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When does legacy become liability? Ten questions to ask about aging systems

IT Systems have a shorter working life than many infrastructure investments with similar cost profiles. Much of the supporting hardware and software has become commoditised, with a fixed useful or even economical life. The business environment is transforming at a faster rate with new challenges and new ways of carrying out familiar transactions – can your aging systems cope?

  1. Cost of real estate: data centre grade space, heat and cooling are all expensive. What is the cost profile of these resources in your organisation?
  2. Availability of hardware support: as aging equipment accumulates operating hours its reliability is likely to decline. Are new spare parts still available, or is a shrinking pool of “new” older stock attracting premium prices?
  3. Vendor support: do your vendors still support aging equipment and is there a technology roadmap to keep compatible hardware and software available for the remaining planned life of your systems?
  4. Vendor viability: how dependent are you upon a single vendor? If that vendor should fail, what does the resulting risk profile look like?
  5. Skills availability: are you seeking skills from a competitive labour market, or are increasingly rare skills attracting premium prices, assuming they can be found at all?
  6. System enhancements and additional features: are your core business systems able to evolve to meet changing business needs, or do core systems increasingly sit behind a labyrinth of point solutions, interfaces or middleware – each bringing its own mixture of challenges and dependencies
  7. Vulnerability management: are weaknesses, vulnerabilities or exploits in your operating system or other core software being addressed by the vendors?
  8. Are your business continuity plans still effective: if a major event causes a catastrophic loss of data centre capacity, are you able to effect a recovery in a timely and affordable manner?
  9. Technology refresh: do you have plans in place to update your environment at a time and cost profile to suit the business, or will you be forced to act by a major unplanned event?
  10. Business stakeholders need to be involved: the phrase “our system is down, so we’re doing this manually” is becoming rarer and rarer as organisations are now quite often unable to function without their supporting IT infrastructures. Are your business stakeholders aware of legacy system issues or potential problems, and are they part of the planning process to mitigate them?

The answers to these questions may not be easy to accept, but they will help you understand just how your legacy systems are coping with new requirements, complexities, and challenges. Knowing when to stick to your aging systems and when to move to a new solution is the key to providing the best service possible or just business as usual.

About Matthew Kabik

Matthew Kabik is the former Editor of Computer Aid's Accelerating IT Success. He worked at Computer Aid, Inc. from 2008 to 2014 in the Harrisburg offices, where he was a copywriter, swordsman, social media consultant, and trainer before moving into editorial.

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