The Top 5 Risks of Using Obsolete and Unsupported Software

February 6, 2023

The problems associated with employing legacy software in a business setting go far beyond mere discomfort. Legacy software that has been in use for a long time is more likely to be compromised by hackers, and the reputational and financial fallout from such attacks may be devastating to a company’s bottom line.

Learn about the top five risks of using obsolete and unsupported software, such as system outages and rising prices.

Risks of Using Obsolete and Unsupported Software

1. System Downtime and Crashes

No one likes when software crashes. Fortunately, the proliferation of cloud computing and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications has facilitated moving data storage to off-site locations that are immune to local hardware failures.

Nowadays, customers expect instant, error-free, and dependable access to information and systems, so a system crash is undesirable to say the least. Many customers won’t think twice about going elsewhere if system crashes and subsequent downtime prohibit them from getting what they need. You can bet that a rival business is waiting on the sidelines with the appropriate, fully functional technology to satisfy customers demands.

The actual danger here is the time, money, and credibility that could be lost in the event of a system crash or outage. Is it still possible to save money by continuing with the risk of using obsolete and unsupported software? If you’re under the impression that putting off a system upgrade will save money, read on.

2. Rising Costs

Would you rather spend money keeping old systems running or creating new business value for your organization? It becomes significantly costla to upkeep legacy or unsupported software systems. The maintenance costs of obsolete technology continue to grow each day, much like it does when upkeep an antique house or car. The obvious difference is the acceleration at which software systems age, making the risk of using obsolete and unsupported software greater and more damaging. For perspective, an estimated $337 million is spent annually on operating and maintaining the top 10 legacy systems used by the United States government. What could that sum of money accomplish if put to different use?

CNN Money estimated that the United States Navy paid as much as $31 million to Microsoft in Windows XP support per year. Why? Microsoft has stopped actively creating security updates and fixes for the OS since it was retired, despite the fact that significant new vulnerabilities in the software have been uncovered and are being actively exploited.

Naturally, using outdated software systems can result in astronomical upkeep fees. And that’s not even factoring in the opportunity cost of employees who are diverted from their primary duties to spend time attempting to make legacy technology work. Employee happiness and morale might take a hit if they feel like they are being held back by outdated technologies in the workplace. Since low levels of employee satisfaction and morale often lead to high levels of turnover, you can also expect higher costs associated with the recruitment, employment, and training of new employees because of the outdated technology. Last but not least, most legacy business systems consume more energy than newer, more energy-efficient equipment, which can drive up your company’s operational costs.

Based on answers from senior IT managers in US federal agencies, a Unisys MeriTalk study found that agencies were spending close to $36 billion to maintain and support legacy applications.

Many CIOs think that they can still keep their old systems running, but they forget that their development teams need to keep old code bases running. This makes it hard to hire new developers for two reasons: first, new developers might not want to work with old technology, and second, teaching new developers how to use legacy software is hard, takes a long time, and doesn’t help much.

Also, if your legacy software only works on old hardware, it’s likely that the costs of keeping this system running are higher than the costs of buying new software and hardware.

3. Productivity Declines

Legacy systems take more time to perform and complete tasks, and need more attention from administrators in the form of patches, updates, and support tickets. Those who still rely on legacy systems lose weeks or months annually due to productivity declines. Repairs, maintenance, upgrades, and important security fixes can easily eat up valuable hours of productivity.

You get a lot more out of productive people than you do from those who spend parts of their day just trying to get their equipment to operate properly, so a drop in productivity can have a negative effect on revenue and return on investment. The price of happy staff and loyal consumers is high enough already.

4. Security Gaps

Companies’ cyber defenses are much weaker if they still use outdated, legacy technologies. Factually, recent findings on malware state that over 560,000 new pieces of malware are detected every day with 4 companies falling victim to ransomware attacks by the minute. When technology isn’t kept up-to-date, the potential for disaster grows exponentially.

5. Meeting Laws and Regulations

You may already be at risk of using obsolete and unsupported software in the form of noncompliance due to the way your company is using technology, but the risk of using obsolete and unsupported software applications just makes the situation worse. Companies who refuse to upgrade from outdated or obsolete software may face sanctions from auditors. Further, cyber attacks and data breaches can have disastrous effects on a company’s brand and finances if it uses legacy systems that have not been updated in a long time.

No longer can small or medium-sized businesses rest easy in the belief that they are too insignificant for hackers and cyber criminals to bother with. In fact, many small and medium-sized businesses are low-risk, high-reward targets for criminal organizations because they store sensitive personal information about their clients and customers. These organizations are particularly vulnerable to cyber attacks since they are notoriously lax when it comes to maintaining their technology.

Signs Your Software Needs to be Modernized

In some cases, better support may be enough, but most of the time, the best choice is to update the existing legacy application. You should plan your budget carefully and think about what your business goals are. Different business problems can be solved with new ideas and changes. Here are some signs that it’s time to upgrade your old system:

  • The system has nothing to do with the growth of your business. It’s important to look at both short-term and long-term goals to see if upgrades will help you avoid possible setbacks. More and more people have to work from home because of the pandemic. The old ways of doing things don’t work well enough for remote work.
  • Your goals are not met by the system. Your app might work well at first, but as your needs change, the current system might no longer meet your needs.
  • There are no security updates for the system. To upgrade the old system, security needs to be improved in line with all safety standards. Malware attacks can be stopped with modern security tools.
  • The system makes tech debt get worse. Technical debts are often caused by old software. It would be hard to keep your business going if you didn’t pay off your tech debts.

Businesses have an even greater urgency to update their legacy, obsolete, and unsupported systems due to macro socioeconomic factors like the looming recession and its effects. But it’s not easy to use the latest tech solutions. It will take work from everyone on the team and unfortunately, as reported by reputable sources, 74% of companies fail to finish legacy system modernization processes. In the “new normal” it will become imperative to take the modernization of legacy software into account when strategizing and budgeting.

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