Problems With Legacy Systems


Technology changes in the computer field so rapidly that businesses have great difficulty in adapting their older systems to the needs of the current marketplace. New hardware and software options challenge company management to successfully integrate old legacy systems with the completely different technology needs of their more modern customers.

System Integration

  • Integration of the old system with newer systems poses difficulties because new software may use completely different technologies. The interfaces between systems for hardware and software add development and maintenance expenses. For example, legacy mainframe systems may not have relational database files readily available for web applications. Companies would have to build a front-end application and a web hosting system to leverage their legacy mainframe data.

System Costs

  • The cost to maintain hardware and software for the old legacy system coupled with the additional expense of new technologies make IT expenses too high for many businesses. The legacy system cannot just be replaced due to how the data and hardware are configured, and a conversion effort to just a new system is prohibitive.

System Conversion

  • The old legacy systems are hard to maintain because the original analysts and developers are no longer with the company. The newer employees never learned the system, and documentation is usually out of date. The data in the legacy systems are often incompatible with newer systems. This makes conversion a very long and expensive undertaking since old systems must continue running while the new system is being developed.


  • The out-of-date systems are usually run by people who have never worked with newer technologies. The company must rely on them until the new system is in place, but this would require them to be retrained or relocated. Some companies hire consultants with the newer skills and just hope to hire them when the project finishes implementation. Many of them will leave for more interesting new assignments, and thus all of the experience on the new system is not retained within the company. On the other hand, if the business retrains employees in the new technologies, they would now be available to change employers.

System Replacement

  • Replacing a legacy system with a proven package is often a good option for many businesses. The legacy system is too expensive to maintain, it cannot be enhanced and it cannot meet the company's requirements. Packages exist for most industrial applications and usually only minor adjustments are needed for implementation. The newer "object-oriented" software is much more flexible for business applications.

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  • Photo Credit "IBM System 360" is Copyrighted by Flickr user: cote (Michael Cote') under the Creative Commons Attribution license.
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