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Why legacy system migration matters and how to do it (7 strategies)

Why legacy system migration matters and how to do it (7 strategies)

Leverage legacy migration to modernize your site by upgrading obsolete systems. Discover why it’s key and how to implement it.

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Why legacy system migration matters and how to do it (7 strategies)

Why legacy system migration matters and how to do it (7 strategies)

Leverage legacy migration to modernize your site by upgrading obsolete systems. Discover why it’s key and how to implement it.

Don't let traditional CMS solutions hold you back

Your website is only as good as your CMS. In our whitepaper, learn why a visual-first CMS can help you business scale and build powerful web experiences.

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Written by
Webflow Team

Upgrading to advanced system infrastructure maintains your website’s performance to meet increasing demands.

As your web platform scales, your current system might need more speed and capacity for efficient operation. This can lead to longer load times, reduced performance, and poor user experiences.

Proactively transitioning to a more capable system infrastructure ensures your website continues to deliver the fast, reliable service that users expect. This not only enhances customer satisfaction but also introduces new features and services that can further differentiate your brand in the market.

However, system migration can be a complex process that requires careful planning and execution for a smooth transition. Below, we’ll dive into how and when you should migrate your applications, data, workflows, and more from your old system to a new one.

The problems with legacy systems

Web systems — the combination of hardware and software that power your website or web application — collectively handle essential tasks such as data storage, processing, user content delivery, and security. Their performance directly impacts your site’s ability to serve information swiftly and reliably.

Legacy systems, however, often become obstacles in rapidly evolving digital environments and hinder growth due to their inability to scale, insufficient security, and lack of adaptability. Let’s dive into specific problems these outdated systems pose.

1. Limited scalability

Older systems can’t handle the increased load that comes with business growth. They can slow down, experience extended page load times, or fail to complete processes, leading to poor user experiences.

For example, if you’ve implemented on-site servers when first building your website, the increased traffic, processing, and interactions experienced from business growth might slow or even incapacitate your initial setup. In such cases, migrating to scalable hosting solutions like Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Webflow not only helps in effectively managing the increased server load but also positions you to handle future traffic and complexity increases.

2. Security risks

Third-party security providers may no longer support legacy systems or lack the defenses to counteract modern cyberthreats. These security gaps can lead to data breaches, which damage your business reputation and reduce user trust. As cybersecurity evolves, older systems become more challenging to protect due to their static nature.

3. Reduced adaptability

Modern businesses often integrate with various tools and services for communication, project management, and customer relationship management (CRM). Legacy systems might not support these integrations due to outdated software and hardware, limiting your organization’s ability to implement new features or improve existing ones to stay competitive.

Does your business need to migrate its legacy system?

Businesses often reach a point where their systems become outdated and hinder growth. For seamless scalability and growth, it’s vital to evaluate whether your legacy system needs migration.

System migration involves moving to new hardware and software systems and can be an intricate process, sometimes causing website or application downtime that impacts customers. Modernization, which updates your system while retaining its core structure, is an alternative. It’s often more cost-effective and less disruptive and is suitable when your system’s foundation remains solid but needs technological enhancements. If budget or time constraints are limiting factors, modernization is worth considering.

However, if your legacy system is obsolete and cannot be updated or modernized to meet your current needs, you must migrate to a new system. To determine whether migration or modernization is necessary, consider the following:

  • Performance issues. If users encounter frequent slowdowns or errors and your website faces long load times, migration may be required to improve the user experience.
  • Security vulnerabilities. Evaluate whether your system is at risk of security breaches. Outdated systems often lack defenses against advanced security threats, such as denial-of-service (DOS) attacks, making migration essential to protect sensitive data.
  • Scalability. Assess whether your system can handle business growth and traffic increases. If scaling issues like seasonal traffic surges significantly slow down your operations, it’s necessary to move to a more robust platform capable of scaling with you.
  • Vendor support. Ensure your system receives adequate support and updates from third-party service providers. Without it, migration might be your only option to maintain proper functionality and adequate security.
  • Integration. Check if your legacy system integrates smoothly with new technologies and tools. Difficulty integrating new tools can impede business operations, indicating a need for migration.
  • Compliance requirements. Confirm that your system meets current regulatory and industry compliance standards, such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which focuses on data protection, and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), which ensures secure financial transactions. Noncompliance presents significant legal, financial, and business ramifications, making migration necessary.
  • Maintenance costs. If maintaining your legacy system becomes too expensive or labor-intensive, migration could be a cost-effective solution in the long run.
Don't let traditional CMS solutions hold you back

Your website is only as good as your CMS. In our whitepaper, learn why a visual-first CMS can help you business scale and build powerful web experiences.

Read now
Don't let traditional CMS solutions hold you back

Your website is only as good as your CMS. In our whitepaper, learn why a visual-first CMS can help you business scale and build powerful web experiences.

Read now
Read now

7 legacy migration strategies

Before migrating systems, selecting the right migration strategy is crucial. This choice heavily influences operational continuity, user satisfaction, and financial investment. Here are seven common migration strategies to consider.

1. Lift-and-shift

This approach moves your legacy system to a new environment without any changes. It’s fast and cost-efficient but may not fully leverage the new system’s capabilities. If you require access to core customer data from your legacy system, lift-and-shift migration ensures it remains accessible throughout the migration. For example, you can use this strategy to transfer core customer data to a cloud environment without changing it so your team retains access.

