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The Risks And Hidden Dangers Of Outdated Technology

Are you still clinging to your trusty old server that’s gracefully aging towards obsolescence? Perhaps you are still running important applications on older servers with old operating systems because they’re “good enough” and still “work fine.” In many respects, your old server is like a trusty old car. You know where the kinks are and it gets you where you need to go. But lurking below the surface of that trusty old car, and your old server, can be hidden risks that can result in very big problems, even dangers, usually when least expected.

Call Security, Mr. Hacker with the Black Hat Is On the Line.

Security risks are the number one danger of older technology. The older your operating system or application, the longer the bad guy hackers have to find and exploit vulnerabilities. This is especially true when the manufacturer is no longer actively maintaining support. A recent study by security firm Cenzic, found the application layer continues to be a soft target for cyber attacks. Ninety-six percent of all applications tested in 2013 have one or more serious security vulnerabilities. The median number of vulnerabilities per app has elevated to 14 from last year’s count of 13. Dangers can lurk across the entire aging application platform. Your older versions of SQL Server are at risk. Perhaps you are still using an old FTP server that’s innocently sitting in the corner. Or you have some older network equipment and appliances. The bottom line is anything that listens on the network is a potential threat to the server, and therefore your business. If that software or firmware isn’t up to date, you’re doubly at risk of a major security incident.

Are You One Disk Spin from Disaster?

Hard drives are the most likely point of failure in older hardware since they have moving parts. A hard drive failure usually results in severe data loss, and data recovery attempts may cause further damage if not done correctly. Using Solid State Drives helps alleviate some of these risks and also adds performance. RAID arrays are designed to guard against the impact of disk failure, and it’s certainly better than nothing, but you’re not guaranteed that an array will rebuild when you replace a failed drive. There can be errors on other drives that come to light during rebuild and will prevent the array from properly rebuilding. You won’t know this unless you’re regularly scrubbing your array for errors (not commonly done), or until you try to rebuild the array and see it fail. Now you’re faced with a degraded array and partial data loss—a very bad place to be.

Something is Rotten in Bit Land

Bit rot… this is the idea that bits in memory or on disk can silently decay. From Wikipedia, “With ever-growing disk capacities, file sizes, and increases in the amount of data stored on a disk, the likelihood of the occurrence of bit rot and other forms of uncorrected and undetected data corruption increases.” While the error rate of enterprise grade hardware may seem incredibly low, as you increase the amount of data stored your chances of being impacted go from trivially low to a rate that you might start thinking about. Refreshing drives helps, but so does moving critical data to a more advanced storage system, such as one provided by EMC or NetApp.

Your legacy applications can also suffer from “software rot,” again, per Wikipedia: “Software rot … describes the perceived ‘rot’ which is either a slow deterioration of software performance over time or its diminishing responsiveness that will eventually lead to it becoming faulty, unusable, and/or otherwise called “legacy” and in need of upgrade.”

The Bigger Strategic Issues

With older technology, any of the above issues can strike you at any time. The consequences can be loss of productivity, or worse, loss of critical data that negatively impacts your business.

But there’s another set of risks that you may not be taking into account. While perhaps less noticeable at first, relying on older technology and infrastructure actually holds back your organization in several key strategic areas.

Loss of Competitiveness

Your competitors want to destroy you. They want all of your business. And they are quite likely using technology to gain a competitive advantage. You can’t do that with old technology. Using modern applications on modern infrastructure allows competitors to communicate better, respond quicker, close more deals, and strengthen relationships. Why would you let them take that advantage from you?

Lower IT Flexibility

Older technology simply can’t do as much as modern infrastructure. This limits your company’s flexibility in all kinds of areas, like data analysis for better decision making, communication and collaboration, or developing a new application.

Limited Responsiveness to the Organization

Are you able to easily deploy new apps to users or onboard a new employee with little effort? How about responding to a new company initiative in hours or days instead of weeks or months? Or maybe you are spending way too much of your time managing your infrastructure instead of focusing on new initiatives. Your ability to provide timely IT solutions to your organization is greatly hindered with older infrastructure.

So let’s add up the risks and hidden dangers of outdated technology:

  1. Increased security threats and vulnerabilities
  2. Hard drive failures leading to possible catastrophic data loss
  3. Bit rot leading to data corruption
  4. Software rot leading to instability, increased downtime, and loss of productivity
  5. Loss of competitiveness
  6. Lower IT flexibility
  7. Limited responsiveness to the organization

Perhaps “good enough” isn’t really good enough after all.

How Rackspace Can Help

Rackspace can help you migrate your old apps and provide you with a modern infrastructure to run your business. Rackspace provides both DIY and supported resources for migrations and rebuilds.

  • Reference Architecture Tool - Plug in your Windows requirements and this tool will provide you with a customized infrastructure reference architecture. Go to the tool.
  • Download the Rackspace Cloud Assessment Tool - For Windows migrations, use the Rackspace Cloud Assessment to help you determine your requirements
  • Rackspace Migration Services - Rackspace provides complimentary migrations for like-to-like migrations and comprehensive support for complex migrations. Go to the Rackspace Migration for more information.
  • Rackspace Partner Ecosystem - Rackspace has an extensive network of system integrators and partners who can work with you on the entire migration and rebuild process.

About the Author

This is a post written and contributed by Cole Humphreys.

Cole Humphreys joined Rackspace in February 2012 in the area of Cloud Servers. Cole came to Rackspace from Hewlett Packard where he worked in the Personal Systems Group from 2000 to 2012. Before HP, he was in the defense industry with Halliburton and served as an officer in the United States Air Force. He holds a masters in public administration from Valdosta State University and a bachelors of science in Psychology from Texas A&M University.


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