Updating Legacy Software: The Ultimate Legacy Systems Guide

Jerry Wallis
16 min read
Examples of legacy systems

What Is Legacy Software? 🖳

Sometimes organisations and institutions might neglect their legacy software for too long, and in the end, the software might crash and cause tremendous loss. That’s why it’s critical to update the legacy software you have.

Since legacy software was created in the past for specialised usage, it has a rather unfavourable impact in present-day use. Currently, the inability of many organisations to adapt to the present business environment — or failing to update their legacy software systems — shows how cumbersome this issue can be.

So what exactly is legacy software?

Legacy software is software that no longer meets current business needs as the software is obsolete for various reasons, ranging from incompatibility with modern systems to being written in an OS that is no longer in use.

In other words, legacy software is out-of-date software that is difficult to update, replace, or maintain is commonly referred to as legacy software. However, sometimes even if the software is old, it might not be legacy software as the software might not require modernisation or replacement. If the software has been working without a glitch for many years, chances are it’s not really legacy.

So before you rush into updating or replacing your old system, make sure that it’s a legacy system. Let’s look at a few examples to better understand what legacy software might entail. Consider the following software applications:

  • A significant platform without functional replacement is still supported and compatible with other IT resources, but no longer gets security upgrades.
  • An older piece of software is still in use and support, but the product’s creators have announced that support will move to the more recent version.
  • A platform that still receives updates is only for features.
  • A platform that continues receiving security upgrades and support but is outdated with current standards.
  • A platform that receives support and updates is incompatible with the current operating system and driver generation.

Contrary to common belief, a legacy system might not always be old. The most confusing aspect of these systems is that they are still in use and often fulfil everyday business usage. If there is a legacy system in your organisation that you can’t replace, think of updating or modernising it.

Laptop CD drive representing recent legacy systems

Check out our previous article on legacy systems if you want to learn more about them. If not, let’s jump right into why updating legacy systems can actually be a high priority for your business.

Why Should You Update Legacy Systems? 💭

🔓 Poor Security

One of the primary reasons for security breaches is the use of legacy software. According to the HIMSS Cybersecurity Survey, 70% of healthcare organisations using legacy software were victims of a massive cyberattack in 2018.

Since legacy software is no longer supported by their vendors, they are not kept compliant with the latest cybersecurity standards. Those software solutions then become more susceptible to attacks and threats.

Likewise, developers frequently stop supporting or discontinuing their applications to concentrate on newer projects or iterations of the software. Users will stop receiving updates when that happens, including security patches that address security flaws. Companies that use outdated software put themselves at risk of attacks and breaches that can be easily avoided by modernising the legacy system or replacing it.

🤷‍♂️ Inferior Team Performance

Another reason for updating the legacy software is that having such an outdated piece of software might affect the overall team performance. Operating legacy software entails a lot of manual work.

Say a system’s components refuse to synchronise automatically. In that case, you must do that manually every time you need to enter new data. This will require more human resources, and the existing team performance might go downhill if all they do is focus on such tedious manual work.

Security will stay strong when you update your software, and team performance will improve. That’s because earlier software was created with a particular context in mind. Legacy software begins to act strangely when such things alter, usually crashing and consuming more resources.

The team that notices how the software begins impeding their ability to do their jobs is hampered in their routine work as a result. Frustration and diminished productivity are the results of all of this, which can be easily avoided by modernising the software system.

📚 Inexistent Documentation

Legacy software is difficult to maintain.

Due to evolving software development methodologies, new applications are constructed considerably differently from historical software. In actuality, legacy software frequently has a complex design and a unique development style. As a result, developers find it challenging to replace outdated features or add new ones, forcing them to reread the documentation.

The problem is that documentation for legacy software is frequently lacking or written in a manner that differs from current standards. This makes it much more difficult because engineers are left to figure out how to modify the code independently. Updating legacy systems allows you to rethink documentation and make it effortless and efficient.

⛔ Lack Of Compatibility

Old legacy software typically has a monolithic architecture. Even the smallest update might trigger conflicts between different system elements.

Besides, in today’s highly-networked business, digital technologies are integrated with one another, providing room for seamless collaboration between teams. Because of this, contemporary software developers strive to create products that are easier to integrate into a larger digital environment.

Old mobile phones representing legacy systems

Unfortunately, legacy software requires particular modules and APIs to interface with other tools. This explains why it’s so difficult to use legacy software on mobile devices simply because they are incompatible with modern standards and not integration-friendly at all.

Old systems also require specific hardware, which becomes costly to maintain over time. In today’s age of cloud computing, having an on-premise hardware system that demands a lot of maintenance makes no sense. That’s why you must modernise/update your legacy software and reap the undeniable benefits of data integration.

How To Update Legacy Software 🔄

Your legacy software must be ported to a contemporary technological stack, libraries, frameworks, and protocols as part of the migration process.

Here are four different ways to update your legacy system.

