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Do You Need to Upgrade Your Legacy Software System?

Most legacy software systems are custom-made to match the unique needs of a business, so when is the right time to upgrade your system?

Imagine you are an IT manager for a hospital that administers patient appointments on an older software application. The app hasn't been upgraded in decades and is not integrated with any other patient systems. 

A sudden surge in numbers causes the system to crash because the older application can't handle the load. Even worse, your hospital gets hit with a lawsuit because it is not compliant with the latest privacy and data security regulations. 

This scenario reflects the importance of maintaining these older, legacy software systems regularly. Decision-makers need to understand what legacy software systems are, the benefits of upgrading them versus switching to an entirely new system, and the potential risks of not keeping your systems up to date.

What Is a Legacy Software System?

Generally speaking, legacy software systems rely on older technologies including aged computer hardware, programming languages with long track records, and software applications supporting an organization's needs. 

They include conditions such as: 

  • Older software systems that are supported with new feature updates
  • Little to no security patches to support these feature enhancements 
  • They are not compliant with recent data, security, and compliance standards 
  • They require new updates to function properly

It's important to note that just because you use a legacy software system doesn’t mean it’s not in good condition. Many companies still use older systems because they are crucial for daily operations. It might be too difficult or time-consuming to replace them with newer technology. In addition, switching to a different system could disrupt existing business processes, and training employees on new tools can take up a lot of time and resources. 

Furthermore, most legacy software systems are custom-made to match the unique needs of a business. If you’ve invested significantly in these systems, you might be reluctant to let them go. They’re also often reliable. Switching to a new system with a shorter track record might introduce some unintended effects, so many companies may choose to stick with their existing systems.

Why You Need to Upgrade Legacy Software System

Companies that keep their legacy systems in place must diligently maintain them and keep them continuously updated. You may find that the benefits of keeping your legacy technologies don’t outweigh the costs in terms of time, resources, and labor for upkeep. Here are some reasons you might be considering a major upgrade:

1. To improve productivity

While most legacy tools were efficient the year they were made, their ability to efficiently maintain processes decreases. For instance, they might be unable to handle multiple new data types or retain latency in data movement due to one-off or customized integrations.

2. To get proper insights

Modern software can provide advanced reporting metrics and deep data insights that legacy technologies aren’t equipped to provide. As a result, companies need to update their old systems to get better insights into their business.

3. To improve mobility

Mobility and accessibility are crucial for most businesses today. However, many legacy systems are still device-dependent and cannot be accessed via mobile or smart devices. One of the biggest reasons to update legacy systems is to improve accessibility via different device types.

4. To improve compatibility with other systems

Legacy systems are frequently incompatible with newer apps and programs, and upgrades can help bridge this gap. 

Risks Of Not Updating Your Legacy Software System

You take certain risks when you don’t update your older technologies, including:

1. Security risks

Older software applications pose a security risk as they aren’t as likely to have defenses in place from the latest threats and don’t have the patches to protect themselves from current viruses and malware.

2. Privacy risks

Many old systems aren’t compliant with the most recent privacy legislation, which can lead to data mismanagement and thus increase exposure to liability.

3. Inefficiency and unpredictability

While most legacy systems were efficient in the time they were initially created, they become less efficient as time passes, hampering organizational productivity.

How Can You Tell If Your Legacy Software System Needs Upgrading Or Integration?

If you depend on older tools and technologies, you might be wondering whether your legacy software systems need to be upgraded or integrated with newer technology. Here are some signs you should look out for if you’re considering an upgrade to your legacy system.

1. You are worried about security

Cybersecurity is one of the main business concerns, and companies cannot afford to put their data at risk. Legacy systems are more vulnerable to cyberattacks compared to newer technologies. Legacy systems should have the latest patches in place, and if they don't, it's one clear sign they need a full system upgrade.

2. You are experiencing slow or poor performance

One clear sign that you need an upgrade is if you experience poor or slow system performance. Your business depends on these tools and applications to run smoothly and efficiently. Slow speeds and system shutdowns can add up, costing you a lot of time and resources in the long run. 

