It may not be Y2K, but solution providers and vendors are scrambling to head off problems with this year's early implementation of daylight-saving time (DST).
DST was extended by four weeks because of the U.S. Energy Policy Act of 2005 passed by Congress in 2005. Starting this year, DST begins on March 11, three weeks earlier than in previous years, and ends one week later than usual on Nov. 4.
The problem: Many systems are automatically set to change their internal clocks based on the old DST dates. Unless companies implement software patches prior to March 11, they could face disruptions in their IT infrastructures, including applications that require accurate time stamps.
"The fix shouldn't be overwhelming, but you don't want to oversimplify it either," said David Hall, senior vice president and CTO at CompuCom Systems, a Dallas solution provider.
Customers are just starting to realize they may have a problem and are making clients who would most likely be affected aware of the situation, according to Pete Busam, COO of Decisive Business Systems, a Pennsauken, N.J.-based solution provider.
"It will be important for insurance companies and lawyers that deal with time stamps on e-mails, for example," Busam said. "Documents could be an hour late because someone didn't do their patch management. If a lawyer is an hour late getting something to a judge, is the judge going to allow you to say, 'I didn't get in on time because my company didn't put a patch on my Windows machine?' What do you think the judge would do?"
Hall said CompuCom isn't trying to capitalize on the DST scare the way the IT industry oversold Y2K. "We're not trying to cram consulting services down people's throats," he said. "We are pointing out the challenges, what [customers] need to do and, if they need help, we are here."
CompuCom is warning its customers that all market segments could be vulnerable and affected by the time change. For example, computer-related system challenges may include the following:
Collaboration applications such as calendaring and scheduling, as well as conferencing systems.
Transaction-based applications, such as a time clock tied into payroll or vertical applications.
Calculations that use date and time as a basis, such as overtime or start and stop for hourly pay.
Utilities that may use date and time, including for backups, archiving and scripts.
Tariff-based or billing applications.
Hall noted that some companies that do nightly automatic data backups, for example, could face some challenges if they don't fix the problem before DST kicks off this spring. He said that fixing the problem comes down to effective patch management. Companies with sound patch management policies and procedures in place should experience few, if any, problems as long as they are aware of the issue. Yet businesses without adequate patch-management systems in place could be in for a surprise.
Cisco Systems, VMware, Microsoft, Citrix Systems and other IT vendors provide DST support information on their Web sites, Hall added. "The best thing for solution providers to do right now is to educate their clients and partners about the DST issue," he said.