☁️ Approach 1: Cloud Solutions

Moving legacy software to the cloud or replacing it with a cloud-based alternative is possible. Cloud solutions assist in lowering operating expenses by automating automated operations, information, and data storage — and enabling you to adopt new features much more quickly.

A scalable and adaptable system with the option of automatic upgrades will be provided. Data encryption and multilayered authorization provide security solutions. Additionally, third-party integrations are compatible with cloud-based systems.

Below are some common examples of cloud services.

  • SaaS — Google Workspace, Dropbox, Salesforce, Cisco WebEx, Concur, GoToMeeting 
  • PaaS — AWS Elastic Beanstalk, Windows Azure, Heroku, Force.com, Google App Engine, Apache Stratos, OpenShift 
  • IaaS — DigitalOcean, Linode, Rackspace, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Cisco Metapod, Microsoft Azure, Google Compute Engine (GCE)

🤖 Approach 2: Automation

For the vast majority of repetitious processes, legacy software is not automated. An efficient approach that doesn’t require changing the previous application or workflow as a whole is Robotic Process Automation (RPA). This method assists in automating repetitive, rule-based, labour-intensive operations while reducing operating expenses and mistake rates. More specifically, it can manage customer support and back-office tasks.

Starting with legacy software, RPA can offer robust security and data consistency. Compared to integration platforms or APIs, it is more versatile and quicker to deploy.

Examples of RPA tools include Keysight’s Eggplant, Inflectra Rapise, Blue Prism, UiPath, Automation Anywhere, and Pega.

🏺 Approach 3: Container-Based Architecture

The old system can be divided into components that can run independently as distinct containers. The number of containers might vary from the simplest to the most complex kit. In the second scenario, the system requires refactoring and possibly even recording if only small modifications are done in the first scenario. A container-based architecture’s core tenet uses lightweight components with defined availability or scalability features.

The majority of legacy programs require state management and data durability, which should also be taken into account. The additional mechanism can be used to convert state-managing components into containers.

These applications and cloud services can assist in the development of container-based solutions — Docker, Kubernetes, Amazon ECS, Apache Mesos, and Microsoft Containers.

🏘️ Approach 4: Microservice Architecture

With this method, services can be deployed without needing to replace the complete legacy software. Decoupled components that have independent codebases and use APIs to communicate with one another make up the system. A composite design that is modular and adaptable enough for updates is what you get. It is more time and money efficient to scale each unit separately.

This is a wise option for systems with large loads. System stability, data security, and maintenance can all be improved thanks to the microservice architecture. It is very cohesive, independent, and business-domain oriented.

Considerations Before Updating Legacy Software 🗒️

📑 Plan Smart

The first step is to think about the functions and programs your company will require to operate efficiently and quickly adjust in the future. Encourage feedback from all team members so you can determine which functions will improve workflow and simplify employees’ lives and which functions they can do without.

Team pointing at laptop screen to plan updating legacy software

Although adding a range of additional features and applications can be tempting, doing so may result in longer development times, higher expenses, and rarely-used functionalities.

💰 Know Your Costs

The initial cost of upgrading an outdated software system might seem exorbitant. There is also no escaping the fact that replacing your system will be expensive, especially if you’re still utilising early 1990s legacy software. To contrast this with the up-front cost of a software upgrade, estimating how much you now spend on maintaining your legacy software system is a good idea.

If you are working with a software solutions provider, ask them to give you an accurate estimate of the time they invested in maintaining your legacy system. This is typically time-consuming, and frequently changing one area breaks another. This irritates your team members and takes away time that could have been invested elsewhere, such as in customer services.

Ask the software solution company for an exact quote. The number of months it will take you to “break-even” with the upfront cost of updating your legacy software will be determined by dividing this amount by the monthly cost of maintaining your legacy program.

🏢 Choose The Right Software Solutions Company/Partner

Finding a software development company you can trust is crucial if you want high-quality software without going much over budget. To help you find the finest software options for your needs, you need developers that will take the time to learn about your company, brainstorm ideas, and address your questions and concerns.

Select a software solutions company with a track record of providing top-notch service and experience modernising legacy software systems. Ask them if they have a maintenance and support strategy in place, and ensure they are honest with you about the cost and length of the development process. Since you will spend a lot of time with that solutions partner, it’s fair to have answers to all your questions.

👨‍🏫 Invest In Training

One of the worst errors businesses can make is failing to budget for the training costs associated with replacing legacy software. When asked what is most crucial when buying software for their company, most developers will cite cost as their top priority, with ease of use coming in last.

Since your team members will be the ones using the software daily, involving them in the decision-making process will make them enthusiastic about its advantages and eager to put in the time necessary to learn how it operates once training begins. The objective is to fully acquaint staff members with the new software as soon as possible so they can resume their jobs and you won’t lose productive hours to training time.

Because of this, if your team members are spread out across different time zones, think about offering online training. Also, ensure that employees are only trained in topics pertinent to their area of expertise.

