Importance of legacy system modernization: A guide for 2023.

Mar 28, 2023 |
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Legacy system modernization is upgrading and improving the aging software systems still in use. Legacy systems are often referred to as “legacy” because they have been in use for a long time, but there are many other reasons why modernizing them is essential.

Old systems can be challenging to manage because they were built with different techniques and processes than you might use today. They may also require more resources than you have available today, leading to problems such as high maintenance costs or slow performance.

Legacy system modernization can help reduce these issues by improving the efficiency of your organization while reducing costs associated with maintaining outdated infrastructure.

When should you consider modernizing legacy systems?

Lack of security and compliance

The most recent, widely used software versions and modern architecture benefit from regular users’ assistance finding security flaws and problems. Of course, hostile hackers are more eager to find software faults the more widely used the software is. However, the most vulnerable software is old, poorly used software that is no longer supported.

By their very nature, legacy systems find it challenging to maintain the most current compliance standards, including adequate access control, website encryption, and pseudonymization. Hence, disobeying fundamental CCPA or GDPR guidelines could result in hackers accessing the information or an unintentional data breach. Businesses that process client data, such as online marketplaces and financial institutions, are particularly vulnerable to outside attacks.

Maintenance costs

Software maintenance lowers the code’s complexity and increases a product’s testability and performance. Much of the total lifespan expenses are spent on routine maintenance and troubleshooting, enabling prompt and reliable software updates.

Yet the outdated codebase could be bulky and incompatible with most modern systems. As a result, maintaining such code might be challenging if it has been left unattended for several development cycles or when most of the original engineers have left the organization.

Suppose the original team needs to teach others how to use the most complicated parts of the code and refactors it whenever it can. In that case, locating experts who can maintain a legacy project over time will get harder and harder. The company’s specialists will also require further training to ensure more modern tools are compatible with the old software.

Sometimes, businesses need to purchase overpriced specialized licenses for legacy solutions. For instance, the U.S. Navy claimed in 2015 that Windows XP, which was 14 years old and no longer supported, was still in use. The Navy claimed several legacy programs and applications dependent on out-of-date Windows software. As a result, it had to pay Microsoft $9 million a year to provide security patches for the outdated system.

Unsupported vendor software

Companies employing outdated software will have to cope with security risks, lost back-ups, and other inconveniences if a vendor has declared a product to be end-of-life or even gone out of business.

One particular instance is when Adobe discontinued providing support for Flash Player in December 2020 and issued the final patch that made it impossible for Flash content to run. Although Adobe Flash was suspected of posing security risks, as of December 2020, 2.3% of websites still use it as a multimedia software platform. Hence, when Adobe eventually stopped producing the Player, it ended millions of websites.

No integration with modern solutions

Legacy systems do not support modern technologies at the time of their inception. Even if businesses aren’t utilizing the most recent CRM software, accounting software, and other third-party tools, the market’s intense competition may eventually push them to consider new opportunities.

No mobile capabilities

According to Similarweb, August 2022 had the highest mobile traffic market share, with 58% of all website traffic in the U.S. coming from mobile devices.

Companies may need to catch up to their rivals regarding performance and income if they cannot access the software on any device outside office computers. Modern cloud-based SaaS products are better than any on-premise system in this regard.

Businesses that require fieldwork, including those in construction, maintenance and repair, cargo inspections, and oil and gas production, may find this flexibility particularly useful. If these professionals employed mobile devices instead of pen and paper, their productivity would significantly increase.

Slow and unstable system

There could be some causes for a system to be slow, frequently crash, and take a long time to execute even routine operations. For instance, the server might need more capacity, or the software might need to be updated or better developed.

Throughout testing and quality management, systems that could have been better designed are typically upgraded. At the same time, hardware upgrades, virtualization, and website caching can all be used to improve server performance.

Companies employing antiquated systems must entirely re-engineer or modernize them to increase productivity. Moreover, outdated systems may regularly face downtime, which could cause departments to become disorganized or result in losses for the business.

Benefits of upgrading legacy software

Upgrading legacy software can help you avoid buying new hardware and software, which can be expensive. You can also save money using an existing solution rather than starting from scratch again.

It will help you improve your security measures by ensuring that your app’s new version is up-to-date on all of its security features. This means that if there are any bugs or vulnerabilities in the old version of the app, they’ll be fixed when you upgrade it to a newer version so that no one else will be affected by them during their use of your product or service (or worse).

