Legacy system of maps.

‘Legacy system’ is a phrase that professionals use a lot, and it has a lot of negative connotations. Some businesses feel that they need to avoid legacy systems at all cost, while others find that the majority of their major operations depend on outdated software or processes. 

For instance, 42% of agencies use more than 25% of their budgets for IT to maintain systems that are already obsolete. 

Additionally, an announcement from the Social Security Administration in 2018 indicated that they were ready to begin the process of phasing out legacy systems, but that they expected it to take a period of five years to almost completely eliminate them. This means that many of their systems are still outdated as of now. 

As businesses struggle to keep up with the changing times, it is important to comprehend the systems that uphold your essential processes. A legacy system is more than just old software. What exactly are legacy systems, and is it worthwhile for your enterprise to replace them?

Did you know you can generate a full-featured, documented, and secure REST API in minutes using DreamFactory? Sign up for our free 14 day hosted trial to learn how! Our guided tour will show you how to create an API using an example database provided to you as part of the trial!

Start Your Free Trial Now


What is a Legacy System?

A legacy system may be old or relatively new. The most important distinction is that it is in some way outdated, lacking modern support or features. The phrase may refer to either software or hardware. 

A legacy system will often be incompatible with modern software, no longer offer updates, or lack opportunities for extendability. 

In short, a legacy system hasn’t caught up with the changing needs of a modern company. That is why it is so important to understand them: so that companies can remain at the cutting edge of technology and serve their industry to the best of their ability.

Types of Legacy Systems

What are some types of legacy systems that companies are using?

  • End of Life. End of Life (EOL) legacy systems are systems that, from the vendor’s perspective, are now past the useful stage. As a result, the vendor discontinues the product. They have dropped support and no longer offer the product. One example would be Microsoft recently dropping support for Windows 7. 
  • No updates available. While this relates closely to EOL, you can often replace an EOL legacy system with a similar but updated solution or, as in the case of Windows, a vendor may offer a newer version that performs similarly. Some legacy software, however, has no updates or newer versions to offer. This can make it difficult for businesses to change, since they may have to switch to a totally new vendor and work with completely new processes to perform the same tasks. 
  • Unable to scale. Some software cannot scale sufficiently to support, for instance, larger streams of data or a bigger volume of financial transactions, the software has already become obsolete for a growing company. 
  • Heavily patched. The more patches that a software has required in the past, the more difficult it can be to keep up with security concerns. Over the years, software may become increasingly vulnerable, especially after the vendor has dropped support and is no longer creating new patches or monitoring old issues.
  • Lack of qualified developers. If a company has developed or altered software in-house, it may be difficult or nearly impossible to find qualified developers who can maintain the software. If a company depends on the legacy system for everyday processes, this can be a huge problem. One example is a situation where a company is using legacy integrations that only a few people in the enterprise can use or edit. This is one of the main reasons people turn to DreamFactory. We can help you build REST API solutions that can be more easily developed and managed. 

Legacy System Examples

It may be useful at this point to have some recent examples of legacy systems in use. There are two primary examples.

  • Legacy financial systems. While fintech (financial technology) is a growing and vibrant industry, most banks nonetheless rely on outdated systems to perform transactions. They have been using some of the systems for many years without making any substantial changes. 
  • Legacy databases. Legacy databases and data-related software is a major concern for businesses. For instance, throughout the US and UK, legacy systems are costing businesses $140 billion, simply by making large amounts of data inaccessible through outdated infrastructure. 

One way companies can avoid data integration struggles is through a service that DreamFactory offers. Using the Data Mesh feature, enterprises can create a virtual relationship between two databases. That way, companies can merge data so that they can retrieve it later using a single API endpoint. 

Should You Upgrade a Legacy System?

Business owners may feel the need to review their legacy systems based on what the competition is doing, or perhaps they are struggling to give clients the experience they need. Additionally, they may wonder if legacy systems are saving them money or in fact costing them money. What are some of the pros and cons of legacy systems?

