Certain things get better with age: wine, whiskey, cheese and pickles. Computers and computer programs are not one of those things!
The importance of reviewing software systems can be highly underestimated within organisations and is often deemed an unnecessary expense. If the system you are using is still working and is fit for purpose then why change it just because it’s old, right?
Wrong! Consider this: What if that old stove you’re using wasn’t just outdated and a little less convenient; what if it was a safety hazard putting you at RISK? That’s exactly what you are doing if you are running outdated or unsupported software. Let’s take a closer look at the risks:
When using an outdated software you have no security protection against cyber attacks, therefore these security holes are leaving your cemetery data exposed to cyber threats.
A patch is a piece of software designed to update a computer program or its supporting data, to fix or improve it. This includes fixing security vulnerabilities and other bugs, with such patches usually called bugfixes, and improving the usability or performance. What does this mean for you? With no security patches you are vulnerable to a security breach. Vulnerable servers open up an organization to the prospect of unauthorized access to its confidential information, tampering with or destruction of irreplaceable data, interruption of important network functions and a complete shutdown of the network through denial of service attacks. The compliance and liability risk of running obsolete workstations pales in comparison to that posed by running obsolete servers.
#2 System Failure
If you do have someone to provide ongoing support to your system then it’s likely costing you (see Risk #4) but it still does not mean you are 100% safe from a system failure. You may be running software that is supported by the software owners or a third party IT support provider, however, if that software is build on a database that is retired then you are still at risk. Take Microsoft FoxPro for example;
On January 12, 2010 the mainstream support for Microsoft Visual FoxPro ceased. Microsoft continued to support until January 13, 2015. Microsoft’s official position on a retired product is “Customers are highly encouraged to move to a supported product as soon as possible.”
Only Microsoft can ensure that systems built on FoxPro are secure. Therefore no matter what support you may or may not have in place you are still at risk of system failure.
Software crashes have a massive impact to your business. If you do not have access to your data you are running blind which in turn can:
- Increase the risk of mistakes
- Increase cost of trying to fix the system
- Increase cost of procuring, replacing and implementing a new system
- Affect morale as staff are put under pressure by unhappy clients and the effect of having a new system to learn
- Decrease in productivity
“We have had a customer who’s unsupported system crashed just before PlotBox implementation. They were left blind for weeks writing paper contracts with no ability to search their data, which we had thankfully retrieved before the system failure. They were losing in excess of $10,000 per week until we could get them up and running again, not to mention the unquantifiable potential loss of reputation and high risk of error.” Sean McAllister, CEO, PlotBox.
#3 Increased Costs
I’m sure increasing expenses is not part of your business plan and yet by continuing to use an unsupported software this is exactly what you are doing. The biggest problem is that you cannot predict these expenses. So where are the costs:
- Hiring in IT contractors if something goes wrong
- Cost of time - paying staff when they cannot operate efficiently as well as potentially needing to pay them overtime due to increasing workload
- Cost of a lawsuit - there is more chance of making a mistake while your systems are down and you are relying on manual checking
- Cost of implementing new system - If you cannot get your old system kick started again you will need to get a new one. A new system should be carefully planned and implemented, not rushed, which will cost you more in the long run.
#4 Future Planning/Flexibility limitations
Running old systems will limit your future planning for growth. For example: if you need to upgrade your hardware you may not simply be able to run your old software on it. Running a retired database on a new computer that has the latest version of it’s operating system e.g. Windows 10 will not automatically work as the software will be untested on any new operating systems that have been released since it became obsolete.
When you are firefighting potential battles with your existing systems, you are also missing out on functionality that your competitors may be enjoying. A new system will save you and your staff up to 75% efficiencies in some cases!!! That is a lot of time that could be spent growing the business.