Jun 17 2021

What Small Businesses Should Know About Application Modernization

A number of variables go into a post-pandemic reopening process for small businesses. For IT departments, don’t let the downtime fool you — now is the time to start planning.

Whether it’s a monolithic program or a small piece of a larger system, there will inevitably come a time when software needs to be brought up to a modern standard.

But application modernization can be a complex and daunting task for resource-taxed small businesses. The case for doing it, though, is a lot stronger than any reason for letting the application stay stagnant.

What Is Involved With Application Modernization?

Simply put, application modernization involves taking an existing app and updating the platform, architecture and features to enable it to take advantage of modern resources — particularly, the public cloud, where the potential for scaling could offer better flexibility than the attachments and dependencies that come with managing an application in an on-premises data center.

Often, this requires a bit of a process. For one thing, you have to spend some time looking under the hood to know whether it’s even possible to take an old application and deploy it in a more modern environment. It may require putting the application on a new platform, or even rebuilding it from scratch.

On the plus side, rebuilding may actually be the best option. This strategy enables you to take advantage of up-to-date approaches, such as microservices and containerization, that can help turn a critical business application into something that’s more manageable and a better fit with your customers’ evolving needs. Perhaps the end result shouldn’t exist fully in the cloud, but instead should take a dual-modality approach in which some elements operate on-premises while others live offsite.

Fortunately, by working with a partner such as CDW Amplified™ Services, you can devise an effective process for moving what may be heavy workloads into a cloud or hybrid environment. This prescriptive approach will help you decide what the right solution is for your applications, and also help you understand what should — and shouldn’t — move.

The Consequences of Outdated Applications

You might think to yourself that your applications are performing well enough. But the fact is, tools get old. Applications may have been developed with extremely outdated programming languages or approaches that fail to take advantage of the technology improvements that exist today. If you’re using COBOL, for example, you might be missing out on many of the advantages of using a more modern programming language such as Java or Python.

Not every application is consumer-facing. But the consequences of falling behind can have lasting repercussions for internal facing apps as well, including:

Poor user interface: Older applications may not meet the needs of a modern workforce and customer base, which can negatively impact your business reputation. In the case of consumer-facing apps, that interface may be the only way that customers interact with you. With internal apps, a poor interface could be a turnoff to attracting potential talent.

Latency issues:  An older application may suffer from higher latency compared with one developed using more modern techniques. This can lead to frustration for the user, and in the case of web applications, might even negatively impact your internet presence on search engines such as Google or Microsoft Bing.

Security and data loss: A major challenge with any application as it grows out of date is that it’s harder to update over time. If you have failed to keep your applications up to date with a modernized security stack, attackers can take advantage of weaknesses in your code and infrastructure to attack your application and its data. But that’s not the only factor that could affect the integrity of your data. Whether the cause is a security-based failure involving ransomware or a failure caused by outdated hardware, the risk of data loss is significant and could likely be mitigated by a more modern approach.

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The need for application modernization is far from new — after all, more than two decades ago, the Y2K bug highlighted what could happen with poor maintenance standards. But this isn’t all about maintenance; a modernized application stack can truly help an organization to thrive.

When and How to Modernize Your Applications

If you find yourself asking when you should modernize an application, you may be past the point where you need it. It may also be worth considering whether you should take on a more proactive development approach such as DevOps, to ensure that your application is evolving along with your needs. A robust DevOps strategy can ensure the future of your applications.

In many ways, modernizing an application is just one step on a journey. It’s like renovating the kitchen in your home: You might want to put in a new faucet, but before you can do that, you may need to rip out the old galvanized steel pipes and replace them with newer copper pipes.

Before you put an application in the cloud, it’s important to understand where your application sits today. With a solid grasp of your current requirements, you can make the call on whether to move to a public cloud platform like Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services or a more nuanced deployment like a hybrid or private cloud environment.

Having a partner who can help make sense of where your application sits, what needs to be done to modernize it, and how you can take the right steps forward will provide you the expertise and experience to turn a complex decision into a confident one.

This article is part of BizTech's AgilITy blog series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #SmallBizIT hashtag.

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