It is incumbent on Accountants, CFO’s and CIO’s to rid themselves of redundant and volatile technology or run the risk of being held personally liable for damages incurred by the business through data corruptions or other technologically related downtime. Their ignorance of this fact will not absolve them.
Despite being renowned as early adopters on both the technological and legislative fronts, from the King Reports on Corporate Governance to IFRS reporting standards, South African businesses still seem to be stuck in the Dark Ages when it comes to the technology used to develop their mission-critical business software; and they probably aren’t even aware of it.
In terms of programming languages, very few businesses realise that a host of well renowned and widely used Business software was developed using the Visual Basic (VB) programming language that had its last Version release (V6) way back in 1998, with mainstream support of the language ending on 31st March 2005. To put this into a technological perspective, this is 2 years before the first iPhone was released.
The official statement from Microsoft on Visual Basic 6 applications running on its current Windows operating systems is: “It Just Works”. Not a comfort when your business critical data is reliant on this technology.
Another huge risk to users of these obsolete technologies is that they have to be run in Administration mode, giving the individual users unlimited access to data repositories and confidential business information; despite the users often being clerks who should not have such access. One of the knock on effects is the inability of the business to comply with the pending POPI act as they are simply unable to protect or secure their customer, vendor or even employee data for that matter. Likewise, they risk their business critical and often confidential information being accessed and potentially shared by any employee with basic user rights; regardless of level.
We believe there to be a legal and moral obligation on software vendors to both advise their clients that they are using products written in redundant languages and explain the potentially catastrophic implications thereof. With hardware and operating system technology changing at an exponential rate, the divide between these unsupported technologies and operating systems and related hardware are ever increasing, rendering the applications more and more vulnerable every day. Something will break, it’s just a matter of time.
In an article in the Saturday Star on the 9th January 2016, Pastel Software confirmed that they advise clients purchasing their Pastel Partner and Pastel Xpress products that the technology used to develop these products is dated, programming language and database alike, but one has to question the legitimacy of selling this software in the first place. And they are just one of many.
“Business owners shouldn’t be naive when it comes to challenging and questioning their vendors over unstable legacy technologies. Data corruptions and such are not caused through power fluctuations or unstable networks on “modern technologies”. This is simply a scourge of the limitations and inherent flaws of dated technologies running on modern operating systems and hardware”, adds Corrigan. The responsibility needs to be acknowledged by the vendors themselves.
Microsoft has taken a step forward in ostracising this substandard software through the Windows 10 software certification process, where products developed using legacy technologies are disqualified from obtaining accreditation. Two of the basic disqualification criteria are that these products are either developed using a discontinued programming language, or simply that they do not run on 64-bit operating systems.
This certification is a good yardstick for businesses selecting software products, as it gives them a level of certainty that they will also receive a quality product that adheres to set development standards.
“Using software developed with legacy technology is like stacking cards on top of each other one card per day, they will fall, it’s just a matter of when”, ends Corrigan.