5 Tips for Safely Updating your Legacy System
Legacy systems are still out there, forming significant part of many organizations. Critical to their day-to-day operations, maintenance can be a challenge for the business. As technology evolves, it’s important to keep software components running and integrated into modern solutions.
But how is it possible to ensure that the IT infrastructure continues integrated without compromising aspects of performance and security? Check it out.
What is a legacy system?
Generally speaking, the term “legacy system” is used to define old applications still in use. When these legacy applications are created externally, it’s common they are no longer within the vendor’s supporting lifecycle. There are other characteristics for which legacy systems are also known, such as:
- Use of obsolete technologies in their source code;
- Lack of documentation about how they work;
- Expensive maintenance costs;
- Part of the business’ critical routines.
In view of these factors, maintaining a legacy system is often costly. As its integration with the business’ operational network is regarded as a strategic factor, managers usually adopt strategies to update the applications while keeping their most important features. Accordingly, companies can keep their businesses running without compromising their bottom line.
Why is it important to perform regular updates to your legacy system?
There are several reasons why businesses maintain their legacy systems. In general, the main one is related to the importance of the applications to their processes: despite having access to modern tools, the costs to update their infrastructures can be prohibitive.
Therefore, businesses can invest in approaches to maintain their solutions integrated into their day-to-day operations without compromising their routines. The process can involve a complete software development based on the legacy system or a simpler alternative approach: integrating solutions into existing applications through APIs and programming techniques.
This is common practice, for example, in financial institutions. As most of their account holders’ data are available in old solutions, these businesses opt to hire teams to maintain their software running and integrated into modern applications.
In such circumstances, the costs to update a tool that is part of the day-to-day operations of several departments, to qualify professionals and to handle errors are eventually higher than maintaining legacy systems.
It is also important to remember that legacy systems pose a significant risk to the businesses. Connected to the web, they can provide hackers with access to their infrastructure.
Because part of the vulnerabilities is no longer easily run, it’s much easier for an intruder to have access to internal information. The problem can be mitigated by updating the application, however.
How to correctly update legacy systems?
No matter the legacy system is updated internally or by a contractor, it’s important to set up intelligent strategies to maintain the solution as most modern as possible. This should include a continuous set of tactics, such as:
1.Adopt a refactoring or strangler approach
Strangler approach is a way of updating the system’s entire code base without compromising user experience during the process. In this case, the developer rewrites all software features, adding both new functionalities and security tools.
In this continuous process, the legacy application’s bugs generally are not fixed. The process includes both tests to ensure there will be no impact on routines and the gradual migration into new functionalities. Once the process is complete, all applications are replaced and the new solution is integrated into the company’s daily operations.
Rewriting applications can be a complex process but, when done correctly, it can have a major impact on how the legacy system is used. With this process, the company can implement new development approaches to organize the application, eliminate vulnerabilities and integrate fresher technologies into the system.
To implement this strategy, it’s advisable to have the source code documented. With this, the development team will be able to incorporate new functionalities more quickly and deliver a smarter solution.
3. Buy integrated solutions
Every company faces changes and, therefore, new demands. In this case, a good strategy is to contract solutions that work on an integrated basis to incorporate new functionalities to the legacy system and keep the applications running and modernized.
4. Develop automated tests
Tests are crucial to keep any system running. They help developers identify issues in the application and evaluate performance against expectations and how functionalities are presented in the context of user experience. With that, it’s possible to make more intelligent and accurate changes.
When it comes to legacy systems, automated test tools can provide an additional benefit. With them, the company is able to accurately identify whether the tools keep their functionalities in different scenarios and, therefore, ensure that users are not affected by the changes.
5. Focus on the Feature Toggles
The Feature Toggles technique, also referred to as Feature Flags, allows teams to work on the source code of a legacy application without changing its code. This process uses various strategies to incorporate new functionalities to a legacy system, updating its features and limiting the quantity of errors.
Legacy systems are part of day-to-day operations of many organizations. They help companies keep their businesses running and are often connected with critical routines.
Accordingly, updating an application correctly without compromising the business workflow is key to ensure that the IT team will be able to keep it efficient and intelligent. With that, legacy systems continue integrated into the company’s daily operations and contribute to better results in the medium and long run.
In addition to the above-mentioned tips, it’s also possible to optimize legacy systems using data analysis approaches.
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