Are you ready for DST changes?

DST changes are almost on us. Are you ready?

This year sees Daylight Saving Time in many jurisdictions of the United States and Canada move as a result of Energy Policy Act of 2005 from its usual slots of the first Sunday in April and and the last Sunday of October to the second Sunday in March and the first Sunday in November.  While this could be good in terms of saving energy, it might cause havoc for computer systems and time-dependent applications, databases and hardware.

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I'm going to be frank here and say that I don't feel that this change has received the attention that it deserves within the IT community.  Unlike Y2K, where there was a massive ramp up to the main event and millions of dollars chucked at the problem, Y2K7 (as it is being referred to by some) has received little attention.  Here's what Alex Eckelberry, president of Sunbelt Software, has to say about Y2K7:

Some may characterize DST as a “mini-Y2K”. No, it’s not, it’s worse than Y2K. At least with Y2K, everyone had the runs for the year leading up to it and were prepared. DST has hit American IT over the head with a two-by-four. Here at Sunbelt, we have had buckets of work to do for the transition — updates to SalesLogix, Exchange, SQL 2005, Office, Java runtime engine, etc.

Even I had fun with this. If you run Outlook off of Exchange and applied the the DST patch before your IT department patched Exchange, good luck getting Outlook started. And then see if everything’s off by an hour in March.

Getting ready for the DST change is not a simple matter of applying a single patch and forgetting about it.  Being properly prepared means taking a critical look at both the software you use and all the hardware, taking steps to put the problem right, and then planning for things going wrong.

There are a lot of patches out there.  For example, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 will find information and patches on the Microsoft site (or downloaded direct if Windows Update is enabled).  Mac users will find information here.  Other vendors have released a lot of relevant information too - a few examples are Sun, IBM and MySQL.  Similarly, there is a lot of information out there relating to Linux distros and hardware.

But when you dig deeper, there are signs that there could be issues.  For example, if you want hotfixes from Microsoft for older software, expect to pay $4,000 – a reduced fee no less!  This gives you access to all of Microsoft's DST patches for affected products.  Fine if you're a large corporation, not so good for a Mom and Pop small business who are still running old hardware and software.

But this is only the tip of the iceberg.  The problem goes beyond Microsoft and beyond software.  Think of all the routers, firewalls, cell phones, PDAs, locks, and everything else that an office might have that could be affected by this.  Any one of these items not pulling their weight come March 12th could mean big (expensive) problems.

There are other, more subtle issues.  For example, any Canadians from the province of Newfoundland making use of the 50 kW signal from NIST Radio Station WWVB located in Fort Collins, Colorado will find that their radio-controlled clocks and watches will be an hour out for the four week period that DST has been extended.  Just one of the myriad problems that'll affect consumers and businesses come the big change.

More info on this CNET Video:

So, are you ready for the big DST change?  Have you drawn up a list of all hardware and software that could be affected, along with an action plan?  How much has this cost you?  What precautions are you putting in place in case of issues?


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