Previously published on itbrief.com.au.
Outdated technology can have a negative effect on business, as employees are forced to continue to engage with obsolete or inadequate software and hardware, built for yesterday’s business needs. A primary driver for maintaining legacy systems, especially in large enterprises, is that they contain large amounts of accumulated information collated from their years of services. Yet, the perceived cost in time and money to update systems is often seen as an ineffective use of resources.
In some cases, internal software has been custom-built for a specific purpose but is no longer being updated by the original creators. Whatever the reason, legacy technology can have an irrevocably damaging impact on a business, especially during times of rapid change. From users engaging with a sluggish and aged interface to leaving an organization’s most sensitive information open to cyberattack, organizations choosing to stick with legacy tech do so at their own peril.
There are countless examples of companies that relied too heavily on the old ways of doing business and faced collapse. The most commonly cited example of this is Blockbuster, one of the largest distributors of rental home entertainment, which collapsed as competition from mail order, and eventually, streaming services squeezed them out of the market. The simple truth is to survive businesses need a constant focus on innovation and adoption of new technology, and part of this is knowing the full extent to which using antiquated tech can cost them time, money, and potentially their business.
In some industries, old mainframes are commonly maintained as they have historic information critical to business operations stored within them – the insurance industry is a classic example of this. Getting off legacy systems can be difficult but the potential benefits of updating IT infrastructure or even better integrating old systems can be immense.
Business leaders need to provide their employees with the latest tools to maximize their productivity, whether that is updating old systems or better integrating the old with the new. Legacy technology generally suffers from counter-intuitive, difficult to operate interfaces. This can lead to workers spending hours on a task that should have taken minutes, resulting in a significant cost to a business. Migrating to systems that harness the power of new technologies, such as cloud or machine learning, can transform the way a business operates, freeing up time to focus on business-critical tasks as opposed to engaging with outdated software.
Security is a top concern for all enterprises across all sectors – in a world where data protection laws are continuously rising to the top of the political agenda, a cyber-attack can spell disaster for multiple reasons, from IT blackouts to hefty post-breach fines. Legacy systems present themselves as attractive targets to any would-be cybercriminal looking for a potentially easy access point. Obsolete systems are often not supported by the latest patches which can protect against anything from ransomware to botnets. Although refreshing a company’s IT infrastructure can be a daunting and potentially costly task, in the long run, it can keep a business’s most valuable assets protected.
Even without external factors such as cyber-attacks, legacy technology can be more susceptible to failure, with the chances of downtime only increasing the older it becomes. What were once simple tasks, such as updating system software or installing a new piece of hardware, can trip up legacy systems, leaving employees scrambling to fix the self-inflicted error. Legacy systems often only backup data on a scheduled basis, very rarely does it perform live backups. So if downtime does happen there’s also the chance that a huge amount of information has been lost forever, leaving teams to recover potentially outdated backups.
Into the cloud
One of the most seismic shifts in the IT industry over the past decade has been the move from legacy on-premises data stores to cloud services and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications. There are a host of benefits to migrating data and applications to purpose-built cloud platforms, including potentially increased levels of security and a scalable data infrastructure solution on an OPEX basis. The cloud can also free up the time of IT teams to focus on strategic projects that are aligned with the core goals and objectives of a business, as opposed to repetitive maintenance of obsolete and outdated legacy systems, and this is never more important than in times of uncertainty or crisis.
What can businesses do?
It is essential that businesses deploy innovative technology that will enable teams to deliver better results and ultimately draw benefit from digital transformation. This means investing in new technologies such as those that provide a more secure, intuitive experience and are more flexible to accommodate our current new-normal of remote working. In some cases, the updated systems organizations choose to use must also be able to integrate information between legacy software and newer technology so that there is a defined migration process in place for the company’s data.
In other cases, IT leaders must find ways of integrating legacy technology into their digital transformation initiatives – API enablement of legacy systems is a great example of this. Ultimately, organizations need to properly understand that without moving away from legacy technology and adopting the technology of the future then they won’t be able to truly unlock the potential of their business.