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DST switch offers lessons learned

Those who survived the daylight-saving time deadline offer some words of wisdom in case the laws change yet again.

The daylight-saving time patches now in place mean that Windows shops are safe through the fall and beyond – unless U.S. lawmakers decide to switch the DST date yet again. If that happens, IT experts have some advice on how to make the next daylight-saving time transition go a little more smoothly.

To save energy costs, the U.S. Congress moved up DST by three weeks to March 11. Although it's too early to know whether any other changes are planned, "it wouldn't surprise me if they jettison the idea and go back to the conventional dates," said Ken McGee, an analyst at Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Conn.

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If Capitol Hill does revisit the time change, McGee said he hopes lawmakers will do a better job of analyzing all the related costs -- not just the energy savings.

"They didn't take into consideration the costs to convert," he said. The federal government should speak with more IT experts to learn how it affects them before pushing additional changes, he added.

Although the penalty for missing the DST deadline was not as severe as missing the one for Y2K – being late for a meeting versus total system failure – more thoughtful planning might help if another change is inevitable.

For example, the timing could be better, McGee said. Because of the holidays and year-end financials, many IT managers put off making the 2007 DST changes. "By the third week of January, it finally got the attention it needed," he said.

Also, some Microsoft DST patches were released in just the last few weeks, said Ronny Serrano, technical services manager at Hearts on Fire, a diamond company based in Boston. "[Microsoft] should have released them sooner and nailed down the process and not try to do it in the 11th hour," he said.

Serrano also suggested that Microsoft improve the methods it uses to get the necessary patches out to users. "Other options to make it less stressful would be to do it in a planned service pack in June," he said.

Microsoft has been putting out DST patches since December, according to M3 Sweatt, chief of staff for the company's core operating systems division. But because certain parts of the world were also changing their times, he said Microsoft couldn't offer certain patches until very recently.

Serrano had more advice for Microsoft going forward: "Don't incorporate other patches for other things with it," he said. "If [Microsoft] didn't break the third-party stuff by forcing the security updates through the rollup, it would have been better," he said.

The daylight-saving time patch incorporated the "security best practice" of not allowing protected group accounts, such as domain administrators, to use email. This meant IT administrators had to create a second account for themselves in order to use their own BlackBerrys.

The best advice for IT managers is to be part of several IT forums where helpful advice from peers is freely exchanged, said Bruce Roberts, network administrator for J.F. White Contracting Co., based in Framingham, Mass.

"I've gotten some really, really helpful information from people," he said of the online forums. And a little perspective helps too. "The world will get through it all one way or the other," Roberts said.

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