GDPR, Legacy Systems and Databases

Legacy Systems
With GDPR coming into force on the 25th May 2018  there is added pressure on organisations to ensure that processes and software are compliant with the regulation. Legacy software systems or databases tend to be the terms used for systems that have been in operation within a business or organisations for a long time.  For most of these businesses these software systems still provide a valuable function within the organisation and are still as relevant as they were when they were original implemented.  However, problems can arise when these systems are based on outdated or obsolete technology.

Before deciding whether to change your legacy system or stick with it lets consider:

  1. Does your existing system still add value to the business and does it form part of your day to day business processes?
  2. Does the software system store or use personal data & comply with GDPR (applies to consumer/client data or anything that could be used to identify an individual)?
  3. Are you still able to get support for the system?
  4. What is the financial, human and lost opportunity cost of maintaining the system?
  5. How does the system work with current and updated infrastructure?
  6. Does your system integrate to anything else and does this impact on other systems and their ability to be upgraded?
  7. What level of documentation do you have for the system and are the developers/suppliers still in existence?

Why might you look to change?

  • Legacy systems may be vulnerable to attack and well know flaws could be compromised, making your data vulnerable and easily accessible to unknown parties.
  • Some legacy systems might require updating to ensure they support compliance with GDPR.
  • The ongoing cost of maintaining your legacy system may be greater than the cost to replace it, especially when you consider everything else that is not keeping up with the latest technologies and versions just to ensure that your legacy system still functions.
  • Keeping legacy systems running can become an expensive exercise when there is limited knowledge of the system available due to the dissolution of the original developer or supplier. People retire and move on from businesses, taking their skills and knowledge with them and being replaced with individuals that have not been trained or previously exposed to older technologies or languages; making support and ongoing development for these systems even harder.
  • As your business develops and grows it may be that you need to make changes to processes and systems in order to scale the business. With a lack of available skills and knowledge, this will become increasingly more difficult with legacy systems.
  • New technologies and products may not be available due to compatibility issues with the legacy system, impacting on the company’s ability to take advantage of new technologies and working practices.
  • Think about how you access your systems and information, is it always via your laptop/desktop or do you now look toward your Smartphone or Tablet? With the increase in connectivity and accessibility from mobile devices many people expect to have instant access to data wherever they are and not being able to may impact on the speed of response and level of service you are able to provide to your customers.
  • The issue with many legacy systems is that they were not designed to cope with the today’s infrastructure and as such are either unable or certainly challenged in providing access to data or systems via mobile devices.
  • Over the last 5 years we have seen an increase in companies developing their own Apps., either for internal use or for to provide an alternative method for their customer to engage with them. Clearly this is a growing trend and some companies are finding themselves left behind if they are unable to offer this where their competitors can.  Whilst App. Development can be relatively straightforward, it is certainly complicated if the internal systems have not been architected in such a way as to be able to support Apps.

Of course there are reasons why you would look to retain a legacy system:

  • Companies with heavily customised and industry specific solutions may find it difficult to replace these without there being a detrimental effect on the business and their competitive edge.
  • New system implementations will always come up against some form of resistance to change, either from individuals or business units. Clearly this resistance needs to be managed and businesses need to factor this in with the overall cost of change.  Adding this to the cost of deploying a new solution may outweigh the benefit of changing systems.
  • Depending on the technology use, it may prove more cost effective to update or modernise the existing legacy system, assuming that this can be achieved and still meet all the requirements of the business.
  • A common driver for change is that legacy systems get to a point where they are no longer supported by the supplier or vendor. However, there are often third-party providers who have the requisite skill-set and knowledge and are happy to support legacy solutions.

Take a look at the applications in your business today and if you are having problems, get some expert support and make a plan.

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