What is Legacy Data?
Legacy data is information stored in old or obsolete formats and/or computer systems, making it difficult to access or process. New digital technologies designed for mobile devices, cloud storage, and in-house databases are often incompatible with legacy databases, so it may be time to consider doing something about that. It will be a project. It will be a worthwhile project though, as legacy data management can help to improve organizational efficiency, to save money, and to improve security.
There may be good and important reasons that you are maintaining legacy data, such as retaining data that was inherited from previous owners containing important historical information on the business history and contacts, data that must be retained for legal reasons, or certain types of data that must be retained for long specified periods such as health or insurance related data. Or maybe you are just a data hoarder. That is ok too, but do consider some of the downsides that you may experience when maintaining legacy databases which include: lack of support for outdated hardware and software, lack of options for improving technology for legacy databases, inefficient and slow operation, increased security risks, and incompatibility with new technology. Assuming that you do not wish to solve this through callous destruction, let’s explore some of the other paths forward.
Data migration. Data migration involves moving data between storage devices, locations, or systems.
Data conversion. Data conversion involves transforming data from a legacy application to a new or updated application.
Data integration. Data integration involves combining stored data residing in different systems to create a single unified view.
Begin by conducting a needs assessment in three steps1:
- Assess the business value of the legacy system
- Assess the level of satisfaction that customers, partners, and staff experience with the legacy system
- Assess specific applications. What problems have been reported by its users? How much time is spent/misspent by staff working with these applications?
Once you have a better understanding of your needs, you can begin to consider some of the legacy data management strategies that are available to you. Some possibilities may include:
Software upgrades. It is possible that legacy database software can be purchased or rented so that it can be upgraded and then merged with the new database.
Transforming files. Some legacy data management solutions make it possible to automatically convert any source format to other formats such as Word, Excel, HTML, XML, PDF, TXT, and many others.
Transferring data to Cloud VMs. Cloud virtual machines imitate other operating systems and applications, allowing for legacy data to be transferred. Once the legacy system is in the cloud, upgrades may be possible, bringing it to a state where it can be read by and downloaded to a new system.
Replatforming. In legacy data management parlance, replatforming refers to the process of starting from scratch with the legacy system- creating and writing new applications for it, without changing its core architecture. This approach requires significant technical expertise in order to prevent serious complications.
1 Foote, 2021, “Methods for Saving and Integrating Legacy Data”