What does Daylight Saving Time cost IT?

What does Daylight Saving Time cost IT?

Summary: On Sunday, technology types will be watching their applications, PCs, servers and networks to see whether change in Daylight Saving Time will affect their infrastructure. CIOs will be looking at the bill.

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TOPICS: Microsoft
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On Sunday, technology types will be watching their applications, PCs, servers and networks to see whether change in Daylight Saving Time will affect their infrastructure. CIOs will be looking at the bill.

By time the clocks change, most of the patches will be installed and we'll probably have a Year 2000 type letdown--a lot of coverage and little real impact. However, the costs are very real.

This Daylight Saving Time (DST) dance--starting in 2007 the U.S. will start DST the second Sunday in March at 2 a.m. local time and return to standard time the first Sunday in November--doesn't require an army of costly consultants but does divert IT resources. The big question:  What's the tab?

Forrester analyst Jeffrey Hammond has the answer (albeit an extremely conservative one). The tab: $200 million to $300 million.

Here's how Hammond arrives at that back-of-the-envelope calculation. He assumes companies have teams of about three to six people working the operational changes, planning and patching associated with the DST change. These folks worked roughly four to five weeks on DST solely.

"Based on the number of weeks you get to an average company cost of about $30,000 to $50,000," says Hammond. Multiply that sum by the number of public companies (assumption 6,000) and you get his guesstimate.

Clearly there are a few holes in this calculation, but it's likely to be way conservative. For starters, private companies have to worry about DST too. And this little--at least to the bureaucrats in Washington--change affects international companies too since they have to sync systems with the U.S. Hammond's calculation also doesn't include software costs. For instance, Microsoft is charging for patches that update older systems.

Simply put, Hammond's math has to focus only on the labor costs involved with DST because that's the most tangible thing to measure. Opportunity costs--after all you could be doing something more productive--and other intangibles, say that sale you didn't close because you slept past a meeting, aren't included in the cost calculation.

Considering all of those aforementioned factors would it be at all surprising if the DST costs approached a nice round number like $1 billion or so?

Now the argument for changing DST is very clear. The return is that folks will have more daylight and therefore use less power. Hard figures, however, are hard to come by. The Department of Energy has said that by extending DST by two months reduced energy consumption by the equivalent of 100,000 barrels of oil each day. At $60 a barrel those barrels equate to $6 million in savings each day DST is extended, or roughly $360 million. However, those savings may not be worth putting into an ROI calculation since it's unclear who (this is the Federal government after all) reaps the rewards.

The California Energy Commission notes the benefits of watts saved and even attempts a financial case associated with DST. In a 2001 paper, the commission examined the benefits of doing DST in the Winter and doubling DST (changing the clocks by 2 hours) in the summer. The financial benefits: Winter DST may save $100 million to $350 million. Double DST could save $300 million to $900 million.

The rub: Shifting DST on the federal level by a few weeks may not deliver those returns California mapped for what is arguably an extreme DST plan. Bottom line: DST is costing IT dough and the returns aren't that readily apparent.

"This move will supposedly save a lot on energy, but the dollar amounts remain to be seen," says Hammond. "I just hope they don't go back again a year or two from now."

Topic: Microsoft

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153 comments
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  • DST should be banned

    DST has failed to demonstrate real benefits to people over the years, but adds needless complications. It makes exchange of time-related data across timezones and borders extremely difficult. The so-called energy savings cannot be proven. There is x amount of daylight in any given day, and people are going to use what they have, and supplement it when they don't have it on shorter days. Who is to say that everyone wants to stay up late in July? Maybe they want to get up earlier and drink coffee at home. The point is, no one can predict how DST will be used. In a global economy, these issue mean less and less every day. IMHO, DST should banned across the world.
    A.Typical Zork
    • How do you suggest that be done?

      Maybe arrest people caught setting their clocks back?

      Seriously, DST is a gimmick to encourage people to get up an hour earlier. It certainly doesn't provide any more daylight. Like all gimmicks, it has hidden costs, and with the increasing popularity of computers and networks, they are growing (but they've always been there).

      Farmers have been complaining about DST for years; maybe techies will join them.
      John L. Ries
      • Farmers?

        Yes, .2% of the population dislikes it. But you have to understand that farming is one of the very few "jobs" in the US where the workday begins with the sun rising. The rest of the population goes by their clock.
        No_Ax_to_Grind
        • Still a gimmick

          Pardon my professional training (same as yours, I hope), but gimmicks bother me (they always complicate matters in the end) and DST strikes me as a particularly expendable gimmick.

          Arizona has the right idea; the rest of the US should follow suit.
          John L. Ries
        • Lots more to that minority

          Add to the farmers those who service the farmers. The work on the farmers schedule so as to be as productive as possible. Then add contruction workers. Add in many other outside workers as well. Then add all the shift workers. While they don't work when the sun rise they also don't work 9-5 so DST means nothing to them at all.

          The real minority is those few jobs that still only go from 9-5. They are rare these days.
          voska
          • Another hidden cost

            It gets light earlier so my toddlers get up earlier. And by the way they go to bed later. Not sure how to do the ROI on quiet time, but it's diminished.
            Larry Dignan
          • I hear you there

            My daughter wake up when the sun comes up. When she gets up we get up. When the sun goes down and it's dark she goes to sleep. She's in bed well before that in the summer but she tosses and turns till it gets dark. DST doesn't really apply to her at all. She does take longer naps now as the days get longer. My guess it she isn't getting the long sleeps she had in the winter when it was dark longer.
            voska
          • Do your toddlers read a clock?

