Legacy systems: Is it time to modernize?

Posted on July 28, 2021


If you suddenly discovered a glaring weakness in your business’s way of doing things, one that could cause huge financial and operational harm to your organization, you’d undoubtedly want to address it right away. Yet not every threat is easily detectable, even if they’re staring you right in the face. There’s one particular threat of this nature that you might even consider a strength — your legacy systems, and how your company uses them. However, these might be far more dangerous than you might think. 

What are legacy systems?

In short, legacy systems refer to any outdated software or applications, such as old versions of Excel, in-house legacy codes or unsupported commercial software. Take vehicle fleet management company LeasePlan, which came to us after finding that its use of Excel spreadsheets “[did] not measure up in this age of increasing focus on compliance and both regulatory and business control.” This is because old Excel programs lack capabilities around authentication, version control and auditability.

Another example comes from Bayer, which helps farmers optimize their processes to become more efficient and sustainable. The company realized that the in-house legacy codes it used for many business functions were incredibly difficult to operate, especially for new staff accustomed to more graphics-based interfaces. The company noted that: “The text-based interface required the user to get the syntax exactly right. If a user typed an incorrect character or a character in the incorrect location, an unhelpful error message would appear. The user typically had to start over, trying to figure out what they had done wrong. Even more serious was the risk that data might be entered incorrectly — the program would run, but return the wrong results.”

Yet, despite these kinds of issues, and so many modern alternatives on the market, research from Kaspersky shows that 40% of very small businesses (VSBs), and around half of small and medium-sized businesses (SMB), still rely on such systems. In most cases, these legacy tools are vastly under-utilized or are the source of significant inefficiency. In the worst cases, they cannot be utilized at all. While we’ve already touched upon some of the major risks with legacy systems, read on to explore these in more depth below, as well as how EASA can help resolve them.  

Why are legacy systems still used?

Many companies are reluctant to part with their seemingly dependable programs for several reasons:

  • There can be a high cost and significant effort associated with modernizing software
  • Users may be happy with their existing systems
  • Business leaders might be anxious about losing key data

And, of course, there is always fear of the unknown. Another common roadblock to replacing legacy software is that it has usually been validated and certified, so any rewrite or conversion would require these steps to be retaken. That leaves a difficult choice — live with the risks and drawbacks of legacy systems, or accept the disadvantages of replacing them.

Why you should embrace legacy modernization

Legacy systems are beset with security issues

Unfortunately, with cybersecurity threats evolving all the time, what seemed like solid software security measures five or ten years ago are often unlikely to make the grade today. As such, legacy software tends to put valuable company data at risk, with vendors often ceasing to offer support for these programs after a certain amount of time. Windows XP, for example, was released in 2001 and had its support ended in 2014, meaning that updates, patches, and new modules are no longer made available, which makes those using the operating system even more vulnerable.

Legacy systems are often unable to integrate with other programs

Most modern businesses generate huge amounts of data from many different sources, meaning that data integration is crucial. This process involves “combining data from disparate sources into a meaningful and valuable collection of information. It essentially produces a single, unified view of an enterprise’s data, which can then be used to generate actionable insights.” Data integration offers many benefits, such as simpler and quicker access to data, more accurate information, and improved collaboration. However, many legacy systems are not compatible with other systems, leaving a huge number of companies unable to reap these rewards.

Legacy systems tend to perform poorly 

Most legacy systems are simply just not up to the job anymore. Considering they weren’t designed to meet today’s requirements, many are beset with slow operational speeds and non-intuitive user interfaces or workflows. Similarly, waiting several minutes for a file to load may not be a huge issue in isolation, but imagine if this happens to your staff over and over again. This time soon adds up and ultimately eats into your bottom line. Other common legacy system performance issues include being inaccessible from mobile devices, and having outdated, hard-to-use interfaces that prohibit productivity.

Legacy systems require special training

Because legacy systems are often difficult to work with, you’ll likely need to train new users on how to operate them, which ultimately costs your company needless time and money. Some legacy systems also run on out of date operating systems, meaning there may be few computers available to run them, or worse, none at all. 

How EASA can help your company embrace legacy modernization 

As previously mentioned, businesses are often reluctant to part with their legacy systems because of concerns around issues like data loss and the cost of rewriting or replacing these systems. But what if we told you that it’s possible to continue using legacy systems via a modern custom web application, dramatically upgrading the user experience as well as security and interoperability? Well, that’s exactly what EASA can help you achieve, by creating browser-based user interfaces which connect to underlying legacy software. Because the legacy tools are still used in their original form, any need to revalidate them is eliminated. 

This solution offers a range of benefits for enterprises, including:

Improved efficiency

Legacy systems typically have an archaic user interface that is outdated and difficult to use. This can result in only certain members of staff who possess knowledge of the legacy system being able to use it which contributes to an inefficient workflow. With modern, browser-based interfaces, staff can easily leverage these tools, and significantly reduce the time and effort involved.

Integration with other software

EASA allows businesses to integrate legacy applications with other types of software and data sources using modern API technology, including CRM systems, ERP software, and databases. This can be hard to achieve with legacy applications and can help to streamline processes and operations, engender collaboration, and drive data-based insights.

Increased security

A web server, whether installed on your corporate network or on the cloud, can ensure that only authorized users can access and use specific applications. The underlying legacy software is secure and cannot be altered by users unless they are specifically authorized to do so.

Reduced chance of errors

It is quite common for legacy software to be driven by text input files that are more prone to errors, out of bounds values and non-feasible combinations of inputs. EASA can help by checking that any inputs are correct and error-free. In addition to this, the underlying legacy software cannot be directly accessed which eliminates any risk of a user interfering with its logic.

For more information on EASA and how it can benefit your business, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with our team today.