Who Uses Legacy Systems, Anyway? 🤔

Interestingly, many businesses still use legacy systems to carry out their day-to-day operations and process large amounts of data. Every industry has its own peculiarities and reasons for sticking with an older piece of software.

Let’s examine some of them and why they still use legacy software.

🏛️ Government Bodies

The majority of legacy government software is extensive and monolithic. It’s because they must hold a wealth of data about their citizens, including taxes, pensions, healthcare, and much more, which must be securely stored and processed. Security threats are increased by complicated architecture that is fragmented and that stores data across various systems. Security turns out to be the top priority here.

The government serves and supports a large number of citizens, and it must adjust to the internet and demand-driven demands. However, government processes are frequently cumbersome, rigid, and unintuitive in practice. Modern technologies, including augmented analytics and intelligent automation, which can enhance the job of government staff and raise the level of satisfaction among users, are incompatible with outdated systems.

That’s why system malfunctions are a crisis because they can cause lost benefits payments, service delays, and other issues that limit citizens’ access to essential public services. Government bodies should consider modernising their legacy software to prevent the risks of exposing sensitive data and saving their people’s privacy.

🏦 Banking Institutions

To support machine learning activities, legacy banking systems must be able to handle rising data exchanges and transactions as well as automatically convert data into a machine-readable format. However, technology for fraud detection, prevention, and security assurance is the most important issue, especially in combating cyber attacks. Banks must replace outdated software with security control elements compliant with current standards.

Legacy software frequently performs poorly on mobile devices and has obsolete user interfaces. Additionally, old software has a poor user experience and takes a long time to conduct transactions. Dealing with a bank’s digital ecosystem can be stressful for customers and workers, resulting in a bad experience. Banks frequently have fragmented data architecture, which impedes digital transformation and makes it difficult for them to provide improved customer service.

Legacy banking institutions are now facing a new challenge due to the explosive rise of FinTech and digital payment systems. Customers today want rapid payments, 24/7 access to their funds, and the ability to conduct financial transactions on various devices. They anticipate user-friendly mobile or internet banking solutions.

🏪 Retail Stores

Online stores are replacing conventional stores, as these days, customers demand an individualised shopping experience that’s instant and can be performed from the comforts of their homes. To meet such changing needs, retailers must do the work.

Smartphone showing AliExpress app in the Google Play Store

Integrating outdated software with modern CRMs or live chatbots is challenging. The operational speed of legacy software is poor, routine activities take time, and system malfunctions happen while activities are in progress. 

Modern-day customers can get easily irritated by such flaws. They might as well open a new tab and start shopping from your competitors’ eCommerce sites. Since people have too many choices these days, companies should respect customers’ freedom and design their apps and software to meet the demand.

By modernising the legacy system, retailers can enhance their business and, at the same time, better understand the procedural aspects. That is why, for the retailer to have access to real-time stock information and be able to control flows, retail software must synchronise inventory positions across several platforms.

🛡️ Insurance Companies

In legacy software, policy records — rather than client records — are the foundation upon which insurance core system operations, from billing and claims to reporting and analysis, are developed. Legacy manual methods also contribute to data entry problems. Technical solutions like data lakes, MDM initiatives, CRM programs, and the implementation of straight-through processing with automation and self-service opportunities are needed for a more customer-centric approach.

Many insurance firms still rely on on-premises antiquated software that cannot give staff secure and convenient remote access. Market share is growing for insurance businesses that give customers a customised online experience. Customers demand convenient access to advice, services, and purchase alternatives whenever and wherever they need them. So it’s time for insurance companies to update or modernise their legacy systems.

🚚 Logistics Industry

Legacy software for the logistics industry needs advanced analytics tools and is able to manage real-time data flows. Production, inventory, and transportation decisions may need to be made manually, so they may need more system support. Not all system parts can communicate with one another and send data in a legible fashion.

To observe what’s happening across the whole supply chain, logistics organisations or departments utilising old software must manage several data feeds from separate platforms. In the meantime, their clients are searching for a single transparent data source where they can always obtain up-to-date information. They require a system that transfers information from several sources to a single control platform that can make the whole supply chain visible.

Updating Legacy Systems: Final Words

Legacy software is like a slowly accumulating landslide. The software will keep providing value for your company for many years — and then, one day, collapse! You will find that you are “locked into” the old legacy system, and there is no chance of growth as the technology around you keeps evolving at an unprecedented rate.

That’s why you must take the initiative and act proactively beforehand rather than react in response. If you think you’ve got legacy systems and want them modernised or updated, consider the factors we discussed in this article. Regardless of your strategy, modernising legacy software will help you solve current issues, increase efficiency, and swiftly add necessary business capabilities.

We have been providing legacy software optimisation services for years. We know the ins and outs of maintaining and modernising old systems. If you need more information regarding legacy software, feel free to reach out to us for a friendly discovery chat. We are happy to answer your questions and look into the best ways to update your legacy systems!

Published On

December 29, 2022