Written by: Daniel Haurey on 05/23/24

Beginning in 1912, the hand-drawn diagrams of outlandish inventions established Rube Goldberg as one of the most popular cartoonists of the time, and the term “Rube Goldberg Machine” was coined. Within his comic strips, Goldberg created extremely complex machines that were built to perform a simple task. The modern Mouse Trap board game pays homage to Goldberg, challenging children and adults to solve a straightforward problem following a convoluted pattern. If you’ve ever played Mouse Trap, you know how frustrating it can be to tweak every tiny element until that tiny ball runs its course correctly.

Legacy networks are similar – stick with us here – in that using obsolete technology to solve modern IT needs can turn simple, everyday workplace demands into a complex, frustrating challenge. Using wrong or outdated solutions can cause more than just headaches for your team. Legacy networks are riddled with issues ranging from security risks to incompatibility with newer IT solutions to high maintenance costs, and every organization needs to fully understand the impact of retaining obsolete network technology versus creating a strategic roadmap for replacements and upgrades.

Understanding How Legacy Network Components Create Risk

Aging network solutions can be particularly hazardous since downtime at that level of your technology stack can impact the entire organization, disrupting productivity, putting your cybersecurity stance in jeopardy, and potentially creating a negative experience for employees and customers. In fact, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), ranks unsupported or end-of-life components as the #1 risk to critical infrastructure.

Networks compiled of legacy hardware, or leveraging obsolete software, can open the gate to hackers, create integration issues with newer components, cause your organization to be out of compliance with strict regulatory standards, lack vendor support (including critical security patches and updates), and cost a lot of money – from maintenance and repair to inefficient use of resources.

There is the additional issue of managing obsolete hardware and other network elements. As these components age, the number of experienced technicians and engineers who are knowledgeable about those systems decreases. Older tech often takes exponentially more time because modern management and monitoring tools will not or cannot see and interact with obsolete IT, making their oversight a manual task.

Replacing Obsolete Network Tech is a Question of When, Not If

Each year, research captures employee awareness and frustration about outdated technology. For nearly ten years, long since a Samanage survey revealed that more than 36% of employees stated their company’s technology was outdated, end users have been asking for more innovation and more effective solutions in the workplace. Even more concerning, while that historic survey revealed that 18% of employees admitted to downloading and using a more effective application without the IT department’s knowledge, today’s research shows that number hovering about 60-70%.

The takeaway? While these surveys focus on technology at large, not just network solutions, it’s clear that when organizations refuse to adopt better technology, employees will furtively use other options, creating an entirely new set of risks. For example, if your network, built with aging technology, can’t deliver the performance your team requires, they are more likely to leverage risky solutions such as public WiFi or bypass security protocols such as VPN to get more work accomplished.

While an operating system rather than a networking solution, Windows 10 provides a perfect example of the threats to security, performance, interoperability, and productivity that legacy technology presents. Microsoft has announced end of life for Win10 as October 2025. What that means is, while users can opt to continue with the operating system, Microsoft has warned of instability, data loss, compatibility, and performance issues. The vendor’s list includes:

  • Certain parts or certain applications becoming unresponsive
  • Abnormal behavior after installing updates
  • Reduced system stability
  • Visual glitches causing random stuttering
  • Applications becoming unresponsive due to glitches

Avoid the Risk of Obsolete Network Tech

Few organizations can wipe the slate clean and replace each outdated component in one massive overhaul. Rather than an expansive lift and shift of IT investments, here are some tips for addressing the issue of obsolete tech:

  1. Start with an inventory – applications, devices, hardware – everything. We’re discussing networks this month, but you should have a full view of the technology in your ecosystem in order to plan for the future more effectively.
  2. Track end-of-warranty, end-of-life, end-of-support for all your technology and plan ahead. No one likes surprises and end-of-life deadlines can sneak up on your organization, so take the time to plot out future upgrades for your essential IT components. This will also help with budgeting.
  3. Create a plan for rolling investments into updates – from devices to networks, software, and more. Just like you budget throughout the year for taxes, hiring, conferences, and other ongoing costs – so too should you plan out your tech investments.

Last thoughts: Legacy Tech Could Be Dragging Your Business Down

In a competitive marketplace, innovative, agile organizations stand out from the pack. They attract the best talent, deliver value to their customers, and create excitement around their products and services. To achieve that, their technology – the backbone for even small businesses today – must be equally responsive and efficient. You wouldn’t ask your employees to work on typewriters, so why would you expect to deliver value using obsolete technology such as old servers or unsupported software?