How to Work with Legacy Systems: A Guide for IT Managers - Computer Disposal Limited
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How to Work with Legacy Systems: A Guide for IT Managers

As businesses grow and their dynamics shift, these positive changes can often leave company software trailing behind. Even if they’ve led to success and growth in the past, legacy systems can start to show their age. As new strategies and approaches emerge, the software you use plays a big role in your business’ ability to adapt and remain competitive.

Basically, it’s the same reason you’re using Windows 10 rather than Windows XP right now. Using outdated and slow-moving software to manage your business will only end up standing in the way of the progress and growth you wish to make. And if chugging away on software and applications that are a little long in the tooth sounds familiar, then it might be time for legacy system modernisation.

Here, we’ll take a closer look at what legacy systems are, why they happen, and what you can do to modernise your approach.

What are legacy systems?

There’s more to legacy systems than simply being “old software”; it depends on the business. Most companies have a mix of new software tools and old systems running them. Others, meanwhile, will update their applications piece by piece.

Further still, other businesses use both old software and old systems. However, legacy software systems aren’t always defined solely by their age.

Legacy can refer to any piece of software, existing technology or an entire system that prevents a business’ ability to grow and adapt as market dynamics shift. If the system has a lack of IT support or is unable to support an organisation’s needs, then we can deem it a legacy system.

Similarly, if a piece of software cannot be integrated with new processes or systems then it is legacy software.

worried businesswoman

Why do IT systems become legacy systems?

If a business continues to use legacy systems, they’re likely to encounter problems that relate to maintenance, support, improvement, integration and user experience. The following factors contribute to determining a system as legacy:

So, why do businesses allow outdated software and technology to take on this legacy mantle?

Businesses are resistant to change

If the system gets the job done, then why change? Switching to new systems means training which means time and money. Too often, businesses play it safe, adhering to an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality.

The legacy system was expensive

Originally, a company might have forked out for expensive bespoke software that not only catered to the organisation’s needs at the time but would also function for a long period without requiring major changes. It seems businesses are reluctant to get rid of technology that was such a costly investment.

Legacy systems are “reliable”

For a lot of businesses, durability and reliability remain important parts of their software offering. And because they’ve become used to using the software for such a long time, it’s become legacy. Additionally, they’re sceptical of new technology not working as robustly as their old legacy software did.

There’s a familiarity and predictability to legacy software that businesses are comfortable with, and for that reason, it’s often preferable to getting used to new systems.

colleagues collaborating

What is legacy system modernisation?

Legacy system modernisation is the process of updating and optimising systems to better support business goals and processes.

Through legacy system modernisations, your IT stack can:

Legacy modernisation comes in a few different forms, which we’ll go into more detail on later.

What are the benefits of legacy modernisation?

There are all sorts of advantages to be had from modernising your IT stack, including:

What legacy modernisation options are there?

Generally, there are five different approaches to a legacy systems update.

Approach 1: Do a complete transformation

Also known as “rebuild and replace”, this approach is best suited to from-the-ground-up modernisation. In starting from scratch, businesses can conduct a thorough assessment of a legacy system’s strong and weak points.

From here, it’s possible to replace old components with new tech, systems and a platform that addresses the needs of your business.

Approach 2: Go through gradual replacement

Rather than replacing everything in one go, this approach takes a more measured, component-by-component approach as and when you need it. It certainly works in the short term, especially on simpler architectures, but it becomes more difficult in the long term due to modern systems being built on top of each other.

colleagues looking at equipment

Approach 3: Opt for a quick fix

Here, you’ll conduct a thorough assessment of your legacy system, with the main goal of patching smaller problems with new code, processes or applications. Once the biggest problems have been identified, they’re prioritised to keep downtime low and avoid spending too much on the project from its outset.

Approach 4: Improve your existing systems

Through this approach, IT managers look to redesign their legacy system through an efficiency lens, without introducing new architecture or platforms. Thus, the approach focuses more on processes, management and workflow rather than the stack itself.

It can also involve rehosting or refactoring code without affecting features or functionality. Rehosting also brings the option of cloud infrastructure, so businesses can benefit from better performance and greater security too.

Refactoring, meanwhile, involves optimising code line by line without any major front-end changes of the legacy systems or their functionality. Although this is less disruptive than a complete rewrite, technological limitations can restrain what is possible.

Approach 5: Do nothing at all

There’s always the option not to conduct any modernisation at all and continue to use your legacy system. In theory, this might not cost anything, but in the long run, with repairs and maintenance costs soon mounting up, you’ll soon be paying the price for inactivity.

CDL is one of the UK’s leading IT disposal companies, working to help private and public businesses safely retire and recycle their outdated IT assets. To find out how we could help your business, or for more of the latest tech news and advice, visit our homepage or call our team today on 0333 060 2846.

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