businesses in the cloud. "I was kind of surprised that didn't shine through a little more."
Though the meaning of the buzzword is far less important than cloud computing's actual business applications, the problem of definition is a real one for vendors like Virtacore. A common challenge the company faces in the market, Burke said, is that potential customers often first think of Software as a Service (SaaS) and applications such as email or CRM when they hear the term "cloud," while Virtacore focuses on servers and infrastructure.
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