The European Union’s cloud computing strategy couldn’t come at a better time as the region lags behind the rest of the world when it comes to cloud computing usage.

The EU announced its cloud computing strategy last month and is optimistic it will create new jobs and help boost a struggling economy.

An information campaign is necessary if the EU is to overturn the misunderstanding and general lack of knowledge about the cloud.

A recent survey from BSA, The Software Alliance found only a quarter of respondents used cloud services, compared to 34 per cent globally. Nearly 4000 people were surveyed and the majority had either never heard of cloud computing or had heard the term but didn’t know what it was.

While only 24 per cent of respondents said they used cloud services compared to the majority, who didn’t know what cloud computing was, it turns out many were using cloud applications, they just didn’t realise it. Almost 90 per cent of cloud users accessed the cloud for personal use only – mostly email – compared to under 30 per cent who used it for business.

Europeans aren’t the only ones with their head in the clouds over cloud computing. Americans don’t seem to be very clued up on it either. A recent survey from software company Citrix uncovered some pretty amusing misconceptions about the cloud.

Citrix’s surveyed 1000 people and when asked what they thought cloud computing was, the answers varied from clouds in the sky, pillows, heaven, drugs and even toilet paper. More than half thought bad weather could affect cloud computing. A fifth of those surveyed even admitted they had pretended to know what the cloud was. Just 16 per cent of respondents correctly answered that cloud computing uses a computer network to store, access and share data via the Internet.

Similarly to Europeans, many Americans are using cloud services without even realising it. The majority said they had never used cloud computing, but in fact the opposite was true; almost all of those surveyed had used the cloud either for banking, online shopping, social networking or file sharing.

While I wasn’t able to find statistics on whether the general public in Australia understands cloud computing, a recent survey of small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) shows similarities to cloud knowledge in the US and Europe.

The MYOB survey of 1000 SMBs found only 14 per cent admitted to using the cloud for business. MYOB’s CEO Tim Rees said this was a surprising statistic considering the widespread use of email, online banking and other cloud services. A quarter of respondents said they hadn’t moved any of their operations to the cloud because they didn’t know enough about it to make a decision. Similar to the problem in the US and Europe, Rees said the education campaign might need a rethink as businesses are still not grasping the definition of cloud computing, let alone its possibilities.

With the understanding of cloud computing still poor in Europe, the US and Australia, we could probably assume it is a similar problem globally. If education campaigns have so far produced limited results, what do you think could be done to improve the general understanding of cloud computing? What can be done to convince individuals and companies to embrace the technology? Please contribute your thoughts in the comments section below.