Legacy technologies are systems, software, or hardware devices that have become outdated. Due to rapid technological changes, a system may be considered as a legacy within a few years. Often, these legacy technologies are essential and used in multiple processes and departments within an organization. In some cases, internal software has been specially built for a specific purpose but is no longer updated by the original creators. The title 'legacy' may imply that the technology needs replacement, but they’re typically still in use for many years after they’re classified as such. This is because legacy technologies have been used within organizations for decades and contain large amounts of crucial data.
Installing a complete replacement can become a complex and extremely expensive process. It could also be unnecessary as the technology may still fulfil the needs of the user. As such, most organizations over three years old will have at least one example of legacy technology in their system. However, it’s vital to keep track of risks this introduces to IT, no matter its age or size or the industry you’re in.
Why is legacy technology a drain on a business?
Whatever the reason for its presence, legacy technology can have an inescapably damaging impact on a business, especially during rapid change - for example, the shift in platform that many businesses are taking due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. These risks can range from unhappy customers having to engage with a sluggish interface to leaving the business's private information open to a cyberattack; organizations choosing to stick with legacy tech willingly do so at their own risk.
Legacy infrastructure can cause the following issues.
- Low performance and technology failures: Business leaders need to provide their employees with the latest tools to maximize their productivity, whether updating old systems or integrating them with new ones. Legacy technology suffers from counter-intuitive, difficult-to-operate interfaces, which can take a toll on employees. As such, workers could be spending hours on a task that should have taken mere minutes, resulting in an unnecessarily high cost to a business.
- Security risks: Obsolete systems are often not supported by the latest patches, protecting against anything from ransomware to botnets. This leaves your business vulnerable to cyber attacks and data leaks - something that can drown a company in today's age of Alcatraz-esque data protection laws.
- Inflexibility or lack of scalability: One of the most severe and jarring shifts in the IT industry for many companies over the past ten years has been system evolution. From working as 'legacy' on-premises data stores to cloud services and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications without changing your infrastructure, your business will be left behind.
- Termination of support by software or hardware vendors: Vendors will leave plenty of companies in the dust if they refuse to update their processes. This can all but kill a business as technology and software become obsolete faster than ever. The lack of modern capabilities and suitability for modern-day business standards become more and more apparent as the progression of technology accelerates. This means the business cannot utilize the plethora of new opportunities emerging every single day.
Should your business try to move on from legacy infrastructure?
The truth is that your business will never be able to outrun the leaps and bounds that technology takes daily. For example, a new Apple iPhone arrives on an almost yearly basis, and every time that happens, anything older than two generations behind appears obsolete. This isn’t necessarily something that most businesses can live up to, and that’s perfectly acceptable. As long as you embrace consistent updates and try to be as up-to-date as possible within the monetary constraints of "still making liveable profit," you’ll reap the benefits.
What are the benefits of updating legacy systems?
Once you’ve decided to replace and upgrade your legacy systems, your business will quickly feel the benefits. Here are four key reasons to update:
- New applications can be implemented faster, meaning less downtime for your business
- Gain access to real-time data transaction views, which is vital as your eCommerce business evolves
- Provide total data governance to ensure compliance with changing laws
- An automated analytics system that alerts the business should an issue arise, leading to more efficient problem solving
What should a business consider when updating legacy systems is on the cards?
Simply stated, legacy systems are tricky to replace, especially if outdated technology is a core part of the infrastructure. For some, legacy systems are their backbone, and so without this aging system; they’re unable to perform.
As well as being a logistical nightmare, replacing dated infrastructure with modernized options can require a massive investment from the business. Beyond this monetary cost, often replacing these systems requires vast amounts of resources and specialized training once implemented to keep up with the new demands.
It may be true that right now your systems work perfectly well and you have no desire to replace them. But everything has a shelf life, and you have to be prepared for when that expiration date arrives.
Testing the new system with a small portion of the team and running the old and new simultaneously is easier and more cost-effective than ever with cloud capabilities. You have time to test and fix any bugs present by doing this, giving you a smoother and cleaner switchover.
Consider 'supporting' old systems rather than a replacement
Most legacy applications provide fundamental business functions that increase the value of your company. Instead of modernizing core applications, the most straightforward alternative could be adding a layer of API so that these functions can participate in more intelligent business processes. Additionally, RPA automates your business processes without re-engineering legacy systems.
In conclusion, your legacy commerce infrastructure may be the thing that’s holding your business back, but changing this must be approached in a sensible and calculated way to avoid further damage to your business.