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Guide to Legacy Application Migration: All You Need to Know

Organizations that are quick to embrace change and adapt to newer business environments stand a greater chance of becoming frontrunners in their respective industries. When scaling or striving to compete favorably, companies must make the hard decision to modernize their heritage IT systems. Often, legacy applications present integration challenges with new platforms, systems, or processes, cutting you off from modern analytics and the benefits of a cloud-first strategy. And this is not to mention the frequent server hardware or application downtimes that can result in as much as $300,000 in losses within just one hour. 

If this nearly describes your present scenario, you might consider moving the legacy application to a modern computing environment. However, this is easier said than done, thanks to the complexity and demanding nature of a typical legacy application migration project. Even if you manage to re-platform or rewrite the application, you’ll still need to move its data, and Gartner estimates that 83% of all data migration projects fail, while 50% experience budget overruns. 

So, what do you need to consider when migrating legacy applications? And what are the errors, risks, and challenges that you’ll likely encounter? Find out more in this in-depth guide. 

What is a Legacy Application?

The term legacy application is a collective reference to on-premise business systems or software programs that are likely obsolete or outdated but still in use. These applications may include sales systems, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, QuickBooks, or industry-specific software that’s critical to an organization’s day-to-day operations. 

Although a legacy application might be the bloodline of an organization’s operations, the system can present various challenges, including high maintenance costs. This is because the system might require endless tweaks and patches to align it with modern business requirements or technology integrations. That said, consider the following factors to determine if your application is legacy and might require rewriting or replatforming:

  • Age: Legacy applications are older by design and use and have been operational for a considerable period, say a decade or more. In other words, the age of the application might be used to determine its legacy status. 
  • Business impact: What’s the application’s impact on your business? Can you count on its performance, reliability, or security features? If the answer is no and the limitations are cutting into the profits of your business, the application might be a legacy system.
  • Technology stack: A business application becomes a legacy system if the technology stack powering it becomes outdated or obsolete. This includes frameworks, libraries, or programming languages with deprecated technical support. 
  • Compatibility with other systems: A legacy system might face compatibility issues and might require an advanced workaround to connect it with modern technologies, platforms, services, or computing environments, such as AWS. If this describes your app, then it’s a legacy system. 
  • User interface and experience: Watch out if the application provides an inferior user experience compared to modern contemporary business applications. This can manifest in unresponsive commands or clunky user interfaces that have your team complaining every time. If that’s the case, the app proves its legacy status. 

When Do You Need Legacy Application Migration?

There are specific business scenarios that may prompt you to migrate legacy software, including: 

Key reasons to migrate a legacy system | ModLogix
  • When leveling up for the competition: The modern business landscape is highly competitive, and the last thing that you want is lagging in terms of innovation. By migrating to a highly flexible and scalable solution, your business can integrate modern technologies to scale faster and provide a more personalized customer experience. 
  • When engaging remote teams: Legacy systems might require employees to access certain applications via in-house desktop software, which might hinder effective remote collaboration. In that case, migrating to a more flexible solution is a viable option since it will enhance your team’s digital mobility. 
  • When you can’t find and hire the right developers: Migration of legacy application if you can’t find developers with the right skill sets to optimize or maintain your old systems, especially if they are built using custom old-school programming languages.

Benefits of Legacy System Migration to Web

Web applications continue to supplant desktop apps, and we believe there are several good reasons for moving to a web application from a desktop. The benefits of legacy system migration to the web are real and tangible:

Cross-platform availability

When creating or modifying desktop applications, it is necessary to create multiple versions at once. This applies not only to different types of OS — Windows, macOS, and Linux but also to different versions of these systems. There is no such problem with web-based applications, which greatly simplify the development process and reduces development costs. Web applications enable remote access from basically any device, which opens up support for most operating systems, whether desktop or mobile. Moreover, web-based applications can give employees greater flexibility in where they work, reduce the amount of busywork involved in using the system, and allow your teams to respond quickly to any emergencies that arise.

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Smoother updates

The software must constantly evolve, especially when it comes to apps intended for external customers and not for internal use in the company. Introducing new functionality requires app updates, and while web applications are updated centrally on the server, desktop users will need to download the new version and reinstall the app. For development teams, web applications reduce the hassle associated with new deployments, bug fixes, upgrades, and feature implementation.

Data security

On the one hand, storing user data on their own devices makes it more difficult for potential attackers to gain access to the data. But on the other hand, all this data can be easily lost in the event of a computer failure, while a web application will save all the latest changes on the server.

