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Legacy systems are increasingly becoming an issue for both IT and IM specialists alike, with one survey of US Federal departments indicating  that 92% of agencies believe that their legacy applications must be modernised[1]. A survey of Australian and New Zealand agencies conducted by IDM showed that some legacy systems that could be decommissioned are kept turned on as their complex, bespoke nature makes migration expensive or simply too daunting to undertake[2]. Often these systems have evolved over time creating multi-layered applications which makes migration even more complex. They are frequently core business systems where lengthy offline periods may cost the agency greatly in both productivity and reputation.

Doing nothing is not an option, as the problems will intensify. Legacy systems carry risks, including:

  • Security breaches
  • Performance issues
  • Increased downtime/service disruptions
  • Increased errors or unexpected behaviours
  • Increased costs
  • Inaccessibility

There are a number of ways to preserve valuable data:

  • Maintain –lighten the data so that unused or low value fields, logs and duplication are removed, leaving only the valuable data behind.
  • Modernise – improve the infrastructure and any redundant or ambiguous code while keeping the structure of the database intact.

These approaches may initially provide greater productivity, security and stability; however the application can only be sustained for so long. The long term solution is to migrate the data into an archiving system which will allow the information to be meaningfully interrogated, but will allow the originating application to be decommissioned.

Systematic data archiving needs planning, but brings long term benefits. It ensures that data is accessible. We attended a recent IDM presentation to learn about EMC’s data archiving solution. EMC stated that return on investment can be achieved in six months’ time, on average. While the technology is emerging to resolve legacy data issues, the IM issues remain to be considered:

  • How long does the data need to be retained?
  • What security will need to be placed on the data?
  • Who manages access?
  • What relationships between data fields need to be maintained to make the data meaningful?
  • How will the data be audited to ensure that it’s integrity cannot be questioned in case of subpoenas, discovery, FoI or GIPA

Thanks to the sponsors for the lunch and learn session.

Contact us at Recordkeeping Innovation for advice on managing legacy systems, to assess retention requirements and develop a migration plan to ensure information is protected for as long as it’s needed. IM is the key to making sound data preservation decisions.

“Windows1.0” by Screenshot taken and uploaded by Remember the dot (talk · contribs). Via Wikipedia –

[1] From MeriTalk – “Future Ready Applications: The Modern Legacy”

[2] From IDM – “IDM Information Archiving Survey”