You're probably well aware that Visual FoxPro has been discontinued. It might be tempting to ignore this news. But as time marches on, more and more VFP programmers will retire or move on to different programming languages. And trust me when I say this: New programmers have zero interest in learning a dead language. That's why finding competent programmers will only become more difficult as time goes by.
It would be easy to pretend otherwise. But like it or not the reality is, VFP is going away. It would be wise to start planning for a software migration.
Every software development company (including Microsoft) releases version updates frequently. They do this because hardware keeps getting better and more powerful. They want to take advantage of those improvements. But it's just not possible to keep on supporting every version of software they've ever released. They need to stay out in front of the demand for software that customers will actually buy. That means leaving older versions behind.
So it's not surprising that already several years ago Microsoft announced a sunset date. They would no longer support Visual FoxPro. It doesn't matter how any of us feel about it or how much we've invested over the years. VFP 9 was the last version to be released. There will be no VFP 10.
If your company relies on a custom FoxPro software application, where does that leave you? Does it mean your software will stop running? Probably not. I say probably, because it's impossible to predict the future. But there are several important factors to keep in mind.
So what does this really mean for your company's software? Will you need to migrate to a new .NET software application immediately? That's your call. But you'd be smart to at least start making plans for the future of your custom software.
If your FoxPro codebase is large, migrating to .NET or a web application may be a big task. Creating a plan now will protect your investment and keep your company growing in the future.
As you begin this process, your team might want to add new features. Other functions may not be used any more. For example, faxes and pagers have been replaced by e-mails and SMS texts. Maybe you've decided it's time to move your application to the cloud. These are all key factors that will have a huge impact on the project scope and cost.
It's important to put your ideas down in writing. That way, whether you tackle the software migration in house, or hire a custom programming company, you'll have a road map to work from. Your requests for quotes will be much more specific and detailed. Then, when proposals come back, you'll be able to compare them on an apples-to-apples basis.
When it comes to migrating a VFP application, it's not necessary to do everything at once. In fact, it might be better to stagger the migration over a period of months or years.
Some of the best migrations we've done were carried out in phases. Phase One typically involves upsizing the data tables to SQL Server, PostgreSQL or MySQL.
The next phase might involve rewriting external interfaces. (In other words, programs that pull data into your database from outside, and push data out to vendors and customers.)
If your company no longer depends on the software to stay in business, the best course of action may be to do nothing—other than forewarn your staff that when your FoxPro application stops working, you have no plans to replace it.
Another option: migrate to an off-the-shelf solution which may not meet all of your needs, but comes close enough that you can live with the decision.
We're all busy people. There usually aren't enough hours in the day to finish what's already on our plates—much less to worry about a software migration. So, if you ever want to bounce your ideas off someone who's been down this road before, feel free to contact us. There's never a charge for the first consultation.