2. Replatforming

This strategy transfers your system to a new platform while preserving the existing code and functionality, allowing you to maintain essential features while gaining some benefits of the new environment. It’s a balanced choice between migration and modernization. Replatforming is best suited for businesses that need to update their technology stack but still want to retain their investment in their legacy system.

If your legacy system is robust and stable but lacks the capabilities required to meet new market demands or technical standards, replatforming adds modern features without needing to rebuild from scratch.

3. Re-architecture

Re-architecture involves redesigning and rebuilding your legacy system from the ground up. While this is an extensive and resource-intensive process, it lets you use modern technologies fully, future-proofing your operations.

For example, if you’re migrating a CRM system to the cloud, you can redesign the underlying architecture of its core functions and data to optimize it for the new environment. You might modify how it stores and accesses data to best leverage the increased computing power or alter the codebase to integrate with cloud-native analytic services for deeper customer behavior and preference insights.

4. Big bang

This all-at-once approach means completely abandoning your legacy system in favor of a new one. It offers a clean break but also carries high disruption risks since you’re starting over from scratch. The big bang approach is best for small to mid-sized companies with less complex systems that can afford short downtime periods. It’s ideal if your organization needs to move away from an obsolete system quickly and when the benefits of the new system significantly outweigh the risks involved in a sudden migration.

5. Phased migration

Phased migration breaks the process into steps by gradually moving components from the old system to the new. This minimizes risk and downtime but also increases complexity and extends the migration period. Imagine you’ve developed several custom features specific to your business over the years. Instead of moving these all at once, a phased approach lets you carefully redevelop and transfer these features to the new environment one by one to ensure seamless operation and integration.

6. Parallel migration

Here, both systems operate simultaneously until the new system is fully operational. This provides a reliable safety net and lets you return to your old system if issues arise during migration. Imagine running a new cloud-based system in parallel with your legacy system. Doing so lets your team get accustomed to the new features and interface while preserving the data and functionality of your old one.

7. Hybrid migration

This flexible strategy combines different approaches tailored to your specific needs and objectives for a bespoke approach. For example, you might use lift-and-shift to move less critical systems, such as internal reporting tools, without affecting core services. Then, to provide continuous customer support, you can leverage parallel migration to run your new customer service system alongside your legacy one. This lets your team get used to the new system while maintaining service quality.

Hybrid migration best serves businesses that operate around the clock and can’t afford significant downtime. It’s also suited for complex environments where different systems have varying levels of modernization and integration capability. In addition to minimizing risk, this approach allows for iterative testing and optimization while maintaining business operations throughout the migration process.

How to run a legacy system migration: 6 steps

Running a successful legacy migration involves transferring existing data, applications, and infrastructure to a new platform. Here are six steps to streamline your transition:

  1. Align team members and stakeholders. Initiate the migration process by clearly defining the objectives to your team and getting buy-in from stakeholders. Foster a collaborative atmosphere by assigning clear roles and responsibilities to ensure team members work toward common goals.
  2. Develop a data strategy. Assess and categorize data slated for migration. Securely backup all data to safeguard against any potential loss or corruption during the migration process.
  3. Determine resource requirements and scope. Evaluate the necessary resources — including time, technical expertise, and budget — to create a realistic and achievable migration plan.
  4. Craft a detailed migration roadmap. Develop a structured systems migration plan detailing each phase of the process, designated responsibilities, and established timelines. This plan ensures consistency and clarity for all team members and serves as a communication tool to manage stakeholder expectations.
  5. Assess and mitigate risks. Create a structured legacy system migration strategy that identifies potential pitfalls — such as data loss, compatibility issues with the new platform, and business operations disruptions — and outline appropriate mitigation tactics. This helps you avoid unnecessary complications and ensures a smooth transition.
  6. Implement testing and continuous improvement. Before fully committing to the new system, implement testing protocols, such as security, performance, and component testing, to confirm its operational capabilities. Following the migration, conduct regular checkups to refine your system’s performance and troubleshoot problems that arise.

Embracing innovation for growth and stability

Change isn’t always comfortable, especially in the form of new systems. However, doing so is essential for your business to stay relevant and competitive, and enables you to meet evolving customer demands and leverage the latest technological advancements.

But you don’t need to do this alone. Partnering with an experienced web development platform can help you in the legacy system migration process. Just consider the success story of Wave’s migration to Webflow — a perfect example of how Webflow’s robust migration tools and support help streamline the process and provide a smooth transition to a more advanced, user-friendly platform.

Explore how Webflow Enterprise has been instrumental for businesses like Wave in upgrading their online presence, managing migrations effectively, and minimizing the complexities involved with such transitions.

Webflow for Enterprise

Loved by designers. Trusted by enterprises. Bring Webflow in-house at your company with advanced security, custom traffic scaling, guaranteed uptime, and much more.

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Webflow for Enterprise

Loved by designers. Trusted by enterprises. Bring Webflow in-house at your company with advanced security, custom traffic scaling, guaranteed uptime, and much more.

Learn more
Learn more
Last Updated
December 6, 2023
Webflow for Enterprise

Loved by designers. Trusted by enterprises. Bring Webflow in-house at your company with advanced security, custom traffic scaling, guaranteed uptime, and much more.

Learn more
Learn more