Moving on from the use of legacy systems is constantly at the forefront of IT issues, as businesses seek to increase efficiency and functionality by embracing more modern forms of technology.
To avoid the time-consuming and expensive process of fully migrating away from legacy systems, organisations should focus on integrating these older systems with new ones, according to Steve Holland of Spargonet Consulting Plc.
Holland says: "The urge to adopt more modern IT systems and infrastructure, and shutting down older systems in the process, is a natural one. But migrating fully to new systems is fraught with pitfalls and can end up being a labour-intensive and costly process. Where businesses often fall down is in not realising that their legacy systems can still hold a great deal of value.
"The desire to replace legacy systems usually comes from a need to renew the front end, introducing a more modern, efficient interface, or because there is a legal requirement to change it. However, legality also often stipulates that some data on old systems must be maintained, making turning out the lights completely on legacy installations a tough task.
"To circumvent these difficulties, organisations should take a close look at their current assets and work out where they still perform their functions effectively. From this, a new, modern, flexible front end can be created, which is fully integrated with the legacy system at the back end. When done properly, the data and functionality from legacy systems can be mobilised for a fraction of the cost of a full migration. This is the essence of legacy integration – upgrading and enhancing, but only where appropriate and cost-effective to do so."
To carry out legacy integration smoothly and effectively, Spargonet says that it is important for companies to ensure they have adequate expertise and knowledge of the inner workings of legacy systems before trying to put together an integrated solution.
Holland added: "Organisations often don't fully understand what older platforms such as IBM Notes are capable of doing, and therefore do not see the benefits of maintaining its functionality while implementing a modern interface at the front end. Managed service providers such as Spargonet specialise in spotting the areas where new technology needs to come in, but also in how this can be integrated with older systems."
According to Spargonet, the benefits of an integration-based approach are manifold, and not just limited to saving money.
Holland concluded: "Part of any IT infrastructure change is winning over the hearts and minds of the staff who will be most affected by such a change. Integrating older systems with the new can be something of a middle ground between keeping the lights on and full migration, which can be beneficial in terms of reducing the need to retrain staff en masse. Replacing legacy systems need not be a source of panic for IT managers: if time is taken to reflect on the enduring benefits of older systems, an integration-based solution can save time, money and a number of headaches."