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7 Problems with Legacy Systems — and How to Solve Them

It takes an enormous amount of time and resources to maintain legacy software — when in reality, replacing them offers advantages.

Paul Baker

By Paul Baker

Director of Partnerships Paul Baker builds strong business relationships between BairesDev and clients through strategy and partnership management.

10 min read

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According to AppDynamics’ Agents of Transformation Report 2020: COVID-19 Special Edition, 66% of IT professionals reported that the COVID-19 pandemic “exposed weaknesses” in their digital strategy. And all too many technology problems occur because organizations rely on legacy systems.

Just what is a legacy system? Basically, it’s outdated software and other technology that businesses continue to use within their organizations, despite the many problems it’s causing. Often, the tools have become so deeply integrated into the structure and procedures of the organization that employees and leaders alike don’t even consider replacing them with updated models. 

There are many reasons why people keep using old systems. They may have invested significant time and resources into maintaining those systems. Moreover, there is frequently the fear of having to learn and use tools that are unfamiliar. Other times, the system seems simply irreplaceable.

Yet, those reasons shouldn’t keep you from considering the adoption of new software. That’s because it’s usually a far better solution than continuing to rely on legacy systems, which are rife with problems.

7 Problems with Legacy Systems

1. Security

Cybercrime is on the rise. Data breaches, ransomware attacks, and cybersecurity problems are becoming increasingly prevalent, as hackers become more sophisticated in their approaches. While there is no magic solution when it comes to preventing cybercrimes, there are circumstances that make them more likely — and put organizations at risk for their occurrence.

Legacy systems, as you might have guessed, are one of them. Outdated hardware and software are more susceptible to cyber-attacks. That’s because vendors prioritize their up-to-date models when putting out upgrades and updates, ones that take into account the latest iterations of malware and guard against issues. When you’re relying on old, outdated technology, however, you won’t receive these updates, thus putting your entire business at risk.

2. Expensive Maintenance

Many business leaders assume that upgrading software is exorbitantly expensive. In reality, it’s often a far less costly solution than attempting to maintain outdated software. Legacy systems require extensive upkeep, and you will very well find that the costs of keeping them running are lofty — far more expensive than it would cost to simply overhaul your software and hardware. 

Moreover, you can keep throwing money at your older systems, but they will never reach the level of quality of newer models. Hence, you’re essentially wasting your funding on technology that will never meet the standards you need.

3. Inefficiency

“Slow.” That’s how many workers describe legacy systems. Despite the fact that they have been using them for years and years, this technology continues to frustrate employees across departments. 

That’s because legacy systems tend to be extremely inefficient. Long load times, lags, and much more — that’s how these tools are often characterized. While they may have been a solid solution back in the day, software slows down over time. And because manufacturers no longer release updates, there’s no real way to address the issues with it just trying fruitlessly to mitigate them.

4. Incompatibility

Your business probably uses a range of technologies, and some systems are newer and more advanced than others. When you attempt to blend older systems with newer ones, a host of problems will inevitably occur. 

Newer software and older software simply don’t integrate well, and because of these incompatibilities, you will more than likely find that you have to use more systems than you would otherwise since more modern models offer a multitude of features that support a wide range of processes.

5. Data Silos

This issue is related to incompatibilities. When you’re attempting to rely on outdated systems, you will be using them in isolation from one another since they won’t integrate properly. That creates data silos, meaning information is isolated within specific systems.

This is hugely problematic for organizations of all types and sizes. It means that employees must tap into many different tools to find what they need, while modern systems such as ERPs store this data in a single place. This is a huge time waster — not to mention extremely frustrating.

6. Lack of Support

Depending on their age, most legacy systems are no longer supported by their manufacturers because they aren’t being sold any longer. That means if you have questions or encounter problems with the software, the vendor won’t be able to help you troubleshoot. You may be able to receive support from third-party vendors, but even that will become more and more unlikely as the technology becomes outdated.

7. Compliance

Organizations must adhere to regulations governed by the territories in which they operate. Take, for example, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This law concerns data privacy in the European Union and sets rules about how companies can handle information. When businesses are using outdated technology, they will more than likely encounter problems remaining compliant, given that older systems don’t account for newer compliance regulations.

The Solution

The simple answer seems to be replacing your legacy systems — but, as most business leaders know, it’s a little more complex than that. 

First, take a thorough inventory of your technology, including both hardware and software. Look at how long you’ve had your various systems and how many times you’ve needed to repair them. Ask employees about how they use them and what their pain points are.

You will probably need to create a list of priorities, considering which systems are causing the most trouble and could be solved with up-to-date technology. You may need to engage an expert to help you usher your technology into the modern age, but fortunately, there are qualified outsourcing firms that can assist.

Remember the advantages of upgrading your legacy systems: lower costs, better security, greater efficiency, the ability to integrate your software, and more support. The challenges we’ve discussed won’t go away — it’s critical to take action before they do even more damage.

Paul Baker

By Paul Baker

As BairesDev's Director of Partnerships, Paul Baker helps build strong and long-lasting business relationships with clients by planning strategies, supporting partner strategy execution, enabling sales initiatives, and managing client and marketing partnerships.

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