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Daylight-saving changes: No Y2K, but there could be headaches

Cisco, Microsoft and others warning customers of needed preparations

By , Network World
January 25, 2007 05:14 PM ET

Network World - At first blush it may seem like no big deal: clocks will move ahead by an hour three weeks earlier than usual this year. But for today’s networked businesses, the simple change could mean complex problems if IT shops aren’t prepared, industry experts say.

The trouble goes beyond missed meetings and messed-up schedules to errors within time-reliant applications that are critical to a company’s business — processes such as operating room scheduling, billing and contract deadlines and ensuring record compliance, for example, could be at risk. Any applications dependent on timestamps will run into trouble after March 11, the new day for the daylight-saving time change, if actions aren’t taken.

For more than two decades, daylight-saving time has begun on the first Sunday of April and reverted to standard time on the last Sunday in October. But beginning this year, due to the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the daylight-saving schedule will be extended by a month, with the period beginning on the second Sunday in March and ending on the first Sunday in November. Legislators backing the change say it will save some 100,000 barrels of oil a day.

But the change also could throw a wrench in IT systems set up to automatically handle the old daylight-saving schedule. As a result, IT professionals need to take a close look at their systems and applications to determine which could be off when the change occurs and then take the necessary steps to correct them.

Preparing for a change
Industry experts say IT executives should make sure theyÕre prepared for the March 11 daylight-saving changes. Some things to consider:

Get started: While the daylight-saving change is still more than a month away, it's time to look at systems now, because it may not be clear what will need fixes.

Take stock: Inventory IT systems to determine exactly what's linked to the network and what is time and date dependent. Some systems, for example, are linked to external network time servers, which should update automatically.

Consider the operating system: While the latest releases, such as Windows Vista, are compliant with the new schedule, older versions will need patches, and some, such as Windows XP Service Pack 1 and Windows NT 4, won't have fixes available. In that case, an upgrade may be necessary, which also could impact applications.

Investigate individual applications: Review applications to determine whether they rely on the operating system, network time servers or internal code for time functions. Java applications, for example, will need application-specific patches.

Check in with vendors: It may not be clear exactly what time functions are in which applications devices. Most major vendors have Web sites set up to help guide customers in dealing with the time shift.

Keep communications open: Let management know how the time shift could impact operations and how things could be handled in case of glitches.

Click to see: Tips to prepare for daylight saving change

“My fear is that a lot of people aren’t going to realize this is a big issue until months down the road when they say, 'Oops, why aren’t these dates lining up,’” says Scott Metzger, CTO at consumer credit management firm TrueCredit in San Luis Obispo, Calif.

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