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.

A Brief History of Visual FoxPro

The relational database engine that powers Visual FoxPro, often known as VFP, closely integrates with the xBase capabilities of FoxPro to enable SQL querying and data management.

Instead of requiring the use of a separate general-purpose programming environment, Visual FoxPro is a full-featured, dynamic programming language, unlike other database management systems.

In addition to creating ordinary programs, it can also create middleware and internet applications.

Standard software, middleware, and internet applications are created using Visual FoxPro database management systems.

Microsoft decided to stop working on Visual FoxPro so that they may concentrate their efforts on other products in their lineup. Visual FoxPro 9 (VFP9) was the most recent release, and the extended support period ended in 2015. Since Microsoft stopped supporting Visual FoxPro, there are no longer any update patches for security, stability, or upgrades.

The existing VFP apps lack the resources to deploy bug fixes and vulnerability updates. 

Is Visual FoxPro Really Dead?

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.

Microsoft discontinued all Visual FoxPro support in January 2015. This is 2021. That is now 6 years without any improvements, any new security measures, and a significant lack of qualified VFP programmers for support. Visual FoxPro is marked as “End-of-Life.” It is outdated software, and there is no one-size-fits-all VFP solution. It depends on your specific situation. Many aspects, both practical and economical, will need to be considered.

This does not mean that your VFP will stop working instantly. However, as time passes, there is a greater likelihood that mandatory Windows updates will prevent the VFP from working. There is no guarantee that later versions of Windows will even execute a FoxPro application. At the very least, it is more likely that some aspects will not function properly without at least some adjustments.

When determining whether to convert your Visual FoxPro, keep the following points in mind:

FoxPro application support and maintenance are becoming increasingly pricey. This is owing to the ever-dwindling supply of skilled FoxPro developers. Because no new developers are learning the language, the pool of employees with the necessary skills and knowledge is fast shrinking. Most have moved on to new languages, retired, or died.

FoxPro is a file-based database system, which raises security concerns. There are constraints to how thoroughly data can be safeguarded. Higher degrees of security cannot be introduced without affecting functionality.

Visual FoxPro is a 32-bit program. The world of computing is evolving towards a more advanced 64-bit architecture. While 32-bit compatibility layers will be preserved, VFP will no longer be able to run on a 64-bit only operating system.

Visual FoxPro is not designed to work on the web. There are methods for web-enabling VFP, but they are ineffective. There is no mobile application development platform (iPhone/Android). More and more corporate services are moving online, to the point that it is no longer cost-effective.

The way the software was built is the most critical element in the cost of conversion. The programmer must build txtCode in the new language by hand and assign it the same properties as the Visual FoxPro screen. This will take time, a lot of time. They must also not make any mistakes. When they do, it takes longer to repair. We have programs that automatically convert all of the labels, text boxes, buttons, and so forth. This can save hundreds of hours on a major project.

The sooner you begin, the larger and more sophisticated your software should be. You will have enough time to develop new features, such as mobile apps, with care. You may carefully plan the transfer, and you will have more skilled programmers to pick from, lowering expenses. We recommend that you convert to C#.NET with a SQL database. And the SQL database is one of the most secure databases accessible, and it is owned and backed by Microsoft.

Understanding the Need for Professional Migration

Visual FoxPro has been the programming language of choice for enterprise development since the 1990s. The evolution of cloud technology and the growing need for application security, data privacy, performance, resilience, device compatibility, and data regulatory requirements have rendered VFP applications obsolete. Businesses that rely on VFP applications frequently find themselves reliant on a subpar technology for crucial business functions.

Microsoft has discontinued support for Visual FoxPro, so there are no longer any security, stability, or enhancement updates. Existing VFP applications are therefore vulnerable to security attacks. Businesses no longer have the leverage to retain a skilled resource pool for an obsolete programming language such as VFP, whereas new programming platforms pique the interest of professional programmers. Businesses are compelled to modify their core applications in order to meet market demands.

Maintenance has become 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. Visual FoxPro support is becoming harder to maintain. More often than not organizations make concessions and devise workarounds rather than using the full capabilities of today’s modern technologies.

Innovation is impossible when using legacy software

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 routine 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.  InterSoft is currently migrating that software to an updated .NET environment.  In addition to creating a more robust solution and adding new capabilities that could not have been previously considered, we have also given the client the ability to get data electronically – and in real-time – speeding up processes, eliminating transcription errors and helping to see more opportunities. 

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 and maintain security compliant software. It quickly becomes apparent why a company would need to convert Visual FoxPro to Net. As new security threats emerge, updates are unavailable to patch outdated systems.

Platform Options

Microsoft.NET Framework is a state-of-the-art Windows framework for creating web-enabled applications for Windows, Windows Server, Windows Phone, Microsoft Azure, and XML Web services. Because of its low total cost of ownership, flexibility in rapidly developing and modifying applications, SQL database creation, and ease of deployment,.NET is suitable for businesses of all sizes. Visual FoxPro’s relational database interfaces with and complements Microsoft SQL Server, making the migration of FoxPro databases to SQL Server simple.

VFP to C#.NET translation

Visual FoxPro and C# are incompatible with regard to automatic conversion and migration. Even if a commercial tool existed to convert VFP code to C#, the results would be useless and a waste of time. The correct way to convert VFP to C# is to implement business requirements in a C#.NET application using either the same interface as the legacy application (known as apples-to-apples migration) or a complete rewrite, allowing businesses to enhance their applications to meet the requirements of contemporary business environments. The.NET professionals at Macrosoft are proficient in C#.NET application development and best practices. Instead of replicating or converting historical code styles in the new application, our team collaborates with client teams to automate and customize at all levels.

Between VFP and ASP.NET

Macrosoft specializes in managed migrations of Visual FoxPro to data-driven, interactive, high-performance ASP.NET web applications. We have a history of successfully migrating legacy VFP applications to ASP.NET. Due to its native optimization, built-in visual features, extensive toolbox, continuous monitoring, and server-side execution, the ASP.NET framework is suited for the rapid development of massive online applications. VFP provides a high level of COM interoperability with ASP.NET components, enabling rapid development of ASP.NET web applications. Using specialized tools that allow you to customize the transformation, InterSoft Associates extracts information from forms, files, and databases.

Why Are Companies Still Using FoxPro and Legacy Software?

Even with the risks and obvious reasons to transition to a modern technology 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 software 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

Successfully Migrating from FoxPro to .Net is, of course, crucial to your business. When it comes to medium-sized data management applications, VFP is unrivaled. However, when the size of the database increases, it has been demonstrated to slow down company operations, particularly on multi-user platforms. Modern business demands the use of newer platforms and technologies for efficiency and security reasons. The conversion of an existing VFP program to a.NET application cannot be done with a point-and-click wizard or third-party solution.

  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 benefit from a FoxPro to .Net conversion. Consider hiring 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 that 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 by  employing Visual FoxPro replacement software. 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.

The following stages are taken throughout the migration process:

  • Analysis and documentation of the current Visual Foxpro (VFP) system
  • Recognizing the Visual Foxpro (VFP) system’s modules and the viability of conversion
  • Identify the most effective method for converting a program to a client-server (C#, SQL Server) or web-based application (ASP.NET, SQL Server)
  • Estimate the amount of work that will be necessary for each individual module
  • Complete the design document and discuss
  • Implementation

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 even better. 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. We have helped many small to large sized businesses successfully convert FoxPro to .Net. We have five-star references, and our programmers have impressive qualifications. We have expertise in both FoxPro and .NET – knowing both languages is critical.We look forward to assisting your company as well. Call us now at (516) 374-8898 for a free consultation.

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