It is good to see older systems still going strong in spite of all the efforts of IT suppliers to encourage users to upgrade to the latest version.
One such stalwart is Windows NT 4.0 Server. Introduced in 1997, the operating system was retired as a fully supported Microsoft product in 2005. But, try as it might, Microsoft has not been able to move all NT 4.0 users onto new versions of the Windows server operating system.
One would expect the newer operating systems to offer superior stability, security and performance, but the point about legacy systems is that they have proved themselves in action. Moreover, the IT department knows the product intimately and has established processes to maintain it in the most efficient way.
If NT 4.0 were proving too much of a handful, the RAF would not have stuck with it. Yet NT 4.0 is not only being used as the network operating system across all 40 UK RAF bases, it is being enhanced.
The RAF will eventually upgrade to a shiny new network infrastructure, but this will happen when it is ready to do so, not when the IT supplier is ready to sell its latest product. That is refreshing.
Legacy is not synonymous with inferiority. Rather, it shows maturity, stability and best practices honed from years of experience. Legacy works. Sometimes the IT industry forgets that.
The latest is not always the greatest. It takes time to find and iron out bugs. It takes time for IT staff to get accustomed to new functionality. And older systems do not need the latest hardware, so they benefit the environment as well as the IT budget.
Innovation and cutting-edge technology are a factor in any business, but there must be a business imperative behind any IT upgrade.
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This was first published in April 2007