Six risks of using outdated software

Image by kalhh from Pixabay

By Jody Jankovsky

Outdated software is commonplace. In some cases, it’s a matter of comfort, with staff opting for older tools that always work as expected. In others, it’s a matter of cost. Entirely replacing outdated software can be expensive, while significant updates may lead to time wasted and productivity lost as employees navigate new features.

Choosing to use old tech, however, can create new problems. Consider the cancellation of more than 15,000 Southwest Airlines flights in December 2022. The reason? Outdated scheduling software that couldn’t keep pace with demand after a major winter storm. The results? Frustrated passengers and lost revenue.

This isn’t the only problem linked to legacy tools. Here are some the major risks of using outdated software:

Six common risks of outdated software

Using solutions already in place is simple, but may lead to serious risks such as:

Compromised privacy

Older software tools may not meet current regulatory requirements for data privacy and protection. This is especially problematic if your company handles sensitive information such as healthcare, financial or legal data. If data privacy is compromised, businesses can face fines, penalties or both.

Reduced productivity

Outdated software may not be able to keep up with evolving business needs. For example, software manufacturers frequently add new functionality, capabilities and enhancements for a reason; to adapt to the changing needs of modern businesses.  Choosing to not adopt enhancements is to reject advancements to aid your team’s productivity, reduce hassles and improve the operation of your business.

Increased cyberattacks

Software that is no longer supported no longer receives security updates and patches. This means that attackers may be able to compromise outdated software using vulnerabilities that are fixed in newer systems but are still active in older tools.

Limited compatibility

Modern software systems are designed for interoperability. This allows companies to create very custom software solutions by combining multiple “best-of-breed” tools (on-site and cloud-based) into one unique solution.  Modern software tools utilize what are known as application programming interfaces (APIs) to seamlessly connect apps together and allow data movement between without manual intervention.  Older software, however, may have limited — or absent — support for APIs, in turn isolating it from other tools.  For example, many companies will utilize a CRM system for customer acquisition then seamlessly transfer a customer’s data (through an API) to an order entry or production system to fulfill an order.  Once fulfilled transfer the sale through an API to an Accounting system for invoicing and payment.

Decreased data visibility and limited decision support

If older software tools can’t effectively connect with newer counterparts, like Business Intelligence Tools, companies lose visibility to critical business data. This creates problems for both decision support and business strategy. From a decision support perspective, outdated solutions may require long periods of time and significant manual effort to gain insights into business operations; hindering their ability to pivot quickly to customer needs, market changes or competitive pressures.

When it comes to strategy, meanwhile, organizations heavily rely on data analytics to put historic decisions in context, assess effectiveness of current operations and predict future trends. Legacy software that’s isolated from other tools can frustrate business efforts to get the big picture.

Lost data

Data loss or damage is also possible with outdated software. Here’s why: While many companies now have data backup and recovery (DBR) tools in place, the utility of these tools depends on the quality of data they collect and the inherent capabilities of the technologies that store the data.  For example, one field service company we assessed had database technology from the 1980’s!  The inherent weaknesses of this technology significantly increases the odds of lost or corrupt data. So, as old software begins to fail, data may be damaged or deleted, and these altered data sets may be saved to DBR tools. Since older systems aren’t architected to protect data like modern systems do, and these data issues may go unnoticed until it’s too late, leaving damaged data as the only backup.

Don’t wait, update!

The solution to all these issues is the same: Ensure software is regularly updated. If updates are no longer available, draft a plan for software upgrades. While these upgrades don’t need to take place immediately — businesses need to prepare both employees and operations for the significant changes that come with swapping systems that run a business — creating a plan of action helps ensure that upgrades don’t simply end up on to-do lists that never get done.

Bottom line? It’s easy for companies to get stuck using outdated software, I get it, upgrades can be expensive and introduces change to smooth running operations. But the drawbacks of old tech far outweigh the benefits, leading to new problems that can put data, security, and the future of your company at risk.


Jody Jankovsky is the founder and CEO of Black Line IT, serving over 500 clients in 30 years and earning spots on Inc. 5,000’s Fastest Growing Companies list twice. Recognized in the Chicago Tribune, renowned brands rely on his tech expertise. Jankovsky is also a key speaker on technology, cybersecurity and business software.

Leave a Reply

The Self-Employment Survival Guide can help you succeed. Learn all about it here.

Self-Employment Survival Guide book cover