It can be difficult to move on from legacy systems. Core business processes may rely on them to run, and replacing existing hardware can be a large and potentially expensive undertaking. It's no wonder so many organizations continue using legacy systems long after they have reached their natural end of life.

Hanging onto legacy systems is not tenable over the long run, and businesses will inevitably run into performance issues, growth barriers and security risks. Even companies that are hesitant to replace platforms, processes and software they have used for years will have to come around to the fact that inaction presents far more risk than migrating to new solutions.

If your business operations depend on outdated legacy systems, consider the potential threat they present to your organization and your revenue streams.

Security updates, vendor support dries up

Legacy systems are often associated with outdated technology that's a holdover from earlier periods in an organization's history. As such, it's easy to think that the major concern with legacy platforms is that they can't meet the performance benchmarks set by the latest and most sophisticated tech.

While that's certainly true, it's not the sole concern in terms of security vulnerabilities. An equally problematic issue is that software and tech companies eventually stop supporting their products after they have been replaced in the marketplace by newer, more advanced versions. When that happens, software providers will stop releasing critical patches like security updates, leaving users to either figure out their own workarounds or continue using applications and platforms that contain severe security vulnerabilities.

"Legacy system vulnerabilities can leave holes in an organization's security hygiene."

Such vulnerabilities can leave detrimental holes in an organization's security hygiene, putting them at risk for costly data breaches. End-of-support dates are publicly released information, so malicious actors can easily target systems and find zero-day exploits that have yet to be patched.

One of the most notable recent examples is the BlueKeep vulnerability, which was first identified in May 2019. The bug affects NT-based Windows operating systems, including Windows 7, Windows 2000 and Windows XP.

In this situation, Microsoft has released security patches for all impacted operating systems, even those it no longer supports in an official capacity. That won't always be the case, however, and organizations take a big risk anytime they rely on outdated legacy software for important business operations.

Organizations may have the option to pay vendors for extended support beyond the normal end-of-life timeline, but those companies are essentially funneling money to a losing prospect. Eventually the cost of maintaining an outdated platform will outweigh any benefits, and a change will be necessary. It's often better to simply invest in an upgrade from the outset rather than shackle your business with old systems that are incompatible with the latest solutions or require an enormous amount of heavy lifting to maintain.

Even legacy systems that continue receiving some developer support and patch releases could be doing more damage in the long term by discouraging organizations from making a necessary change sooner. For instance, Microsoft did not end Windows XP support until 2014, five years after the release of Windows 7. The longer businesses use outdated systems, build upon them and integrate additional applications, the more complex their IT footprints become – and the more difficult it is to untangle everything.

When the time comes to upgrade the system, that migration may need to be down iteratively, moving from one successive version to another. Every transition has the potential for service disruption or worse.

Tribal knowledge relegated to a chosen few

One of the biggest concerns with legacy systems is that important documentation can be misplaced or lost over time, making it difficult for new employees and teams to learn how to properly manage those platforms. If enough time has passed, the vendor may not even have that information readily available, forcing organizations to rely on the staff members who initially implemented the solution to maintain it and train others to share that workload.

Given the long periods of time that legacy systems stay in place, there's no guarantee those employees will still be with the organization when such questions arise. Siloing off tribal knowledge to a handful of individuals creates operational risk and makes it more difficult to improve or replace legacy systems. Business leaders may want to implement the newest software solutions to bolster their security posture, but that could be extremely difficult without the support of the original IT team.

Legacy systems not designed according to latest security practices

Cybersecurity best practices have evolved significantly over the last several years, and legacy systems may be ill-equipped to keep up with those developments. When you consider how much of a focal point IT security has become in the wake of recent data breaches and scandals, legacy systems often fall woefully short of modern benchmarks.

"Legacy systems often fall woefully short of modern benchmarks."

At the time they were originally designed and implemented, ironclad security was less of a priority for many legacy platforms. Encryption, for example, is often considered a standard requirement for any hardened security tool today, but you may be hard-pressed to find an old IT system that implements it in a modern way.

Access control is another relatively recent development that is unlikely to be found in legacy systems. The modern approach is to limit access as a default setting and only "turn on" access once users have been authenticated and approved. Given how important access control is to robust cybersecurity posture – not just in terms of warding off a breach, but preventing malicious actors who do get inside your system from freely moving between databases, networks and systems – lacking those measures altogether is a huge security oversight.

Embrace IDI's reliable approach to billing platform security

Maintaining a strong security posture is a never-ending pursuit, which is why IDI Billing Solutions adheres to the latest software development best practices and an aggressive approach to automation and proof of concept. This approach sets the foundation for a strong, secure core platform and a consistent software update schedule to roll out new releases.

Every month, the IDI team delivers new software, patches and components to improve the core operability and performance of CostGuard®. Updates are carefully reviewed and vetted in a testing environment to ensure that quality standards are met and no unforeseen issues arise before rolling it out to CostGuard users.

Software releases are fully automated including scanning and reviewing for security vulnerabilities, so IDI customers can be rest assured that they receive the latest updates without delay or introducing new risk to their operations. That's the benefit of using a cloud-based billing solution: You don't need to manage patching or software updates yourself, like you would with an on-prem or outdated platform. IDI takes care of the heavy lifting, providing a high-quality, secure and reliable billing platform without any of the headaches.