How to Modernize Legacy Database Systems into Modern Web Apps
4 min read
One of the major issues that most organizations run into when they still rely on old database systems is that by and large you're talking about single user systems that were only ever designed to run on one computer. This may have "gotten the job done" in a previous era, but it does little to help people keep up with the fast-paced demands of the digital-driven times we're currently living in.
Modern database systems, on the other hand, are infinitely scalable and support the needs of many different users at the same time. Not only that, but they can also be accessed from absolutely anywhere over the Internet - something that remains true regardless of the specific location of the computers that are hosting the system to begin with.
The good news, however, is that these older database systems can be easily imported into SQL Server - which itself is multi-user accessible by design. At that point, a web application can be written in ASP.NET to allow for front end access to the data anywhere, anytime and from any device.
Getting to this point isn't necessarily difficult, mind you - but it does require you to keep a few key things in line along the way.
Users Discover Many Database Applications
Thanks to the fact that it is included as a part of Microsoft's Office 365 productivity suite, many users rely on Microsoft Access for all of their database needs. On the one hand, it does make a certain amount of sense for users to create databases here at first. It offers flexibility and convenience that they'd be hard-pressed to achieve on their own.
However, oftentimes they realize that not only is it not shareable over the Internet, but they have a pressing need to unlock this functionality. Businesses of all shapes and sizes simply need a better way to make valuable database applications available to their entire staff. This is especially true given everything that happened during the COVID-19 pandemic, when workforces were more spread out than ever as most employees worked remotely and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
The Cost of Maintaining Older Database Systems
Another common issue that a lot of businesses run into has to do with the fact that oftentimes the sheer costs associated with maintaining older database systems offer little of value in return. Older database systems (with FoxPro, DBase and Paradox, just to name a few) don't have the modern-day development community needed to support them.
These older database systems tend to cost organizations money in other ways, too. Oftentimes older database systems have already reached their "end of support" date - meaning that they are only going to get even more expensive to manage as time goes on. You may be able to purchase some type of extended support plan for an "unsupported" version of your database, but this usually comes with a prohibitively high price itself.
If you choose to continue to use those resources after their "end of support" date has arrived, everything becomes your responsibility. This means that if something breaks, it's up to you to fix it - and deal with the expensive and frustrating periods of downtime that you'll almost certainly experience as well.
The other types of maintenance tasks that you'll be singularly responsible for include fixing bugs and deploying those fixes as quickly as possible. If any requirements have changed that dictate necessary changes in functionality, you'll need to deploy them. Cleaning up your data also becomes your responsibility, as does dealing with concurrency issues. All of this quickly adds up in terms of time alone - to say nothing of the actual financial costs associated with these types of activities. In fact, it can often cost more to simply maintain a mature database system than it did to develop and deploy it in the first place.
But at the same time, all of this is inherently necessary because upgrading older technology to a newer and more sophisticated equivalent is a basic requirement of any IT organization to begin with. Failing to properly maintain those crucial business systems can easily create operational issues, and often significantly so. An older database that functioned well "for its time" will often feel woefully inadequate, if it hasn't already started to do so. At that point, your employees will be spending so much time trying to get things to work properly that they'll have fewer time every day to spend actually acting on the data they need to do their jobs.
By modernizing these legacy database systems, however, organizations may have to deal with one time up-front capital investments. But they reap major long-term benefits by way of easier maintenance and operational cost savings across the board. All of the money that you would be spending on maintenance can be funneled back into other areas of the business where it can do the most good. Not only that, but because the database systems are easier to work with, people will spend less time "battling" their technology and will be in a much better position to actually put it to good use in all of the ways that you need.
Legacy Database System Modernization Approaches
As your organization begins to modernize its own legacy database systems into modern web apps, the good news is that oftentimes these older systems (and the data contained within them) can be imported directly into SQL Server. However, if there was a user interface associated with the database in question, each screen within that database application would need to be converted into a page in a web application.
This is necessary to not only make sure that everything makes the transition from one platform to the next without issue, but also to preserve the important user experience as well. Remember that for the best results, any type of modern web application should support and empower the way users like to work. They shouldn't have to change their workflows - often in frustrating ways - simply to make up for the limitations of the technology you've chosen to provide them with.
The coding of these pages, and the business rules associated with them, should always be integrated into new applications during the development process. To that end, ASP.NET and SQL Server are a great technology solution for the modernization of these legacy database applications because of the vast capabilities and easy maintenance that they're known for.
In the end, it's important for you to understand that businesses stand to gain significant benefits by modernizing their legacy database systems into newer and more scalable web applications that themselves are built upon powerful development platforms like SQL Server and ASP.NET. The end result of this work offers your organization the ability to apply the application to your internal teams and clients, all in an effort to modernize their workflows. This also brings with it the opportunity to dramatically increase productivity and the ability to work remotely from nearly any location on the planet with an active Internet connection, which may very well be the most important advantage of all.
To learn more about Legacy Business Application Modernization Techniques, download our eBook titled "Legacy System Modernization 101 - Your Guide for Success.