Lower maintenance costs

The advantage is obvious — you won’t have to invest money in keeping outdated systems on life support.

Step-by-Step Migration Process: From Legacy System to Web Application

A successful legacy system migration strategy should be built around opportunities for business growth. It should be driven from the top down as a core business strategy, not simply some effort driven by IT. Next, we’ll cover the essential steps of legacy application migration.

Guide on how to migrate from legacy systems to the web | ModLogix

Step 1: Start with the Analysis

You need to evaluate your system’s current state and the way it behaves to spot problem areas. This way, you’ll be able to understand which issues you’ll have to fix before, during, or after the migration process. Pay special attention to any potential data saving and security issues.

Step 2: Identify Areas for Legacy Modernization

Oftentimes, businesses view migration solely as a way to facilitate upgrading the system. Migration and modernization aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive: you don’t have to migrate the entire system at once. Instead, you can only migrate some of the system’s components and see if any of your current system’s functions will benefit more from on-premise modernization. This could save you a significant amount of costs compared to “all-in” migration solutions.

Step 3: Simplify Things

The more complex your legacy system is at the moment, the more difficult it might be to migrate it. For instance, migration may cause some architectural problems if the current infrastructure is too massive. Migration is a big change on its own, so it won’t hurt to analyze your system’s current state and implement some minor, simplifying changes along the way.

Step 4: Define an Approach

There are two main options available to anyone considering an application migration, each with its pros and cons. Some businesses try to replace systems in one go, with one “big bang” at the end when an old system is turned off and a new one is turned on. Another option involves taking a staged approach and moving the app over piece by piece. Regardless of the approach, here are the three most common technical migration and modernization techniques for you to consider:

  • Encapsulation

This approach involves packing an existing desktop application into a more user-friendly web service. That is, you’ll need to build the web UI and use the APIs to connect it to the functionality of the desktop application. 

This is the quickest and, most importantly, the most predictable approach to web-based modernization. However, it is only applicable only if the current application is in good technical condition and has up-to-date functionality. Otherwise, you’ll need to re-engineer the app or at least some of the app’s components.

  • Codebase transformation

This approach involves converting lines of code of the desktop-based legacy application to transform it into a web application. There are plenty of automatic tools to do most of the hard work for you, but they are not yet advanced enough to deliver a fully working solution. Indeed, these tools can simplify and speed up the process, but only if you have a team of skilled developers who can handle important data, add the necessary code, and put it all together correctly.

  • Building a new custom web application

If the current state of your desktop application leaves much to be desired and you have sufficient budget for a complete transformation, it will make sense to create a prototype of a web-based version of the desktop app. This will allow you to rethink the app’s architecture, consider the possibilities of using cloud solutions, and build an application using the latest LTS technologies and platforms. 

There are, though, a few factors to consider with this approach:

  • Data migration. You will need to transfer your current application data and accounts to a new platform, and this should be planned in advance;
  • Cloud or not, as the cloud may not always be the best solution for a business;
  • Additional training, since maintaining a web solution requires a different approach than with a desktop solution, with at least a different tech stack;
  • Minimal viable product to start with, since it’s better to start by implementing core features and then improve the product in iterations so that the migration is smoother and you get exactly the solution you need.

Conquer the Last Mile of Business Success with Cloud Migration 

After the transfer of legacy applications to the web, you might want to consider migrating to the cloud. Cloud migration to Azure or AWS is not only a logical step to follow but also offers a suitable modern solution for your legacy app. For many organizations, moving to the cloud after migrating legacy apps translates to instant business benefits and opportunities that enable them to optimize operations and ascend to newer heights. These benefits include:

Increased flexibility and scalability 

Exploring cloud computing after legacy software migration allows your company to scale or downsize resources as much as needed, providing greater flexibility to respond to dynamic market demands. Additionally, you can expand the capabilities of your paid plan in terms of computing power, storage, and other complimentary resources without incurring significant overhead costs. 

Improved security and reliability 

Reputable cloud service providers, such as Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure, have robust security measures in place to guarantee the safety and reliability of their infrastructure. As a client, you can always rest assured that experts will identify and mitigate any cybersecurity threats before they jeopardize your cloud-based applications. Most importantly, you can leverage built-in backup functionalities to ensure business continuity in the event of a disaster. 

Innovation and competitive advantage

Cloud migration positions your business to integrate and leverage application modernization trends, such as artificial intelligence (AI), big data analytics, and machine learning (ML). Connecting your business operations with these technologies means you can tap into real-time data analytics, innovate products and services, or automate processes to gain an upper edge over the competition.

