More often than not, you don't have to decommission your legacy systems, but supporting that technology after senior IT personnel leave your organization can be challenging. When do your senior system administrators plan to retire? How much time will it take to train junior sysadmins how to work with your legacy environment?
Depending on the answers you come up with, it may be more feasible to outsource legacy system support to a third party. Some third parties offer comprehensive legacy system support packages that consist of three services:
1. Hardware Maintenance
Ensure the third-party maintenance provider you choose maintains a well-stocked inventory of refurbished legacy system components and servers. If your infrastructure consists of particularly old equipment, such as Sun SPARC servers or HP AlphaServer Systems, the chances you'll experience an equipment issue are significantly greater than if you were running on modern equipment.
Also, ask legacy system support providers how quickly they would be able to replace failed machines. Inquire as to how they diagnose system hardware for impending problems. How often do they run hardware performance tests? After identifying a problem, what sort of corrective actions do they take?
Ensure the provider you select takes a preventative maintenance approach. According to a study from Jones Lang LaSalle, preventative maintenance can produce returns on investment of 545 percent.
2. System Administration
Chances are your junior sysadmins are familiar with Windows Server, but only a few may have experience with VMS, SunOS, or some of the older operating systems.
System administration is a 24/7 job. Your legacy system support package must include continuous monitoring and preventative maintenance services in addition to conventional system management responsibilities. OS update assistance, troubleshooting, patch management and other staples of the practice should be included.
While some may consider disaster recovery and business continuity to be a discipline in and of itself, your legacy system support provider should include DR/BC as a part of its system administration package. The provider must demonstrate expertise in disk-based backup, recovery from multiple restore points, setting up 15-minute data snapshots and employing 256-bit AES encryption.
In addition, seek providers who can deliver support for multiple OSes and applications. This capability demonstrates their ability to solve problems associated with various technologies.
3. Software Support
What sort of applications does your legacy system support? Are they custom solutions written in C or C++? What sort of hardware and networking resources do those applications require to perform optimally? Have end-users reported any issues with application performance? If so, could you please describe those issues?
These are the types of questions your legacy system support provider should ask. Assess the provider's ability to:
- Extend the life of legacy production applications.
- Proactively assess issues to prevent downtime.
- Stabilize archive systems.
- Eliminate excessive application resource consumption.
At the end of the day, you want to work with a legacy system support provider that operates like a partner. That entails speaking with your senior leadership on a regular basis to identify how legacy systems enable your business to reach its objectives. Providers that demonstrate this level of commitment can deliver quite a bit of value over the course of your relationship.