Despite its nebulous name, the cloud is solidifying in South Africa with adoption of cloud services accelerating among businesses of all sizes.

That’s according to Debbie Pretorius, GM of MWeb Business, who says that like their counterparts in other countries, South African business executives, employees and entrepreneurs are starting to demand that the Cloud-based functionality and mobility to which they have become accustomed in their personal lives, be replicated in the work environment.

CDW’s 2013 State of the Cloud Report which is based on the results of a survey conducted among 1 242 IT professionals in the United States, revealed that over 40% of small and medium businesses questioned were implementing or maintaining cloud computing, up from around 20% in 2011. For large businesses, the percentage that were implementing or maintaining cloud computing rose from 37% in 2011 to 44% in 2012.

“However, there’s an additional factor in South Africa that is hastening the business sector’s move to cloud – the cost and unreliability of our power supply,” Pretorius says.

“The imminent implementation of tolls in Gauteng is also likely to have an effect as business people and their employees seek to reduce their travelling costs.”

Pretorius points out that many businesses have invested in generators to keep their operations ticking over during power outages. However, the rising cost of fuel is pushing extended generator use beyond the reach of many organisations.

“For businesses without generators, all work simply comes to a halt during power outages. Employees may be able to continue working for a while on their notebook and tablet computers, but with their servers out of action, they cannot access emails or any shared corporate data. Even their telephones may no longer function as they should,” she says.

Another factor of concern is the rising cost of electricity. Eskom’s tariffs, which trebled between 2007 and 2012, are set to rise by at least eight percent per year for the next five years for household consumers. The increase for businesses may be even higher in many areas.

Operating corporate servers consumes a considerable amount of electricity, especially when the cost of maintaining the server room at the correct temperature is also taken into consideration.

And then there are e-tolls which are expected to add up to R250 per month to every users’ travelling costs. Telecommuting and the use of video conferencing provides an attractive alternative. These factors, along with employees’ use of personal cloud applications and mobile devices, are contributing in no small measure to the adoption by businesses of cloud technology.

“Apart from the cost savings associated with cloud in terms of lower infrastructure and operating costs, what they like is having all data files available anywhere, all the time,” Pretorius says.