Development, Editorials, Ethics

Legacy Systems are a Liability

In the past couple of years, it’s come up several times that legacy systems are a challenge to manage… no surprise there.  But what follows that conversation may be surprising – many times companies will take that first step, and decide that legacy systems are actually a liability.  That they’re something that should be removed, gutted, replaced if at all possible.

The fact that the “if at all possible” is there is a hint that this is probably a good step to take.  If you’re unable to update/replace your legacy systems, because they’re, well, old… it’s an indication that you have a pretty serious liability on your hands, particularly if it’s a system that you rely on for core line of business operations.

So much has changed, matured and become outdated in the last few years.  From platforms and the cloud to on-premises solutions to versions of software and most of all, all of these combined.  To not take advantage of these likely means higher costs than are needed, more dependency on tough-to-maintain solutions, and a higher risk profile when it comes to security, data protection and those types of things that necessarily age out very quickly.

In our own systems, we’ve actively worked to replace nearly every major component of our systems – not just for sswug, but for other projects we have running in the wild.  That process has at times been very painful, no doubt about it.  But it’s mostly because of the fact that we’re migrating from these legacy systems and the complications of doing that, that we have those challenges.  Sure, there are application specifics and utilities and things along those lines that are key to your business that you shouldn’t just bail on because they’re older.  But if updates are slower than you need, if support is more expensive than you want, and if you have no choices in how you utilize those services (SaaS, IaaS, etc.) it might be time to look at either updating that functionality, moving to another solution or otherwise replacing it.

The risks can be substantial.  If your systems don’t use solid security measures for mitigation of hacking opportunities and the like, or if your systems are difficult and time-consuming to manage and maintain, the costs, risks and impact on your business can be surprising.

I mentioned a couple of days ago that it’s been noted that database systems are often the last piece to be migrated away from when companies do update legacy systems.  Once with a database provider, there’s a lot of fear about making that change.

It’s a huge decision, but even database technologies and options have changed dramatically.  Thinking about current solutions, you have to consider the better tools, better tuning options, better all around management of those systems.  In addition, you may find that updated systems are more in-tune with your requirements, providing more open architecture, more and better access to data and more and better protections of that information… often at lower costs.

If you start considering a system that you would call “legacy” as a liability, it’s possible those that hold the purse-strings will begin to see that having those systems around “because it’s easier to stay than update or leave” is a cost all on its own.  Sometimes, if things go really badly, that cost can be very substantial, far more than the controlled cost of migration to more updated technology and solutions.