Benefits of Legacy Systems

  • Durable. A legacy system can be notoriously durable. They can last 10 to 30 years without substantial changes, supporting essential business processes throughout that time. This makes them virtually indispensable for many companies. One example is Windows XP, which was in use for many years after Microsoft dropped support. In fact, some businesses still use XP today, despite potential concerns.
  • Gives customers what they’re used to. This may be a primary concern for many service-based enterprises. Giving customers a consistent experience, without major changes over the years, is a big advantage. Client experience is one of the biggest factors in which brand customers choose to use. In fact, 81% of customers that a company satisfies with good service are more likely to come back again after their positive experience. The last thing an enterprise wants to do is alienate customers by completely changing the experience. This is also significant for long-time customers who have always interacted with the brand in the same way. A change can create turnover and other inconveniences. 

While these pros may be consequential, there are also some noteworthy disadvantages [link here to Legacy Systems Disadvantages/Risk] to using a legacy system.

Problems with Legacy Systems

Many think that the list is a mile wide, but there are a couple of problems that are especially important. 

  • Scalability. Legacy systems can be incredibly difficult if not impossible to scale as your company grows. This is particularly troublesome when it relates to data software such as ETL software and data warehouses. Data is constantly flowing into companies, and as your company grows, so does the amount of data that you need to process. Data solutions must be able to scale with this data or they hold your company back. 
  • Security. American businesses lose money to data breaches at an average rate of $8.19 million per year. Estimates indicate that 60% of breaches are due to patches being available, but not applied. In the case of legacy software, vulnerabilities often go undetected due to a lack of support. If you can detect them, they may not have a patch available. If a patch is available, it may be difficult to find someone who can apply it, or it may be extremely costly. The longer these systems are in use, the more security concerns there are. 

Did you know you can generate a full-featured, documented, and secure REST API in minutes using DreamFactory? Sign up for our free 14 day hosted trial to learn how! Our guided tour will show you how to create an API using an example database provided to you as part of the trial!

Connect Your Legacy Database Now

Migrating Legacy Systems

It might seem reasonable based on the problems with legacy systems to immediately begin legacy migration. However, migrating from legacy systems also comes with certain problems. 

According to one report, around 44% of businesses have suffered from IT migration failure. They started the process, and then for whatever reason, they couldn’t finish it. That is a very troubling statistic.

There may be a variety of reasons why legacy migration fails. Perhaps a business tries to do too much at once, or perhaps the new technology that they plan to implement doesn’t work out. That is why companies have to choose carefully how they want to do migration. There are three main methods.

  • Rip and replace. This phrase refers to simply destroying and replacing the software or system that is outdated. It is the fastest way to modernize, but it is also highly disruptive.
  • Lift and shift. Lift and shift migration is simply moving an application or data to the cloud. It is fairly simple and can add some new life to an application. 
  • Improve and move. This is a more gradual solution that improves or rebuilds parts of the architecture of a system or application. 

Understanding legacy systems and legacy system migration is important, but so is finding a company that can help throughout the process.

DreamFactory and Legacy Systems

One of the main risks of not modernizing is that in many cases the competition already has or has strategies [link here to Legacy System Modernization Strategies] underway to do so. This gives them an edge. 

DreamFactory offers many options for bringing legacy systems up-to-date. With DreamFactory you can:

  • Bring extended technology lifecycles through building real-time interfaces to legacy environments. 
  • Add modern security to legacy platforms in an instant, solving vulnerabilities in previously unprotected APIs through authentication, role-based access controls and volume limiting. 
  • Integrate mainframes and modern application environments using the Scripted Services connector as a bridge. This solution offers tight integration with Python, Ruby, PHP and NodeJS scripting environments. 
  • Create a REST API. You can replace legacy APIs easily with a secure, standardized, fully documented and reusable REST API.

Additionally, DreamFactory can help you manage your data portfolio. Using our services, you can de-risk legacy system replacements. 

With so many costs to analyze and so many legacy tools that you may need to replace, it can be difficult to begin the process of modernization. With cutting-edge API solutions, DreamFactory can lead your company through the next steps of legacy migration. 

Not updating systems comes with a risk. Companies have to balance the potential problems with the potential gains of finding new solutions to give them the competitive edge they need in order to succeed. Contact DreamFactory today to receive a free hosted trial and a free tour of the platform and to learn more about how you can bring your business up-to-date in a rapidly evolving tech world.