From here, those clouds look like rain!

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For the last year, we’ve been bombarded by technology companies talking about “the cloud.” And recently, we’ve seen how “the cloud” can be a confusing, insecure and sometimes dangerous place.

If you ask most consumers, they can’t tell you what a “cloud” is. But whether they know it or not, they are most likely using an aspect of a cloud-based service. Think Gmail, Flickr and DropBox, otherwise known as email, photo sharing and online storage. We may not know the technology behind these useful products, but they are easy-to-use and valuable. But there is a growing problem.

While most of the technology world is focused on talking literally into the ether and to one another, most consumers just want to understand the product or service. They want to know that it works, it’s cheap and their information is safe and secure. And until recently, none of us ever pondered how it’s delivered or the mechanics behind it. But in the last few months we’ve seen accounts permanently deleted from Gmail, security not living up to its claims at DropBox and Sony’s customer database attacked using Amazon’s cloud-based servers and storage. It appears not all clouds are pretty, fluffy and billowy white.

The point is that cloud computing, like most computing, is complicated. And with it brings the inherent challenges of performance, reliability and security. As the old adage goes—one bad apple can spoil the whole lot. The same danger lies for brands tying themselves so closely to the cloud. Once one “cloud” brings rain, the chance people might expect it from others grows, especially when technology marketers have spent so much time telling you about something that is so inconsequential to the actual product. We all get it; the web is the way of the future. We all use Facebook, Google and Yahoo!. Who needs to know how they’re made? We just need to know they are useful, effective and improve the quality of our lives. It’s time to stop our fascination with a clever diagram used as a surrogate by engineers for the Internet and seek some clarity.

Einstein once wrote that we should “Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Maybe most of the technology world can reacquaint themselves with such wisdom and call email what we all know it as…email.

Jason Cieslak is the managing director for the Siegel+Gale Los Angeles office.

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