Friday, December 18, 2009

The government's modernization mistake

I’ve written many times about the importance of modernizing your outdated systems.  Those that rely on old technology find themselves at a disadvantage, unable to keep up with the rapidly changing world of technology.  Even worse, they appear behind-the-times to their customers and may even leave their data or company at risk.

The U.S. Government just learned that the hard way.  As it turns out, Iraqi insurgents have been stealing video feeds from their surveillance drones using $26 software readily available online.  Even worse, now that the government knows what’s happening, they’re having trouble fixing the problem because the network is more than a decade old and runs on proprietary software.

Now, I’m sure the consequences of not modernizing aren’t nearly as severe for your company, but we see a couple problems here.  First, the old outdated software isn’t able to handle the security threats of today.  Second, proprietary software puts companies at a disadvantage when changes are needed. These are lessons that any company can take to heart.

If you are looking to modernize, avoid proprietary software.  Proprietary software ties you to one vendor, causing a number of potential problems. What if they go out of business? You're out of luck. What if they decide to drastically raise maintenance fees? You either have to pay or find a different solution.  Instead, choose software that uses an open-source language, and you’ll better prepare yourself for the future.

Finally, I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: If you are looking to modernize, make sure you modernize the underlying architecture.  Many companies will try to convince you that screen-scraping, which just changes the look of your applications, is modernization.  It isn’t.

Follow these two pieces of advice and your company will save money and avoid complications down the road.


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