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How Legacy Systems Could Affect Your Remote Workplace

By: Blair Felter on November 20, 2020

The “remote workplace,” a business practice wherein employees can work from their homes (or other locations) rather than the office, has become critically important since the COVID-19 outbreak.

Even before the outbreak, many companies were shifting towards a work from home model that would allow their employees to skip the commute and enjoy a better work/life balance. Having a remote work policy brings several benefits for companies, including increased employee productivity, performance, engagement, and retention—which can contribute to a company’s profitability.

Legacy systems, however, can have a strong negative impact on the efficacy of the remote workplace, impeding productivity and cancelling out the benefits of allowing employees to work from home.

What are legacy systems? How do they affect remote work policies? More importantly, what can you do to adapt these systems to your remote workplace to improve productivity and minimize costs?

Quick Links

What Is a Legacy System?

A legacy system is any IT asset (hardware, software, or otherwise) that is outdated but is still in use. Legacy systems may continue to perform their original intended function within the workplace’s original IT infrastructure, but may not work with newer chip architectures, operating systems, or applications.

This incompatibility with newer systems is what makes legacy systems a limiting factor on business growth and an impediment to remote work strategies.

Additionally, many legacy systems are no longer supported by their original creators—meaning that there are no new software/firmware patches being released to fix programming bugs or security vulnerabilities.

For example, Windows 7, a popular operating system (OS) released by Microsoft, is a legacy system that the company dropped support for in January of 2020. Yet, according to an article by TechRepublic, in late 2019, “79% of organizations still have at least one Windows 7 system on their network.” Worse yet, the article noted that “32% of organizations still have at least one Windows XP device connected to their network.”

Organizations may be slow to replace these legacy systems for a number of reasons. For example, they may balk at the cost of replacing their legacy technologies with newer systems. Other organizations may want to avoid the process disruptions that replacing legacy applications with newer ones might cause.

How Outdated IT Infrastructure Affects the Remote Workplace

Why would an organization need to replace their outdated IT infrastructure and systems? Part of the reason why is how legacy applications, hardware, and other assets can impact remote work environments.

For example, according to research cited by Reworked, “almost half of global organizations are being hindered in their digital experience and transformation journeys because of unreliable, legacy technologies with 44% citing lack of IT skills or expertise as another barrier to success.” Why are legacy systems a hindrance to digital transformations and remote work policies?

A few potential issues include:

  • Increased Risk of Security Vulnerabilities. A legacy system on a closed network not exposed to external threats may not be a major risk. However, opening legacy applications and hardware to remote access over the internet may put them at risk—especially if they’re no longer supported by their original creators. A lack of security updates may allow major security flaws to go unpatched, which creates vulnerabilities that malicious actors could take advantage of.
  • Incompatibility with External Systems. When working remotely with personally-owned devices, employees may try to access their workplace applications with a variety of devices, operating systems, and web browsers—not all of which may be compatible with a legacy application designed for a specific OS, chip architecture, and network setup. Legacy systems may require new application program interfaces (APIs) to “communicate” with more modern systems or ones not designed for the business’ original IT infrastructure. Incompatible interfaces may keep employees from accessing work-critical applications—creating delays and reducing productivity.
  • Limited Legacy System or Company Network Bandwidth. Another limiting factor of many legacy systems is the number of simultaneous connections that the system can handle. Whether because of limited processing capacity for the server running the legacy application or limited network upload/download bandwidth, this creates service interruptions that create delays for employees using the legacy system.

Adapting Legacy Applications to the Remote Workplace

So, how can an organization adapt its legacy systems to work effectively in a remote work environment? There are a few ways of dealing with legacy systems originally designed for an internal IT infrastructure in a remote workplace:

1. Migrating Legacy Applications to the Cloud

Many companies try to “lift and shift” their legacy applications from their original architecture onto a cloud-based service. While moving from on-prem to a new data center can help address some issues (like limited server bandwidth), it isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.

Some cloud-based data centers may not allow users to control the production environment to a sufficient degree to enable the stable operation of a legacy application. For example, if the OS used for the server isn’t compatible with the application, then it may not be usable on that cloud solution.

Additionally, the task of moving legacy systems to a new data center can be a massive undertaking, and it’s all too easy to underestimate the cost in time, resources, and labor that it takes to move a complex business application (and all of the data it requires) onto a new production environment.

2. Creating an API to Allow Legacy Applications to Mesh with Newer Systems

Some organizations may opt to create (or hire a third party to create/supply) an application program interface that allows the outdated solution to communicate with more modern systems.

Normally, this process requires an API integration to be made for each distinct software application that needs to be connected to the legacy solution—which is why many companies turn to third-party integration platforms when connecting to major cloud services.

When API integrations are made for legacy systems, it can allow users on devices not made for that system to access their work-critical apps. However, if the system isn’t being moved to a new production environment (or being upgraded) to one with the bandwidth needed to handle remote access by users across the business’ entire operating area, there could still be some performance issues.

3. Upgrading to a New System

Instead of sticking with an outdated IT infrastructure and application, some organizations choose to completely replace their legacy system with a newer solution that is designed to work in a distributed environment. Upgrading to a cloud-native solution designed for modern architectures can provide a few benefits, such as:

  • Improved Scalability. With cloud-native solutions, it’s easier to add or remove IT resources as needed to increase capacity or reduce costs.
  • Increased Versatility. Many cloud providers offer development tools and environments that make it easy to create and manage new applications—simplifying the task of creating new apps to manage specific needs.
  • Reduced IT Infrastructure Costs. When compared to on-premises data centers, cloud computing solutions are often far less expensive. Organizations using cloud computing can turn major capital expenses for server upgrades, data center real estate, and the like into predictable monthly operating expenses.

However, these benefits also come with a few potential drawbacks (that may vary by the specific cloud service provider and the cloud model they follow). For example, some cloud service providers may not be able to meet the specific compliance needs of certain industries, have an insufficient uptime SLA (service level agreement) that leads to extensive service downtime at inopportune moments (even 99.99% uptime means just under an hour of downtime each year), a lack of transparency about resource utilization (leading to overage fees), or a lack of control over the data environment.

Finding a partner who can provide a robust data center at an affordable cost while allowing significant control that makes it easy to be efficient is important.

Legacy Technologies and Colocation Data Centers

There’s a fourth solution to the problem of legacy technologies: migrating them to a collocated data center. Colocation data center services combine some of the best aspects of cloud services and on-prem solutions, giving enterprises the control they need to define an environment that is compatible with their legacy applications and the connectivity and flexibility to scale with a growing remote work force.

vXchnge helps organizations achieve successful adoption of a distributed computing model complete with edge data centers that help to minimize data lag and increase network stability by distributing data processing requests.

Additionally, our in\site intelligent monitoring solution helps organizations of all sizes and industries keep track of their colocation data centers—making it easy to manage their resource provisioning and who is able to access their resources.

Are you ready to transform your remote workforce? Contact vXchnge to learn more about our collocated data centers or to request a demo of our enterprise services and solutions.

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