Enhanced accessibility and collaboration

By migrating applications to the cloud, you increase the digital mobility of your team, allowing everyone to access important business resources from any location or device, provided they are connected to the internet. Moreover, cloud-powered business applications often feature real-time collaboration capabilities, allowing you to explore alternative hiring solutions, such as remote outstaffing. 

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Legacy System Migration Challenges You Could Face

Despite its benefits, legacy system migration to web applications is a complex process that has its own challenges. Let’s take a look at the major legacy system migration challenges for you to put them on your radar when planning the migration process.

Migration Can Slow Down Your Business Processes 

The legacy system migration approach implies analyzing, transforming, modifying, and introducing your workflows to a new environment, which is often a time-consuming task. This can affect your business operations during the migration period. Take time to plan how to perform the migration with the minimum amount of business disruption for all users involved.

Migration Can Cause Security Issues

While outdated legacy systems have their security issues as well, it’s crucial that you deal with them before the migration process. Otherwise, you might end up with the same old security risks that weren’t fixed or documented, and thus might expose your business to new potential threats in the future. 

Migration Requires Updating Data Values 

Legacy systems are often outdated not only in terms of software but in terms of data management as well: they store information that was valuable years ago but has no value for your business at the moment. It’s better to clean and validate the data before moving on to the migration if you don’t want to encounter irrelevant data during or after the migration process.

It Might Require Some Additional User Training 

If migration from the legacy system directly affects your employees’ way of doing their jobs, you need to spend some time and effort on helping them adapt to this new environment. This might affect your business as well, as the employees won’t be able to fulfill their duties as efficiently as before for some time.

Tips for Successful Legacy Application Migration

Before wrapping up, let us share some tips on what steps to take to make the migration of legacy systems to the cloud a bit smoother for your business.

Ensure Legal Compliance

Before you launch the migration process, make sure there aren’t any legal limitations to data migration to the web. Also, make sure to learn all the compliance requirements of your web data storage. 

Set Up a Solid Data Migration Strategy

Before starting the project, take some time to review your legacy database schema to identify whether and how to modify the data structure for the data to become accessible from the web.

Evaluate Infrastructural Limitations 

Is it possible for your system’s current infrastructure to seamlessly connect to the web? Does it have any elements that can possibly hamper the migration process?

Ensure the Security of Your Applications and Data on the Web

Make sure to have a hardware firewall, a software firewall, and an intrusion detection system (IDS) in place to ensure everything is securely protected. 

Pay Attention to the System’s Availability and Reliability 

Ensure that you have enough hardware resources to ensure minimal response time and the system’s ability to withstand the high load of simultaneous end-user requests and malicious attacks such as DDoS.

Prevent Possible Security Breaches 

Implement security measures such as multi-factor authentication (MFA) and advanced password policies during legacy software migration. 

Assess Potential Software Design Limitations 

This will help you evaluate legacy migration options and avoid many costly reengineering processes in the future.

Ensure the Compatibility of Third-Party Components 

Make sure that all your hardware and software components, including on-premise equipment, security keys, and third-party software license sets, are compatible with the web environment.

Come Up with Plan B 

This will help you roll back changes at any moment. Formulate a clear-cut plan to cover each step of the final migration to the web, and a rollback plan to revert to the original setup if things don’t work out at any stage of the process.

Consider ModLogix Your Trusted Partner

ModLogix is a trusted, innovative partner for migrating legacy applications and implementing a cloud-first strategy. With over two decades of robust experience in the single service we are good at, you can count on our team to revive your heritage tech and position your business to harness the endless opportunities of new technologies. Even better, we take a custom approach based on the uniqueness of your organization to give you exactly what you need, regardless of how complex or challenging the process might be. 

Our team has handled umpteen legacy projects, including migrating a Webforms Platform to Microsoft Azure. In the project, we helped the client solve several challenges of outdated technology, among them database compatibility and unsupported parts. After four months, we delivered a modernized solution that enhanced 200x faster report building and 99.99% guaranteed business continuity. You can also have the same testament after moving from legacy systems using ModLogix services. Contact us today to get started. 

Final Thoughts 

Legacy systems migration is a complicated process that holds many challenges. However, it’s a must-do consideration for many businesses that want to accelerate revenue growth, improve agility, time to market, service quality, reduce costs, and offer up-to-date experiences to their customers and partners. 

At ModLogix, we firmly believe that not all businesses have to migrate legacy applications to the web. CIOs and CTOs need to evaluate their options, costs, risks, and benefits of migration before making a decision. Our experts are always there for you to offer a free hour-long consultation on your project or full support during the migration process.

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