There's a long-standing tradition in the IT realm that revolves around leaving the legacy code alone unless it fails spectacularly. Plenty of factors can be attributed to why so many important networks run off of code that hasn't been modernised in over a decade, be it cost or concerns relating to a loss of services should upgrades go poorly, but this insistence on sticking to the familiar is bogging down our march towards the future.
If It Isn't Broken, Please Fix It
Something about our human nature seems to drive us away from stepping outside the realm of the familiar until it becomes absolutely necessary. We've seen it time and time again in the realm of private and corporate computing as software developers announce the end of support for legacy platforms well after they should have been abandoned.
In a private setting, this makes more sense; Losing a hard drive full of precious memories or suffering through a few days of reduced productivity due to a PC upgrade isn't really anyone's idea of fun. Upgrades alone seem to be outside of the comfort zone of regular PC users who are entirely capable of handling such a basic routine. Somehow, this stubbornness bleeds into the IT field as well, though the issues keeping systems down often rest at the corporate level.
For example, the health industry has an innate need for IT security and stability to ensure patient records are safe yet also easily accessible at a moment's notice. Those very same systems are often woefully overdue for an update. The additional challenge of meeting regulations for health services equipment only adds an extra layer of difficulty in convincing the average clinic or hospital to upgrade ancient hardware.
In the specific case of health industry IT, the fairly recent WannaCry malware attack targeted legacy HIT systems in particular due to their known outdated architecture coupled with the value of the information they stored digitally. One of the primary culprits rested in many system administrators failing to update Windows after Microsoft released security fixes made to fight the very ransomware they later fell victim to.
Slow Adoption Rates Hurt Us All
The difficulties in rolling out new software and hardware often feed into a loop wherein developments are stifled due to a lack of adoption, followed by the slowed adoption of cutting-edge technologies due to a lack of creators and useful implementations of new research. Several industries suffer from these issues, with communication service providers often suffer the most, comprised entirely of strung-together systems spanning several decades that have to reach across the aisles of communications, billing, tech support and various other networks.
Yet while innovations being slowed are bad enough, legacy software solutions can lead to horrific maintenance costs and a lack of financial growth due to falling behind the technological curve. It's another issue that can often be traced to a lack of faith in investing towards long-term growth rather than focusing on the short-term cost savings offered by systems already in place.
That's not to say that every older system is a security threat or even a looming threat to profits. The cyclical nature of new hardware and software releases encourages users to upgrade regularly but adapting to an upgrade schedule that skips a generation of tech is often more economically feasible for smaller companies. Unless this lack of upgrading snowballs into decades of dependence, the issue will often right itself.
The attitude in which waiting for the next cycle of upgrades will suffice does occasionally slip into years without improvement, and it's this attitude that often stifles a global push towards bigger and better technologies. Finding ways to improve the systems we depend on shouldn't be a last-ditch reaction to the loss of a decades-old system. Modernising systems does carry its fair share of risks that require planning and careful consideration in order to minimise the difficulties of doing business, yet the results can be immediately gratifying.
As per AltexSoft's predictions, if a single banking transaction can be handled for as little as ten cents online yet a manually processed payment can cost a business over four dollars with each payment made, how quickly do those savings alone add up in excess of the cost of upgrading?
We're no longer in an age where waiting for technology to bend to our whims is feasible. Keeping new systems down by relying on legacy solutions is costing us time and money that we can't afford to spare.