Left Out in the Code: FoxPro and End of Life Migrations

Understand FoxPro and End of Life Migrations from InterSoft Associates

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FoxPro and Visual FoxPro were Microsoft database management systems that were discontinued in 2007, yet there are still many companies that are using mission-critical systems and software designed around FoxPro. Migrating databases and systems when they reach end of life can seem daunting, intimidating or expensive – but the alternative of continuing to use deprecated, legacy systems can prove far more costly. Read on as we explore the obstacles and opportunities of migrating from old, discontinued technologies to newer, more efficient, more capable and advanced solutions.

Understanding the Need for Migration

FoxPro and Visual FoxPro were, once upon a time, incredibly fast, capable systems using the dBase file structure that many organizations came to depend on for database management. Like any legacy system, one reason why it has continued to be in use today – all these years later – is simply because for those organizations it just works. With only a little scrutiny, however, that argument starts to falter.

Maintenance is increasingly difficult

Organizations lose sight of the fact that somebody has to maintain those legacy systems. In the case of older systems like FoxPro, it is getting harder and harder to find capable people that understand the technology and what it can do, since few people are actually learning the system nowadays. This makes it expensive and often time consuming to keep an outdated system going.  More often than not organizations make concessions and devise workarounds rather than using the full capabilities of today’s modern technologies.

Innovation is impossible

New technologies create new opportunities and new possibilities. With innovation come new ways of doing things, increased efficiencies, new integrations or better and faster ways of solving both routing and complex problems. If the systems that help drive your business are built on outdated technologies, none of that potential is available to you.

Case in point: At InterSoft Associates we are working with someone who’s running important software on an old laptop that’s running Windows XP (which was released in 2001 and official support for it ended in 2014) and it is not even connected to the internet. But this laptop is running important mission-critical code.  It is still involved in important organizational operations and calculations. There is a great deal of a risk and a huge layer of inefficiency to have something critical running on old software on an old machine that cannot even exploit the possibilities of on-line and real-time data and communications.

Security is a major concern

This illustrates the point that security becomes difficult to manage on legacy systems such as those written in FoxPro. As maintenance becomes difficult, it’s harder to keep the security relationship intact between the “old” system and newer, more security compliant software. As new security threats emerge, updates are unavailable to patch outdated systems.

Why Are Companies Still Using FoxPro and Legacy Software?

Even with the risks and obvious reasons to transition to a modern technology – like .NET –  and upgrade, people continue to use old software because it works – or so they believe. It is serving some critical function that seemingly will not allow for the risk of interruption required to upgrade. This makes it easy to justify a delay or status quo, even for a system that reached end of life 15 years ago.

Yet, migration must be done to keep systems and software high performing – which, remember, are all in service to help a business and its people do their jobs better, more easily and more efficiently.

Keys to Making the Migration

  1. Talk to an expert who can understand why a legacy system, like FoxPro, is still in place – what problem it solves – and how a modern approach can significantly improve on that solution. Consider an expert with a robust development process so that you are assured of a smooth, transparent custom development process.
  2. Understand the cost benefit. A new or upgraded system should start by leveraging what is already there. In other words you do not need to throw out what is working, even if you need it updated or upgraded into new ways of accomplishing existing tasks. With that expert’s understanding of what is already available combined with the problems the old solution solves and what a new modern solution can improve upon, you can easily calculate the value and the benefits of migrating. Time and energy saved, efficiencies increased, opportunities uncovered and exploited even employee morale or communication improvements can all be a part of the solution, benefits and business case
  3. Know the risks. When you are updating or rewriting software written on a legacy platform like FoxPro to new or improved technologies such as .NET, the old or existing platform will be eliminated for a newer, more reliable, more secure and more capable platform. Again, do not let these things be a surprise – an expert should help you understand these realities long before new code-crunching begins. This is why understanding the business problem is critical, rather than having a myopic view of just what the old system functionally did with an eye towards replicating that. The custom software development expert should be able to say here is how we can take what you were doing and make it even better.

Migration is less about updating old code and more about upgrading the solutions to problems – which might mean rethinking the problem in the first place. Putting migration off because the old system “works” is usually a losing effort because at some point, like an old worn out car, it stops running, or you will not be able to buy the parts, or no mechanics will have the skills for repairs. The great news is that migrating from legacy systems does not have to be painful, unnecessarily expensive or even a significant interruption to existing workflows.

At InterSoft Associates, we can evaluate what you are doing now, what needs to be done for upgrades or updates, and help conduct a migration that ultimately helps your business run. If you’re still running mission-critical systems on outdated code or databases, let us show you how making upgrades can be easier and more cost effective than you might think.

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