Signs and Risks of Using Outdated Systems

Technology upgrades are essential if an IT asset has become a liability. Learn how to identify the signs and risks of using outdated systems.

By Kate Dagher  •   September 27, 2022  •   7 min read

If you work in the IT industry, you’ll need to come to terms with the costs and procedures related to upgrading or replacing old technology, including systems and software that you have in place every so often. This is truly the only way that you’ll be able to ensure your business succeeds and that you remain relevant amongst competitors. Using old or outdated systems can bring about unnecessary risks to the business and have some serious negative effects on productivity and efficiency. Not only do older systems impact your workflow, but they also make your organization significantly more susceptible to cybersecurity risks, financial damage, and even reputational damage. Updating outdated technology can certainly feel like a daunting task, but this is an extremely important undertaking for individual and organizational success. 

This article will cover what an outdated system is, the tell-tale signs that you’re using an outdated system, and the risks that are associated with living in an outdated world of tech. 

What is an outdated system? 

An outdated system is hardware or software that is old, hasn’t been updated in a long time, and is no longer the most efficient option to get the job done. Failing to update systems often turns them into liabilities more than assets as they can’t catch up anymore to get the job done. If you don’t update, upgrade, or replace out-of-date technologies, you may very likely fall behind the industry expectations and your company could also be exposed to all kinds of different risks. There are several important signs to pay attention to if you think you’re using a system or software that is outdated.

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8 signs you’re using outdated systems 

1Slow speed

A sign that screams that you’re using an outdated system is when your tools, technologies, systems, or software are operating extremely slowly—which is extremely frustrating. Companies that have outdated systems risk losing their competitive edge with slow systems because they simply can’t get things done as quickly as other organizations. Not only is slow speed frustrating and unmotivating to work with, but it can have serious cost implications and hinder business growth.  

2Dysfunctional workflows

Another sign that you’re probably using outdated systems is dysfunctional workflows. Outdated technology can become a hindrance to the business when workflows and processes are designed to work with the capabilities of a legacy system, rather than to achieve particular goals. When you work with outdated systems or technology, you and your team are forced to work within the constraints of that system, rather than with what will be best for the business. Certain things simply aren’t possible using an outdated system, and these constraints will interrupt your workflow and pose some serious obstacles to achieving your personal and organizational objectives. 

3Security issues

If you’re noticing issues with security, they might be linked to the fact that you’re working with outdated systems or technologies. Noticing viruses or constantly calling IT means that you might be working with outdated tech. When technology gets old, it becomes more vulnerable from a security perspective. If you’re consistently upgrading and updating systems, usually, these upgrades include security patches that have been noted, fixed, and modified for the most recent version. When you choose not to update technology, any prior security issues become larger and more complex. This means that over time, security issues add up and make your legacy system super vulnerable to security threats. 

4Decreased productivity

Outdated technology or systems negatively impact productivity because it takes so much longer to get your work done. If you find yourself wondering how it takes you so long to get things done and you’re noticing a lot of limitations in the tech and tools that you use on a daily basis, this could be related to using ineffective and outdated systems. Because legacy systems run really slowly, it’s impossible to work at a standard pace—everything you attempt to complete is slowed right down. Slow systems will cause frustration, negatively impact motivation levels, and may lead employees to feel less satisfied with their jobs. 

5Overspending 

Another really common sign of using outdated systems is spending a significant amount of money on technology upkeep to ensure things continue to run smoothly. When you’re footing a substantial amount towards maintenance and repairs, it’s important to consider that you could be using these funds to implement newer technologies that would offer significant cost savings over time (and eliminate the need for repairs). More modern systems like cloud-based technologies are more efficient and offer impressive opportunities to save money, since there is no cost to keep the technology running like with your legacy systems. If you’re spending too much money on tech, consider whether it’s because your systems are outdated and need to be replaced.

6Poor support 

A tell-tale sign that you’re using old and outdated technology is experiencing poor support. If you and your team are using a tool that is no longer supported by its developer, this tends to bind a company to older IT systems and simultaneously increases the risk of security breaches. If security patches are no longer being released for a product that you and your team are using, this is a sign that your systems are simply too old to be supported. There may not even be a vendor that is supporting the product any more which means that you don’t have a community of developers working with the same technology—as a result, you don’t get other developers’ support through knowledge sharing or open source code. 

7Competitor takeover

If you’re noticing that your company is losing business to other competitors, consider if this loss in customers may be related to using legacy systems or technologies that are really out of date. If companies continue to use old and outdated technology, it’s highly likely that customers and clients will consider working with a company that is using tools that are more modern and ultimately more effective. If you’re noticing a competitor takeover, it’s likely time to upgrade or replace your systems so you can retain important business. 

8Compliance risks 

If compliance risks are popping up left, right, and center, consider if these legal and regulatory threats are related to old technologies and vulnerabilities in the systems. Outdated tech exacerbates existing compliance risks of which you and your team may not have even been aware. In certain cases, if you fail to transition from unsupported software or systems to more efficient ones, auditors can actually allocate fines. As previously mentioned, these compliance risks also tend to lead to security vulnerabilities, making your company more likely to experience cyber attacks or breaches in data. 

Risks of using outdated systems 

1Data loss

Several risks are associated with using outdated systems; one pertinent risk is data loss. Some of us are more familiar than others with computer crashes and glitches that have resulted in delayed or even failed projects. Data loss is practically impossible with modern technologies—like cloud-based applications—because data is stored remotely and securely in systems that can’t be impacted by your computer crashing. When you work with systems that are old and outdated, your chances of experiencing crashes and data loss are significantly higher. 

2Security breaches

As previously mentioned, security breaches become a major issue and setback when using old technologies and systems. Cybersecurity attacks or breaches become much more pertinent when you have outdated systems and software and can affect your entire network. Outdated systems essentially expose you and your team to additional risks for breaches in security and put the integrity of the entire organization at risk. The results of cyber attacks can be catastrophic, so it’s not worth sticking with old systems. 

3Increased spending

While a lot of companies choose not to update their technologies because of the cost associated with doing so, old and outdated systems tend to end up costing organizations significantly more money. Because outdated tech is more likely to experience failures, this impacts your productivity, efficiency, and bottom line. Moreover, outdated technology or legacy systems need more assistance and maintenance, which means that you’re constantly spending more money to keep these failing systems in place. An example of a false economy is assuming integrating a new system will cost you more than maintaining an old one. 

4Slow growth 

If you’re noticing really slow (painful) growth, this is a common risk factor associated with using outdated systems. A lot of businesses lose their competitive edge by choosing to use outdated technologies. Organizations that stick to legacy systems are likely to see slower growth because the cost of business tends to grow faster than their revenue. On the other hand, companies that choose to use new technologies to their advantage tend to see top-line growth that is mirrored by a less expensive cost of business operations. 

Parting advice 

Old IT systems may be putting the success of your business on the line. Some of the most telling signs that you’re using outdated systems are when you notice that your technology works at a really slow speed, when you experience dysfunctional workflows, security issues, and decreased productivity, and when you experience overspending. You may also experience poor support for the outdated systems that you’re using, and see competitive takeover and more compliance risks than ever before. It’s important to consider the risks of continuing to use outdated systems and to determine if the risks are worth it—often, they’re not!

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