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Are you still using ancient IT systems?

Published: 31 October 2018

Implementing new IT systems or infrastructure is costly, time-consuming and can have an adverse impact on normal business activities. It’s a frustrating and mammoth task; starting from scratch and investing in resources for setup and training. Consequently, business owners tend to hold onto legacy systems for a lot longer than they should.

What are legacy systems?

Legacy systems are pieces of hardware or software that are either out of date or obsolete; once widely used but have now been replaced with something newer. They can significantly limit the growth and productivity of a business when compared to what can be achieved with modern equipment – not to forget what competitors may be using, especially newcomers into the marketplace that do not have the baggage of existing, old systems. Competitors using newer infrastructure hold a significant advantage over those businesses still using legacy systems.

How do legacy systems hinder a business?

Increased operational costs

The ongoing cost of a legacy system is not always immediately apparent, whereas the cost of replacing them is. This is because the costs involved with a legacy system are usually absorbed across a business. Typically, additional maintenance and support work is needed (which means extra workload on Operations teams), more frequent software patches and updates, a clunky user interface which costs users extra time to navigate, a particular report or flow of information which is missing that a newer system would have and so on. As a result, problems and inefficiencies go unnoticed. If all these costs are to be exposed, a new system is justified.

Lack of IT support

If you’re outsourcing from vendors, they may charge more to keep legacy systems in top condition, particularly if they don’t heavily support the infrastructure that you’re using anymore, or they may simply have discontinued providing it.

On the flip side, if systems are “organically grown” the availability of support and skills become more scarce as people leave and join a business. New staff will have modern skills and expertise and little to no knowledge of legacy systems that may still be in use.

Compromised security

Cybersecurity cannot be stressed enough. Having strong passwords, control access, firewalls, intrusion detectors and the rest are crucial to ensure all business data is kept secure. But if you’re still using legacy systems, then efforts in having these measure are likely to go amiss.

Old hardware and software have not been designed to keep up with the cyber-attacks of today, leaving hackers to exploit vulnerabilities. When manufacturers no longer support the technology used, becoming a target of cyber-attack is even easier; with the risk of business and customer data being exploited.

What to consider?

Upgrading to newer systems can be a lengthy process with a lot of different elements to account for so it’s important that phases are broken down so that they are manageable and measurable to avoid errors and overwhelming employees. As a starting point, you should have an inventory list on which systems are no longer feasible to maintain and are out of date. Map everything from your old system to what the new one will have – this way you ensure that nothing is missed and there’ll be fewer bumps when migration happens. Make sure someone is watching out for significant advances in the market and evaluating potential benefits for your business at all times.

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