I know its hard to believe, but industry insiders often make and drink too much of their own Kool-Aid! Unfortunately, this seems to be happening all too frequently with cloud computing, the latest in a long line of our industry’s over-hyped buzzwords. Here’s how to tell if you need to come back down earth when communicating about “the cloud” with the rest of the universe.

1. You are incapable of providing a clear definition, in plain English (or whatever your primary language is) of what cloud computing is.  Even for the most introductory purposes, you are constitutionally unable to sum up cloud computing simply, such as “a scalable computing model that lets people access and use software, server and storage resources over the Internet”. 

2. You have become fanatical about “the cloud”. You’ve lost the ability to even-handedly assess the pros and cons,  or let any doubts about security, privacy or performance temper your zeal (even as Google argues that technology has ensured that “complete privacy does not exist”). You’ve decided that “the cloud” way is the only way.

3. You spend a disturbing amount of time pondering and debating questions such as, “is a private cloud (a private cloud being a cloud architecture and services that an organization builds for its own use) really a cloud?”—even as you acknowledge the existence of private clouds.

4. You feel compelled to make nuanced distinctions between cloud computing and software-as-a-service, infrastructure-as-a-service, and anything-else-as-a-service—even though hardly anyone else cares.

5. You feel more at home marketing the benefits of “the cloud” than marketing the benefits of your solution—whether its CRM, collaboration, financials or flying monkeys.

6. Software and computer appliances annoy you. After all, appliances offer customers many of the cost, time, management and ease of use benefits as solutions offered via the cloud. But appliances—and customer data–sit on customer premises, and vendors provide service, maintenance and upgrades over the Web—kind of reverse cloud. If appliances take off, wouldn’t that slow down “the cloud” as you currently define it?

If you answered “yes” to three or more of the above questions, it’s time to put down the Kool-Aid and remember that the vast majority of business decision makers “really don’t know clouds at all” (thanks, Joni Mitchell). They are just trying to figure out how run payroll more cheaply, collaborate more productively on new widget design, or sell more widgets. Meanwhile, many IT people believe the cloud was invented to take their jobs away. So please bring your cloud conversations down to earth, before “the cloud” is vaporized.