How to determine an IT system life cycle

No system lasts forever. Your IT system consists of various components working together in concert. These combinations of software and hardware power your business. Your IT system has a lifecycle. Each component of your overall IT solution has a lifecycle of its own. Understanding these lifecycles can help you keep your business viable, future-proof it against unforeseen problems, and use this data in IT budget planning.

What is the Lifecycle for an IT System?

Systems engineers use a systems development life cycle model to go from idea to implementation. It follows several steps that can vary in number, but generally look something like this:

  • Idea and goal determination
  • Analyzing and refining idea
  • System design
  • Implementation
  • Testing
  • Deployment and evaluation
  • Maintenance and support
  • Retirement

The concepts involved in this system life cycle plan are not just useful to system engineers. You can take advantage of them to figure out the lifecycle of the IT systems at your business. Remember that software becomes outdated. Equipment eventually becomes old, outdated, and faulty.

In addition, needs of the business can change remarkably over time. In addition, the needs of the end users of these systems will also change. These truths represent the lifecycle of an IT system.

Start from the Beginning with a Top-Down View

You should determine if your current system is meeting the needs and goals of your business. If it isn’t, then you must analyze your IT systems to figure out where they’re failing you. You may discover that a particular part of the system already has gone beyond its lifecycle. If that’s the case, you will need to implement updates, upgrades, or a completely new solution.

If all of your software is already on the latest versions, then you might need more robust software. If your equipment is top of the line, then you may need different hardware. Or you may need software that takes more advantage of your current hardware. If you’re already using a new solution, then you might need to fine-tune it.

Much of this goes into the implementation and testing aspects of the engineer’s lifecycle. Testing can help you determine if your systems are doing what they’re supposed to do. Documenting the experiences of the users can help you figure out if your IT systems are no longer viable or useful to them.

An Example of The Lifecycle in Action

A great example of all of this in action is some company’s adherence to using Windows XP as the main operating system for their end-user systems. Microsoft discontinued support for XP. So that means a business that still uses it is entirely vulnerable, as XP has finished its lifecycle. Unfortunately, many businesses used software that worked best with XP. So what are they to do?

Using the above-mentioned steps, they can evaluate their IT systems. They will likely find that,

  • XP no longer plays well with their updated software
  • It’s harder to roll out anything from their servers to the XP workstations
  • Software  at the end of its lifecycle prematurely ages the lifecycle of their entire IT infrastructure

So they must cut out the outdated software. By doing that, they must also go back to the very early step of idea and goal determination. After all, they will need to replace XP with something more robust.

This example can apply to any part of your own IT system. Looking at your system as a whole will help you determine the lifecycle for an IT system. You need to know where each of the components in your IT system currently stand in their individual lifecycles. That will let you know what stage of life your entire IT system is in. 

Do you have a process in place that you use to determine the lifecycle of your IT system? We'd love to hear about it  in the comment section below.