What Is a Legacy System? 9 Signs It’s Time to Upgrade Your Outdated Infrastructure

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” can be a dangerous sentiment when it comes to your IT infrastructure. A legacy system refers to outdated computing hardware or software that is still in use. Legacy IT systems can drastically limit your growth, expose you to security risks and keep you stuck in a rut while your competition continues to move forward. 

In this article, we’ll describe the risks of legacy systems, the common reasons they exist and nine telltale signs it’s time to move off your outdated system. 


In IT, a legacy system is outdated technology that’s still being used by a business. Older computer hardware, software applications, programming languages and processes can all be considered legacy systems. 

Legacy systems often work for years, albeit less efficiently and without the latest upgrades and updates. Many legacy systems no longer receive support or maintenance from their manufacturers, severely limiting their usefulness. 

As employees come and go, expert knowledge of legacy systems can degrade, which, along with documentation loss, increases the chance of critical system failures.

When older systems stop getting updated, it’s only a matter of time until a crisis brings operations to a grinding halt. These types of emergencies are rarely predictable. Critical functions can be suspended for lengthy periods, leaving businesses hanging if expert help or parts cannot be found (common with older technology). 

Adequate security measures can also be problematic with legacy systems, creating dangerous hacking and data loss opportunities. You should perform security audits regularly to ensure you’re up to date on patches and security software. 

Keep in mind that legacy systems may only be a few years old. Rapid technology growth has made many newer advancements obsolete in shorter periods, which makes continual updates and expensive capital reinvestments required.


Here are some examples of legacy system usage across various industries: 

  • Power plants and manufacturing machines operating on MS-DOS
  • Financial companies using spreadsheets like Lotus 1-2-3 or Quattro Pro
  • Businesses using non-supported Windows versions, like Windows 95
  • Programming in COBOL
  • Antiquated mainframe systems
  • Sales terminals using Intel 286 computers 
  • Outdated security for electronic funds transfer (EFT) systems
  • Analog wireless voice communication


You’ll hear some common excuses for keeping legacy systems around: 

  • Systems are expensive to replace, often requiring significant up-front investment and capital expenditure costs.
  • New technology can require costly and time-consuming training programs to get users up to speed.
  • Management is unsure about what replacement systems would best suit their needs.
  • Stakeholders are wary of legacy migration time, data loss and business disruption.
  • System requirements can be difficult to scope, overwhelming staff in the decision-making process.
  • Existing technology is “good enough”– why change?
  • Management often has a false sense of security about system integrity, leading to a denial of impending doom.


1. Security Concerns

Today, cybersecurity tops the list of business concerns, and rightly so. No company can afford to put their sensitive data at risk. Legacy technology is more vulnerable to hackers than newer technology. 

If your systems don’t have the latest patches in place, it’s only a matter of time before you have a breach. Even if your system offers regular patches and updates, they may not be enough to block the sophisticated tools used by today’s cybercriminals.

2. Slow or Poor Performance

Success can breed complacency. It’s easy to get used to slow or poor system performance and not look elsewhere for alternatives. Your IT staff should always be searching for better, faster ways for employees to get their jobs done. 

3. Lack of Support and Software Updates

Once a legacy system’s manufacturer goes out of business, it’s only a matter of time before support and software updates cease. If your system hasn’t been updated or serviced lately, it may be time for a change.

4. Incompatibility With New Systems

Old technology rarely integrates with new technology successfully. Combining incompatible systems often creates loopholes that cannot be bridged successfully, opening your business to security risks and slower operations. It’s usually better to upgrade than try to piece together  systems not built to be compatible.

5. Creation or Implementation Date Is Several Years Old

If no one has ever heard of your computer system or software version, it may be time for an upgrade. Excluding custom-developed or niche systems, technology older than four to eight years may be living long past its usefulness.

6. Communication Gaps

Individual departments using legacy systems fall out of touch with the rest of the organization. If one department maintains a legacy system while the rest of your company upgrades, that department risks losing communication with other business units. 

This loss of business intelligence affects teamwork and threatens your competitive edge in the marketplace.

7. Status Quo Is Thwarting Business Growth

Is your business struggling to achieve or maintain a competitive advantage? If you are attempting to go further faster, your legacy system’s old technology may be holding you back.

8. High Maintenance Costs

If you’re forced to find experts to maintain your legacy system, it’s likely to be costly. Over time, the lack of available service staff will eventually lead to system compromise or overt failure.

9. Compliance Challenges

If your industry requires compliance measures, your legacy system may be lagging behind the times. Common regulations requiring strict adherence to established guidelines include:

  • GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation)
  • HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)
  • GLBA (Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act) 
  • CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act)
  • SOX (Sarbanes–Oxley Act)

Upgrade Your Legacy System With Helixstorm

Ready to upgrade your outdated infrastructure? Helixstorm’s forward-thinking strategies minimize risk while helping you make a seamless transition to your new system. 

Migrating your legacy system and applications doesn’t have to be a headache. Our team of migration experts will audit your existing infrastructure and ease you into new systems that improve efficiency and transform how you do business.

Contact us today and let us help build your technology future.