It’s very easy to overlook how significant a part SMEs play in the UK economy. Not many people know, for example, that SMEs accounted for 99.9% of all private sector businesses in the UK, 59.1% of private sector employment and 48.8% of private sector turnover in 2012. Or that they employed 14.1 million people and had a combined turnover of £1.5 trillion (figures supplied by Federation of Small Businesses).

Despite having such a pronounced presence in the UK’s private sector economy, are they optimally equipped to do their position justice? When it comes to IT, for example, is it still realistic for SMEs to adopt a “keep calm and carry on” approach? Or should they be taking a closer look at their capabilities to ensure they are able to provide the level of reliability and stability that reflects their important role in the private sector?

There are a number of questions SMEs ought to ask themselves about their IT infrastructure. Are they confident they can guarantee their users uninterrupted productivity and uptime? Is their data secure? When IT systems go down, are employees left twiddling their thumbs for hours while the company tries to salvage their data? These questions are important if SMEs want to maintain the availability of business critical data and protect themselves from lost productivity, revenue and even customers.

The dilemma for many SMEs is that while they might be large enough to require significant data storage capabilities, they could be too small to justify the cost of implementing enterprise level data redundancy and application uptime capabilities.

For many small businesses, IT can seem like a major investment and most of them are under pressure to restrain spending to keep their budgets, cash-flow and bottom line in check. Furthermore not every office has IT staff onsite, so whatever hardware is in that office needs to be highly available and easy to manage.

By the same token, however, SMEs, like other businesses, are all working hard to grow and the fact is IT can be a crucial area for investment to enable this growth. The difficulty is in working out how to make investments in IT that are efficient and affordable.

One requirement which is becoming increasingly significant is high availability as businesses seek to minimise application downtime. But many SMEs are reliant on old and outgrown IT systems that put them at risk of increased downtime and place their core data under threat. The good news is that fixing the problem doesn’t have to mean employing a large team of I.T. experts or replacing every server in the business with more costly hardware.

Small businesses should examine their options carefully because there are solutions that can offer shared storage and strong controller failover into their DAS (direct attached storage) environment at a fraction of the cost of traditional enterprise high availability solutions. These products add shared storage and high availability to the robust data protection, high performance, low cost and low complexity of DAS solutions.

One way they can do this is by using controller cards running on Microsoft Windows Server 2012 to give system administrators the capability to build a high-availability, shared DAS solution. One option would be to use external controllers where IT administrators can easily build a configuration of two volume servers and an external dual-port SAS JBOD.

Another configuration is a Cluster-in-a-Box (CiB), containing servers, storage and necessary cabling in a single all inclusive chassis. Both configurations allow both controllers to see all of the SAS drives while communicating with each other.

Small businesses unable to afford the traditional high cost, high availability solutions can now take advantage of the shared storage and failover capabilities that were traditionally only offered by the more expensive SAN solutions. Armed with products that deliver effective enterprise level high availability at a realistic price, SMEs can continue to play their prominent role in the UK economy and grow with confidence.