3. There’s a lack of support and software updates

The biggest problem we’ve seen in older hardware and software systems is the lack of support and regular updates from providers over time. This can happen for various reasons. The vendor who made the software might go out of business or they might discontinue support, leaving the users of older systems on their own.

4. Your legacy system is increasingly incompatible with newer systems

Legacy systems rarely integrate well with new tools and technologies which can lead to security risks and slower performance overall. If you’re running into this issue, it’s time to consider an upgrade. 

5. There are compliance challenges

Older technologies might not meet the required compliance measures. Common regulations include following GDPR, HIPAA, GLBA, CCPA, or SOC2, for example. 

The Benefits of Upgrading a Legacy Software System

Updating your legacy system comes with a wide variety of benefits:

1. Streamlining business processes

Updating your legacy systems can boost performance and increase productivity. Upgrades can be done by adopting new SaaS solutions, business intelligence software, or cloud computing. All these new options can be implemented quickly and easily and lead to reduced operating costs.

2. Improved customer experience and employee retention

Glitches and failures in legacy technology can lead to unplanned downtime, causing delays and cancellations that can endanger business operations. Furthermore, poor performance can hamper employee productivity and overall output.

3. Reducing security risks and staying compliant

Older systems not supported by their original vendor pose a severe security risk. You can’t be certain that all security patches are up to date. By upgrading your tools, you can avoid liability that may lead to heavy fines or even business closure.

The Risks of Upgrading Your Legacy Software System 

1. Loss of vital functionality

Even with some of the oldest and clunkiest systems, users tend to take basic functionality and business logic built within an older application for granted. So before beginning the process of upgrading your legacy system, ensure that you’ve done a deep discovery process and have identified all of the obvious (and not-so-obvious) key functionalities that will keep things running smoothly.

2. Loss of Data 

Typically when you rewrite a legacy system, you have to plan for new data mapping or, at the very least, have a proper data migration strategy in place. Inexperienced developers will miss this piece, and it's a big problem because, when rewriting an application, the data requirements are different because the needs of the business have evolved over time since they first started using the application several years ago. If data fields and how the data is mapped change in the new application (widespread), that requires a different approach to manage data migration from the old system to the new one.

How to Upgrade Your Legacy Software System Efficiently

The best way to upgrade your legacy system is to partner with a reliable software developer.

Armed with years of experience working with startups and enterprise-level companies, we ensure the most cost-effective and hassle-free process that allows for greater scalability in the long run.

How long will the process take?

It can sometimes feel like updating legacy systems is a Sisyphean task, but it doesn't have to be. You can upgrade your legacy systems quickly and painlessly by taking a step-by-step approach and breaking the work into manageable chunks. 

Plus, by using modern tools and techniques, you can make the process easier than ever before! 

What Is the Cost to Upgrade a Legacy Software System?

Many companies might wonder if the cost of maintaining their current systems is cheaper than implementing a complete system upgrade.

Working with a best-in-class software development company, you’ll be able to complete a full evaluation of your current systems to determine the most cost-effective solution for your needs. With the right partner, you’ll identify the parts of your legacy system that are still helpful and which parts could use new tools or applications. 

Together, you’ll determine which systems are vulnerable to security issues or are creating inefficiencies in your operations.

Don’t change what's working well. Instead, look at the whole picture, what works and what needs improvement, and partner with a trusted software development company to elevate your capabilities without replacing your entire system.

Final Words

Updating your legacy system is beneficial for several reasons including enabling greater scalability, increased safety, and ensured compliance. It is a budget-conscious solution compared to switching to an entirely new system, and it makes things simpler for both your employees and your users. 

As a team of experienced professionals in the field, we are ready to assist you with this serious and demanding undertaking. The success of your business is our business. 

Interested in how you can bring your A-game? Contact us to discuss your upgrade initiative.

Talk to our team to scope your next project.