Updated: This year's daylight-saving time change is causing major frustration for IT administrators running Microsoft programs that need to be individually patched to reflect the change.
The extension of daylight-saving time by a month in the United States is causing enormous grief for some IT administrators running Microsoft software, as many of the software programs running on their users systems need to be individually patched to reflect the change.
This year, DST (daylight-saving time) starts on Sunday, March 11three weeks earlier than usualand ends a week later than usual on Nov. 4.
Microsoft has been warning customers that unless certain updates are applied to their computers, the time zone settings for their system clock may be incorrect during this four-week period.
"In particular, you must make sure that both your Windows operating system and your calendar programs are updated," the company said on its support site.
In an acknowledgement of the seriousness of the DST change and the problems being experienced by its customers, at 5 a.m. PT on March 8 Microsoft opened its DST Support Central Site, a series of sites in Redmond, North Carolina, Las Colinas and in India, where 24-hour support is provided for customers who run into escalations.
"I have been here [in Redmond] all day long, and I have seen very few escalations come through from our field. But it is early, so we may see more tomorrow and the next day. But today we have not been flooded with requests for information and guidance or help," M3 Sweatt, the chief of staff for the Windows Core Operating System Development Group, told eWEEK.
But, that being said, Microsoft was already working closely with its enterprise customers to ensure they had what they needed.
"Some of them are happy, some of them are not. But we are working with them as best we can to make sure we are addressing their issues," he said.
As such, the Redmond software maker has also posted a list of the most commonly asked questions it is receiving about DST, which customers can easily search to find the answers to their questions, he said.
While Windows Vista, Exchange 2007 and Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 do not require any updates, a host of other products do, including Exchange Server, Outlook, SQL Server Notification Services, Office Live Meeting, Microsoft Entourage, Dynamics CRM, Windows SharePoint Services, Windows Mobile and Windows CE.
But some customers are experiencing problems with implementing the patches and getting them to work, and are expressing their frustration and anger in comments on online chat sites.
Microsofts online DST chat room, which the company is currently staffing with technical experts 15 hours a day from 6 a.m. PST to 9 p.m. PST to facilitate the discussion and resolution of issues around DST, is inundated with customers experiencing a myriad of issues with the patches.
"This is INSANE. I buy a standard product for 2500 bucks and then I get a note telling me to update it for a problem known for a couple years. And the patch screws up my system. How long will my appointments be shifted? For three weeks now and two weeks at the end of "old" dst?," a post from customer on the Microsoft DST chat said.
Is the daylight-saving time change bigger than Y2K? Click here to read more.
Another customer experienced similar frustration. "When I try to bring up a calendar date or appointment, the form required to view it is not available. What do I do? Are you getting this error: The form you selected could not be displayed. The form required to view this message cannot be displayed. Contact your administrator?"
Microsofts Sweatt acknowledged that DST updating had been a challenge for customers with a myriad of solutions in their IT shop, whether those be from Microsoft, Sun, IBM or Oracle, and who were now looking to their suppliers for solutions.
"One of the things we have been working on closely is to provide them with the solutions they need. If there is an escalation or a customer does not have an answer, they can get through to us, and we are making sure they understand the path to get their answer," he said.
But, that being said, Sweatt did admit that there were some areas where Microsoft had been late to provide the solutions that customers needed, specifically some customer updates such as for CRM 3.0.
"In those difficult situations we have tried to make sure that we have a dialogue with customers so they understand what the options are. But we havent run into an issue that Im aware of where we had incompatibilities with products," he said.
"The challenges we have had have largely been with peoples understanding of what they should do when. Many customers also found out later that they had other products installed that they may not have been aware of, and this then meant that they had not followed Microsofts guidance correctly, or were not aware that we had refined our guidance," Sweatt said.
In addition, some customers are having problems accessing the chat room, receiving an error message that states: "There was a problem loading the chat application. Please try again later or use the Contact Us link at the bottom of the page."
Making matters worse is the fact that some customers say that Microsofts phone support is also overwhelmed with callers trying to resolve their DST patch issues, with many users put on hold for hours before actually talking to someone, if they get through at all.
But Sweatt disputed this, saying that its logs show that most support calls are initially answered in less than 30 minutes, with more time needed to resolve very technical and complex questions.
Those customers with very complex issues were also not being kept waiting on the phone, but were called back when the answer was available, he said.
For those customers still running products like Windows 2000, Exchange 2000 or the earlier Exchange 5.5, are no longer in Microsoft mainstream support and are thus not covered under standard support agreements, the situation is even more dire, as it will cost them $4,000 for all the DST updates.
While Microsofts online DST support site notes that DST updates for products in mainstream support are provided at no charge, "those products in extended support require an Extended Hotfix Support Agreement ($4,000 charge for all DST updates). Products out of support are not available without a Custom Support Agreement."
Sweatt said that Microsoft was advising customers to first install the operating system patch (931836) on their servers, then on their clients, then rebase their calendar appointments using TZMove (931667) / TZMove update 933146 / Exchange tool 930879) and then to install the Exchange DST patch for CDO (926666).
"For those customers who have just recently realized that DST changes this weekend, we are trying to provide them with multiple access pointsfrom online chats to webcasts and phone supportto help answer their questions as quickly as possible," he said.
Editors Note: This story was updated to include comments from Microsoft.
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Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.
He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.
He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.
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