Microsoft Preps for Daylight-Saving Time Headaches

Microsoft is taking steps to ease the transition back from daylight-saving time.

Microsoft is trying to ensure that when daylight-saving time ends and Americans turn the clock back in the first week of November, the experience is seamless.

That was not the case on March 11, when daylight-saving time started three weeks earlier than usual.

It will also end a week later than usual, on Nov. 4, as a result of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which extended daylight-saving time by a month in the United States, and came into effect in 2007.

For those companies that do business in other parts of the world, the pain is not yet over. As much of the United States and Canada "fall back" in November, there are going to be changes happening in Jordan, Egypt and New Zealand that were not planned in the spring.

"We have many worldwide global customers that do business in those countries, so we have to think about these changes globally, not just in the United States," said Rich Kaplan, vice president of supportability and customer and partner experience for Microsoft, based in Redmond, Wash.


Click here to read more about why Microsoft customers were irate over daylight-saving time woes.

Those customers need to "make sure to get the corrections for those other time zone changes, not just the changes in the time zones in the United States and Canada, but also the changes to the rest of the world time zones," Kaplan said in an interview posted on Microsofts PressPass Web site.

For enterprise customers, the "fall back" is expected to be much easier, as Microsoft "had them running the Outlook Time Zone Data Update Tool, to update peoples calendars. The majority of companies have run those tools and wont have to do that a second time," he said.

"If youre not worried about the countries specified on the Web site listing the products affected by DST and you already took the updates for springing forward, then youre in good shape," Kaplan added.

In March, the early start to daylight-saving time meant that almost every server and computer in the United States had to be updated. For Microsoft customers, this meant the Windows operating system had to be updated, and tools had to be deployed for other products, including Exchange, Windows Mobile and Outlook. Many products from other vendors also had to be updated, adding to customer woes.


To read more about how the time change led to "nightmare" problems with Microsoft Outlook and calendars, click here.

Some customers experienced problems implementing the patches and getting them to work, while others complained that Microsofts phone support was also overwhelmed with callers trying to resolve their DST patch issues.

While Kaplan said the process earlier this year was "relatively straightforward for consumers and small businesses," he acknowledged that some large enterprise customers "felt a pinch in deploying updates across dozens, hundreds—even thousands of systems—and ensuring that each was adjusted to the appropriate time change for its region of the United States or the world."

Now that the dust has settled, Kaplan said he and his team have learned a number of key things, the biggest of which was that Microsoft needed to be better at addressing those situations that affected multiple products and created a complex scenario for IT customers.

"Our documentation and guidance needs to be very clear and concise, and we need to think through the cross-product, cross-platform and services issues. We learned a lot there in terms of how to think through defining the problem, and how to prescribe steps across multiple products," he said.


Was the daylight-saving time change a bigger issue than Y2K? Click here to read more.

Another lesson was the need to raise awareness early. "As a responsible leader in the industry, certainly when things like this come up in the future, we have a special responsibility push harder so issues dont arise at the last minute for customers," he said.

On the positive side, Kaplan said the Microsoft Daylight-Saving Time Help and Support Center Web site was successful, with more than 60 percent of those visiting the site in the spring saying they received the help they needed.

"This is a good resolution rate for a Web site and we are making sure the site is updated with all the latest content. Much of it is the guidance we gave before, but there are new updates and articles, specifically around changes in other countries, that people should go look at," he said.

Even though the focus had primarily been on the changes in the United States, DST observance and time zone changes were a worldwide issue, Kaplan said.

Customers, especially enterprises, should go to the Daylight-Saving Time 2007 Web site and make sure that that they are up to date on all the latest information, while consumers and small- and midsize businesses should have automatic updates turned on, Kaplan said. Microsoft is also hosting a DST Web seminar for customers Sept. 14.


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