NZ daylight changes force globals to re-check patches

US multinationals may have to re-patch their systems to cater for NZ and other daylight time changes

Changes to daylight saving time in New Zealand and elsewhere could force some American multinationals to revisit the patches they updated to manage US daylight-time changes in March

New Zealand, Jordan and Egypt have adopted their own specific daylight-saving time updates since the time change took place in the US in March, meaning companies might want to update their patches again to ensure conformity when clocks spring forward next year. But first, companies have to deal with the return to standard time in most parts of the US. Clocks roll back an hour there on Sunday, November 4.

Ray Wang, an analyst at Forrester Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts, says only companies with a large global presence need to run daylight-saving time updates for their applications and systems again.

"Forrester believes this is the safest approach for those with international employees, especially those in Jordan, New Zealand, as well as Australia. It will apply to any person, device, or system that has authentication requirements, time stamp scenarios [and] events in calendaring software like those in PDAs."

For most other corporate users, the move back to standard time next month won't require any special preparations, since earlier patches would have included updates for the fall time change, Wang says.

Still, he says, companies should monitor meeting schedules two weeks before and after the November time change so that employee schedules don't get jumbled by the time changes. Wang says companies should have their employees print hard copies of their meeting calendars as accurate backups, and they should add the time and date of all meetings to all communications until all systems are working properly.

IT departments should also make sure that the applications for all BlackBerries, PDAs and other mobile devices are updated prior to the time change.

The March preparation was a lot of work for many corporate IT departments, Wang says. "This was a big deal and a behind-the-scenes effort" by many in IT to address a problem that wasn't well publicised to the public, he says. "If they did their work in the spring, they should be ready to handle this one."

For most companies, the earlier start of daylight-saving time this year went smoothly, with few major technology hiccups.

One thing IT departments need to keep in mind, he said, is that several major vendors, including Microsoft and Sun Microsystems, only offered daylight-saving time patches on their latest operating systems, because they wanted customers to move to newer software. "Many of the vendors that offered solutions for much older releases did it in a one-off fashion, and if major changes occur again, they will most likely ask their customers to move to the latest versions."

M3 Sweatt, chief of staff for Microsoft's Windows Core Operating System division, says his company has posted hot fixes to deal with continuing changes in daylight-saving time around the world, so corporate customers can keep their systems up to date. The company has also created a Hot Topics web page to provide the latest information on the issue to users. The company also maintains a list of software affected by daylight-saving time changes.

"For the most part, most customers... including consumers and small businesses... don't have to do anything" beyond their regular Windows Updates to receive the latest daylight-saving time patches, he says.

For software vendors, the time changes around the world continue, Sweatt says. In Venezuela, a time zone change has been announced but not yet finalised, he says. The change, which will have to be reflected in software, calls for a unique time zone that is different from the rest of the world by 30 minutes, Sweatt says. Microsoft has advised affected customers of the pending changes in Venezuela, he said, and has created a hot fix that they can install when Venezuela decides on the date of the change.

Because of all of the recent time changes, Sweatt says, Microsoft will begin in November and December to release a cumulative update for daylight-saving time and other time changes for business users. "We will get into a regular cadence to do annual DST and time zone updates every year," he says.

Rob Enderle, principal analyst at Enderle Group in San Jose, said Microsoft's decision to create a cumulative annual patch for daylight-saving time and other time zone issues "is probably wise.

"With these kinds of changes happening on a global basis, it just gives us one more reason to make sure our patches are up to date," Enderle says. In most cases, daylight-saving time will already be updated automatically through regular maintenance patches, but the cumulative patch approach will help ensure that the new fixes are properly applied, he says.

Other key vendors continue to maintain web sites with the latest daylight-saving time information about their products, including Apple, IBM and Sun.

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