Many companies have legacy data systems that are past their prime. Finding a useful solution for their disposal or integration can be tricky.
Hanging on to legacy data systems poses a set of risks, but so does getting rid of them. For example, some organizations, like public school districts, may not always have the resources to make a full transition. Other organizations could face the possibility of data and functionality loss if systems are lost during a transition.
However, continuing to rely on legacy systems results in data silos, lower performance capabilities, and poor customer service experiences. The costs associated with maintaining outdated systems and applications can begin to take their toll. As systems age, it becomes increasingly difficult to repair and patch them.
Fortunately, there are ways to upgrade your legacy systems without having to remove and replace everything. Integration methods that connect your systems with the cloud provide a compromise between keeping the old and embracing the new. Integration platform as a service (iPaas), application program interfaces (APIs), and service and data access layers are common integration methods.
If you’re not sure which method is best for your situation, it helps to look at how each one functions. Then you can determine which method will work for your company.
Integration Platform as a Service
An iPaas can get rid of data silos by creating a back-and-forth exchange of information. Data that’s put into systems you store onsite can move into the cloud where multiple teams can see it. Employees can also access any information from the cloud while using local systems.
Additional functions of iPaas include synchronizing pertinent information, determining data quality levels, and morphing information to increase its value. However, an iPaas in its traditional form has some limitations. Since it requires technical knowledge, employees in departments like finance and support can’t readily use it.
An iPaas also can’t implement workflow automation. Enterprise automation platforms like Workato can fill gaps so employees without technical knowledge can create and automate workflows.
Application Program Interfaces
APIs send data between two different programs or between a website and a person or an app. An API plays the role of translator between programs or variables that speak different languages.
At some point, the language that legacy systems and applications speak can’t be understood by newer technologies. Think of software made to run on computers with Windows 7. Installing software on a Windows 10 system isn’t impossible, but it may require using compatibility mode.
Although APIs are more sophisticated than this, the basic concept is similar. APIs are such a common means of integration because they’re flexible, easy to use, and can enhance performance. APIs make interactive online tools possible. Your team doesn’t have to constantly develop and modify code to get two platforms to talk to each other.
Service layers act as an intermediary between older and new systems. They modify data as it’s exchanged before either the legacy or new system receives the information. This way, both systems understand what is being received. Service layers can also expand an older system’s functions to reduce stress. They sometimes do this by adding updated features and capabilities.
One way to describe service layers is as a set of rules or boundaries. They determine what an application can do and how it should interact with other applications or points. Service layers act as a centralized set of instructions for how new and old systems can access the same data.
You can visualize service layers as having the same functions as a traffic cop. When a signal light goes out, chaos and confusion can happen if drivers aren’t sure who should go next. A traffic cop steps in and restores drivers’ sense of structure and direction. They now know when they should proceed and how.
Data Access Layers
Data access layers act as a database of information that various applications need to use. Applications typically have three different layers that employ information in some way.
First, there is the user interface layer that is responsible for showing data to the person using the application. This layer is also what the person sees and interacts with. A word processor is a basic example of a user interface that retrieves stored files that a person can manipulate.
Next, an application also has a business logic layer, which executes tasks according to certain rules. This layer includes the different commands of a word processor, such as “save,” “bold text,” and “copy and paste.”
Finally, the data access layer interacts with stored information. It facilitates creating, updating, reading, and deleting. When you open a file in a word processor, the application reads stored information from the hard drive. Or the word processor tells the drive what data to store when you create a new document. If you change an existing file, the word processor either tells the drive to remove or modify its information.
Data access layers are good for duplicating or implementing data solutions. You can access information without overtaxing a legacy system’s resources while extending the system’s capabilities.
Is Integration the Right Choice?
Connecting older systems to newer applications can help your organization avoid disruptions. Before you start the integration process, it’s best to evaluate the age of the systems. You can start by asking how well those systems will work with different integration methods.
Also, ask yourself whether there is still critical use for your legacy systems. From an operational standpoint, can they be removed? Or are there too many processes that are dependent on them?
Finally, look at the costs of keeping your older systems. Would integration and ongoing maintenance cost less than replacement and disruption in the long run? If yes, you can help extend the life of your legacy systems by using them with cloud-based applications.