Upgrading legacy software can mean fewer bugs in your product or service–because once you’ve upgraded everything else that needs upgrading, there will be less room for error when it comes time to release new features or updates.

  • Attractive, clear, and responsive user interface
  • Adaptability to contemporary third-party systems
  • Hosting the program on a less expensive platform or operating system
  • Fewer platforms that are supported and lower operating costs
  • Enhanced application structure, design, and user experience
  • Scalability, distributed workloads, and other advantages of DevOps and Agile software development
  • Utilizing a new technology stack’s enhanced capabilities
  • Improved corporate operations eliminated unused features, and decreased technical debt

Legacy software modernization options

The scale and complexity of modernization approaches vary, but all of these difficulties are controllable by the company and typically call for some preliminary effort. A business must follow a plan before moving forward with updating a legacy system:

  • Calculate the cost of modernization.
  • Make thorough documentation
  • Organize and maintain business archives.
  • Prepare clients or staff for the switchover to the new system
  • Have a backup strategy in case the update is unsuccessful.

The best upgrade scenario will result from having such a plan. The most popular choices, arranged according to the degree of complexity, are listed in this section. The riskier the update is, the longer it will last and the more significant influence it will have.


Encapsulation increases an application’s capabilities by encasing it in a modern user interface and granting access to the old platform’s database via APIs. This kind of update will increase the interoperability of the old system with external parts.

Encapsulation may be the least expensive method of integrating legacy systems with cutting-edge ones. Nevertheless, this approach won’t address the underlying, outdated legacy code issue because, even after encapsulation, the old system will still require a lot of labor and maintenance expenses.


Replatforming proposes rewriting and porting code developed in earlier languages to the new environment instead of rehosting, which only moves the program from a local data center to the public cloud. Yet, this method keeps the fundamental features, business logic, and code structure. Replatforming is a strategy businesses use to host software on a less expensive OS or platform, do away with the expense of maintaining legacy systems, and lower the overall number of media the firm supports.

In all other regards, the updated procedure will only be helpful if it improves the current system on the new platform. However, the first step in revamping a legacy system to benefit from cloud-native and microservices architecture can be to use this technique.


Refactoring is reorganizing and improving existing code without altering its exterior behavior. According to Agile Alliance, refactoring will increase the code’s objective qualities and lead to reusable design pieces. This technique reduces the amount of work needed to add new functionality in the future by assisting in creating a simpler, cleaner, or more expressive application architecture.

This strategy is used by businesses to enhance the software from a maintenance standpoint. Refactoring additionally motivates software engineers to comprehend design choices in the context of shared code ownership.


Rearchitecting involves significant technological changes to move the application to a new tech stack and use its unique and superior capabilities. Refactoring consists in improving the current code to make it more legible and straightforward. For instance, several businesses contemplate re-architecting their legacy applications as microservices to optimize them for DevOps and continuous integration/delivery (CI/CD).


Rebuilding entails starting from scratch to develop the business’s current application. This entails rewriting the system’s entirety or its core elements while maintaining its scope and standards.

Although this strategy is viewed as a high-risk choice for businesses, it ultimately offers a high return on investment. Creating software from the bottom up simplifies business logic, eliminates unnecessary functionality, and eliminates an outdated system that can’t be updated or is too expensive to license all at once.

Even if the business knows that upgrading and rebuilding fundamental program components are necessary or urgent, it can still seem risky. This can be accomplished gradually, providing the development team adequate time to assess each upgrade stage and ensuring no crucial data is lost.


Digital transformation or modernization was identified as one of the top four topics guiding the IT agenda in 2022 by recent infotech research. This does not imply that the business must immediately upgrade every system. Yet, the CIO should consider modernization more as users become more aware of indicators of out-of-date software.

A group of software engineers with a thorough understanding of the old code structure will be needed to estimate the scope of the upgrade. The organization can carry out the update easily and have a system with superior compatibility and architecture at its disposal if it has a thorough strategy and documentation and notifies users of the impending upgrade.

Modernizing legacy systems is to make them supportable, scalable, and maintainable. We live in the digital era when everything has its version number. The same applies to software and technology. Everything has its version so that we can update it as required. A legacy system might have been with you since its inception or come into your hands after a few years of its source. However, no matter what the case is, it is always a headache for a business owner only to be able to utilize its full potential due to a lack of the latest technology updates for that particular system.

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