            Hmmm, if not then DST is meaningless in your example.
            No_Ax_to_Grind
          • re: Do your toddlers read a clock?

            He made a fine example . No , the toddlers don't read time , but the adults do . Now with that said I hope you have a better understanding No_Axe . If not , oh well , your loss .
            I'm Ye, the MS SHILL .
        • Time changing is the issue, not DST

          You suggest that 0.2% of the US population dislikes DST, implying that 99.8% of people like DST. I very much doubt that this is true; you couldn't find a single topic on which 99% of Americans would agree.

          This discussion is not about DST per se. It's about having to change our clocks and suffer the "jet lag" effect caused by the sudden time shift TWICE A YEAR. 80%+ of the people I know HATE having to deal with the switch to and from DST.

          Now, if people on balance prefer DST to standard time because it shifts an hour of daylight into the evening, then fine. Lets switch to DST *** ONE LAST TIME *** and never switch back to "standard" time. I'd be ok with that, and I think that would make most people happy.

          We should put this to a national vote and do what most people want done.
          Vorpaladin
          • Common sense

            That makes too much sense, so I guess it'll never happen here in the US.
            dgbraun
          • That's gonna happen

            "We should put this to a national vote and do what most people want done."

            And let the people decide? The CongressCritters will have you on a terrorist watch list if you keep talking like that.
            Dr. John
          • Time changing is the issue...

            [i]The[/i] problem isn't even really about changing the clocks twice a year, although that is [i]a[/i] problem. That's a technical problem and relatively easily solved.

            The [i]real[/i] problem is a political one. Unlike the Indiana State Legislature arrogating to themselves the power to redefine the value of pi, the government of the day (GOD) [u]can[/u] alter the rules for DST, as they are "merely conventional signs".

            Failure to imagine this political problem cozened the originators of the *ix-style time string into casting the time-change into algorithmic sandstone (ISO 2014-ISO 8601), imagining that the conversion from local time to GMT (later UTC) and back would depend only on the location of the converter (no laptops). That implies that a matrix of TZ-strings vs. year would be a nere waste of (then expensive) memory.

            Oddly enough, there was plenty of forewarning. Germany had exactly the same (verrry expensive) problem in 1996, caused by European Union Directive 2000/84/EC which harmonized DST throughout the EU to be the last Sunday in October.

            There are several obvious solutions:
            technical - everybody just uses UTC and only offset from the dateline needs to be compensated;
            political - everybody in the western hemisphere uses Washington (DC) time - like the USSR using Moscow time, and screw the rest of the world;
            economic - like political, except that computers use Washington (state) - aka Redmond - time;
            luddite - who cares what time it is? My VCR flashes constantly, and when Oprah's on, Oprah's on - put a pizza pocket in the nuker!
            Willy the JOAT
      • Read this to see who has and doesn't have it...

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daylight_saving_time_around_the_world

        We should drop it. It'll help make things globalized like India and China are...
        HypnoToad72
      • Farmers complain?

        Why? Clocks and hours are just a creation of man. If a farmer
        gets up at dawn, and ends his day at sunset, never looking at a clock as him duties would require no need for clocks, why woul DST be an issue with him/her?
        John Zern
        • I'm told...

          ...that they still have to send their children to school and otherwise deal with people operating by a clock.
          John L. Ries
        • I grew up on Farm

          DST really doesn't affect the farmer at all. What farmers really hate about DST is that people say it's for them.

          Where I live DST has no bearing at all for farming. In the spring planting happened after the spring DST change and harvers happened before the Fall DST change. So no problem at all.

          There is one issue. When the take the hour from the morning and move it to the evening that makes one less hour the farmer has to get work done in the morning. One could put in a good 4 hours of work in before taking a load of wheat to the elevator but DST makes that 3 hours. 3 hours is problem because by the time you get out into the field that's 1 hour and then 1 hour bring the equipment back in and loading the truck. So that's one hour of work in the field. Two hours would be much more productive.
          voska
        • No man is an island

          It matters because farmers do not work in isolation. They have to coordinate with others just like everyone else. They don't just plow, plant and pick all day. They buy fertilizer. They make deliveries. Things are delivered to them. Such activities are easier when the sun is up.

          I am totally against the time change by the way. We should pick standard time or DST and stick with it and stop this ridiculous switching back and forth. It's switching that costs us, not the time scheme itself.
          Vorpaladin
        • Farmers Complain!

          How else would he know when to listen to The Prarie Home Companion?
          Willy the JOAT
      • Hmmm, not much of a history buff are you

        The reason Daylight savings time was instituted in the first place was so that the children of farmers could do their chores before school in daylight. The thinking was that farm work was a bit less dangerous during daylight hours rather than by lantern light.

        As for the farmers it doesn't matter much to them one way or the other as you point out their work day begins at sunrise and end when it ends. For the rest of us the time change basically sucks we are either early or late depending on the time of year. To help the rest of us we need to choose one time or the other and go with it.
        maldain