Trick or Treat: IT Admins Face DST Disaster

It's been called the mini-Y2K, and as a result of a 2005 Congressional bill, the United States will observe daylight saving time (DST) three weeks earlier than usual. DST used to start on the first Sunday in April in the United States. This year, we'll move into DST on March 11 and end it November 4, 2007, a week later than usual. It might not seem like a big deal, but the change has software makers and IT administrators scrambling.

Here's the problem: The rest of world either observes DST at different times or doesn't observe it at all. For example, in most (but not all) of Europe, DST starts March 25. But Asia, Africa, and South America don't observe DST. And some places, such as Western Australia and the US state of Indiana, have recently changed the way they observe DST. Apparently, they want to keep the rest of us on our toes.

Keeping up with the differences in worldwide DST observance has always been a sticky issue for any software that must deal with dates--such things as OSs, personal information managers (PIMs), and so on--but thanks to this year's changes, the problem is worse than ever, and has required software makers to issue patches and updates to make sure everyone stays in sync.

New software such as Microsoft Office 2007 is designed to automatically handle the changes, so if you're an early adopter, you have little to fear. But for the other 99 percent of the computer-using population, and for those who support them, problems are inevitable. And if we peek for a moment at the outside world, we can see wider problems affecting airlines, banks, and other industries in which precise time keeping is imperative. This is a disaster in the making.

As a result, software makers have unleashed a number of patches in the past several weeks. Microsoft has even posted a Daylight Saving Time Help and Support Center to its Web site (see link below) to help its customers get the updates they need. IT administrators will find links to patches for numerous Microsoft products, including 13 versions of Windows Server, eight versions of Windows XP, four versions of Windows Small Business Server (SBS), and three versions of Windows 2000. And that's just Windows. Various versions of Microsoft Exchange Server, Windows Mobile, Outlook, SharePoint, and other Microsoft products need updates. And you thought you were already overworked.

And if it's any consolation, consider the opinion of Michigan representative Fred Upton, who felt that the current DST bill didn't go far enough: He wanted to add two more months to DST. The reason? People would feel energized by the extra light when they got home from work and kids would rejoice at the extra hour of daylight for trick-or-treating on Halloween. Sadly, for IT admins, this DST change will likely prove more trick than treat. And for this week, at least, my guess is that many of us will miss out on any extra sunlight as we try to fix all the problems the DST change causes.

Daylight Saving Time Help and Support Center

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