What is software rot and why should you update your systems?

All too often software and websites that are at the heart of what keeps organisations ticking are not updated and maintained properly. When left idle for too long, code can become outdated which in turn causes bugs. This is a process that is often referred to as Software or Code Rot.

Why does software rot occur?

Outdated code

Software Rot may occur for several reasons. Most notably, code must stay up-to-date with its environment. For example; as operating systems, web browsers and CMSs are updated, the code that makes up your application must adapt to keep with the changes that make up its environment. Code may no longer be able to run and integrate with platforms as it was initially designed and bugs will occur.

Old functionality

If you have turned off functionality which you didn’t need any longer, but now require again, it may not integrate with your current code by simply turning it back on. Technologies will have changed, and it may not be supported. Large parts of code which helped integrate the functionality could even have been removed. This may leave you with broken systems.

Convoluted code

Code may also ‘rot’ when lots of little changes are made over a long period. These added developments make the code convoluted and removed from what it once was. Over time, it may cause bugs or functionality to not work as intended. These changes may be necessary: to stay up-to-date with the latest technology; additions to the website or application or even fixing other bugs. But just a few years is a long time in IT, so things become out of date quickly. If changes are not implemented or tested properly, there will no doubt be eventual issues with the code.

What are the implications?

In the short-term, it may just be a few bugs, which are easy to miss. These can accumulate into bigger issues with lasting effects. The longer code is left, the higher the chance of something going wrong and the potential cost to fix it. This may be due to vulnerabilities being found by hackers or key functionality breaking. These days, a hacked system doesn’t just mean the cost of fixing it and ethical issues, as Marriott Hotels and British Airways found out with large fines.

Developers may need to audit the code to find any issues, before taking necessary measures to sustainably fix and test it, which may take time.

How can you stop it from happening?

To protect your investment and ensure it maintains its efficiency, find a reliable company that you can trust to support, update and fix any potential issues. If you feel your software or website needs auditing and potentially bringing up to date, before something happens, then we would strongly suggest you do so. The bigger your application, the more often it should be updated. To be safe, ensure updates are implemented regularly and properly tested.

To look after code properly you, or the company responsible for your application, should:

  • not rush when writing new code;
  • write code simply;
  • thoroughly review any existing system taken on;
  • always test functionality after making major changes or applying updates;
  • make it a priority to fix identified issues.

If another company is looking after your systems, ensure they stay up-to-date with technology and industry changes. If they are constantly learning and have good quality assurance processes in place, your websites and software will be in good hands and kept secure.

How can Alberon help?

Alberon are experienced experts in auditing, developing and creating hard-working, sustainable software and web applications. We also provide web hosting and support services to keep your investment secure. If you would like any code reviewed or have any other queries, please do get in touch, we are happy to help.

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