SEATTLE A recent survey of 1000 adults found a majority thought cloud computing actually referred to a fluffy white thing. Fifty-one percent also believed storms could interfere with it, according to the survey sponsored by Citrix.

Those statistics are evidence that many computer users do not fully understand this new, important technology.

I guess I feel like I'm still in a cloud if you're talking about a cloud with a computer, Deb Clark told KING 5 News. I have no idea what the cloud is.

In the computer world, clouds actually refer to far-away computer systems that store data using the internet. Users can then access that data from any computer or mobile device.

Nearly everyone uses the cloud on a daily basis by logging into email services like Hotmail and Gmail from their computers or phones.

The cloud s also at work when you download a song or app on your iPhone, but later access it one your iPad.

This summer Microsoft announced its next version of Office will operate first and foremost from the cloud, letting users save and share files online, not just on their personal hard drives. Google Docs does the same thing.

And Amazon, typically known for selling stuff online, plays a huge role in making the cloud available by renting data storage and computer server time to others.

Seattle is really ground zero for cloud computing with the presence of Amazon, founded here, Microsoft here and Google having a substantial presence here as well, said Bill Howe, a University of Washington professor.

Thanks to the cloud, new companies no longer need to fill rooms with massive computer servers to store their data.

We're able to innovate in a way we'd never be able to innovate without using these cloud services, said Shauna Causey of, a Seattle startup. scours the web for data about all kinds of products to tell you which ones get the best reviews. The site then decides whether the price is likely to go up or down in the near future.

Without the cloud, would have spent thousands of dollars on servers to run tests and store data. But now it can save money.

We don't need an I-T team because we're using these remote computers and they're being maintained remotely versus us having to buy the computers and then maintain them here in the office, Causey said.

Those savings are huge for a startup.

But for all the perks, to some, the cloud is still a bit cloudy.

I'm not 100 percent convinced that it's totally secure and the answer just yet, said David Cornell, a Seattle resident.

Professor Howe is skeptical of such arguments, saying that, with time, people will come to trust the cloud with their data just like they trust banks with their money.

And we'll sort of realize that we have to put trust in all sorts of companies all the time, Howe said.

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