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Countdown to Year 2000: Are you ready for it?


By smbea (mabelle@msc.net.ph)

We're merely months (actually 176 days from the day I'm writing this) away from the year 2000. What steps have you taken in preparation for the new millenium? How do you know if your computer is Y2K compliant? In the first place, what exactly is meant by Y2K compliance? And just how big an impact will Y2K make? How do we prepare ourselves for this Y2K? Here are several Y2K-related questions and responses we've compiled for you.

WHAT IS YEAR Y2K COMPLIANCE?
By Y2K compliance, we mean that no value for current date will cause any interruption in operation, database functionality must behave consistently for dates prior to, during, and after Year 2000, in all interfaces and data storage, the century in any date must be specified either explicitly or by unambiguous algorithms or inferencing rules, and the year 2000 must be recognized as a leap year by your computer.

WHAT COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS WILL BE VULNERABLE TO THE Y2K PROBLEM?
There are actually several types of communication systems vulnerable to Y2K problems. The first is telecommunications. Global economies are very dependend on continuous communications. A failure could affect telecom networks, major utilities, transport, production lines, security systems, and other systems that rely on software and microprocessors that have any date awareness or time dependency.

The second area critical and vulnerable to the Y2K problem are the resources (personnel and budget) and timing. Resolution of the Y2K problem calls for intense and comprehensive upgrade of system(s) hardware and software facilities around the world.

Electric Power is another critical area that must be protected. Telecommunication systems rely on electric power for their operation. While major telecom providers have back-up power systems, they will operate for only a limited time. Many power systems rely on telecommunication and computer networks for their operation.

Emergency communications are also critical. Communities rely on fire, police, ambulance, and other emergency services. Because these services use mobile radio, paging, and cellular communications, they must continue to operate.

The satellite industry is also a vulnerable and very critical area. Failure to make satellites and their allied systems Year 2000-compliant as documented will cause disruptions and problems in a range of day-to-day activities.

WHAT'S WITH NOVELL AND Y2K?
If you have Novell products as part of your IT infrastructure, you'll be relieved to know that all current versions of Novell products have completed the Project 2000 validation process and are Year 2000 ready, including NetWare 4.11, NetWare 3.2, GroupWise 5.2, GroupWise 4.1, ManageWise 2.5, Border Manager, Fast Cache, and other major products. Visit the Novell Year 2000 area of its Web site at http://www.novell.com/year2000.

WHAT ABOUT VOICEMAIL AND Y2K?
nothing is safe from Y2K, including your voice mail. While you're scurrying around checking PCs and other equipment, don't forget to check your voice mail system. Many voice mail systems store the incoming and outgoing information on PCs. If that computer is not Y2K compatible you may have a problem.

HOW DO I START ON PROTECTING MY SYSTEM FROM THE Y2K PROBLEM?
There are three important phases in going about protecting your system against the Y2K problem. The first is the discovery phase. For the discovery stage, you need someone with strong data collection, fact-finding, and inquiry skills. This person should have a deep understanding of where computers and technology systems are employed in your company and their vital operations. This phase of the project requires good inventory and organization skills, knowledge of computer systems, where data is retained and how it may be transferred between systems, sorted, and used, and what infrastructure is required to make this functional.

The second phase towards protecting your system against Y2K is the assessment phase. For this phase, you need a detail-oriented person with solid analytical and research skills. This person or persons will be responsible for evaluating the components identified in the discovery phase for Y2K compliance. He or she will need to distinguish the requirements for date compliance and the ability to delineate whether or not a component has met this objective and then set a plan for its correction. This requires looking at systems and determining whether a potential risk is an actual risk.

The final phase is the correction phase where you have the people who have the skills to go into the systems and code and make the necessary corrective actions. Then, they'll need the skills to validate those corrections and report the status. Technical skills including an in-depth knowledge of your software, hardware, and firmware is vital.

WHAT ARE THE OTHER DEADLY OR KILLER DATES?
Considered killer dates are:
September 9, 1999 (9/9/99) Used as a 'record retention' convention in some software products. It generally means "save this record forever."
December 31, 1999 End of century
January 1, 2000 Beginning of new century
February 28,2000 Leap Year day in new century
February 29, 2000 Day after Leap Year day
April 15, 2000 Tax day 2000
April 30, 2000 First month ending on a weekend
May 1, 2000 Tax withholding reports due, unemployment tax due
October 10, 2000 First six-digit date for systems storing date as "MMDDYY"
December 31, 2000 (Sunday) First year-end in new century; year contains 366 days
January 1, 2001 Test that the system has been instructed to rollover as usual for year-end
February 29, 2001 Invalid date
December 31, 2001 Second year end, check that year has 365 days

HOW DO I MAKE SURE THAT I'M NOT GOING TO BE DOING BUSINESS WITH SOMEONE WHO ISN'T Y2K COMPLIANT?
As part of your Y2K testing, you should request letters of compliance from your business partners stating their Y2K compliance. You should assess the impact these external providers could have on your business and understand the potential for problems if they prove not to be compliant.

While your instinct may tell you that the letter is all the proof you need, don't settle for the paper. Test, test, and test any system on which you are interdependent. Define an escalation process to be applied to critical partners based on their respective levels of risk and have contingency plans in place.

HOW DO I HANDLE MY CLIENTS' Y2K FEARS?
Let's say you're in business and you deal with a lot of clients. How do you assure them that you're Y2K compliant or that they won't experience any problem with your company or business when year 2000 comes? You have to let your clients know that you're taking Y2K seriously by telling them what you're doing to avoid problems and remain a source for them. Take the time to communicate your Y2K efforts to your customers using the message on your voice mail system, inserts in mailings, or posters in your office or store. These simple steps will help ease their minds.

BUT WHAT ABOUT MY EMPLOYEES' Y2K FEARS?
Your employees also want to know that you're taking Y2K seriously, protecting their jobs. Again, it's your responsibility to let them know what you're doing to avoid problems and remain in business for them. Take the time to communicate to your employees your Y2K efforts by holding meetings to educate them on your efforts. Never eave your employees feeling fearful of the Y2K shadow.

WHAT'S REMEDIATION CONTINGENCY PLANNING?
A common phrase you'll hear this year in Y2K discussionS is "remediation contingency planning". It's simply a detailed strategy you put together that identifies and plans for Year 2000 risks associated with the failure to renovate, validate, and implement mission-critical systems to ensure Year 2000 readiness. This plan includes both internal and external risks.

WHAT'S BUSINESS RESUMPTION CONTINGENCY PLANNING?
It's the strategy you implement to identify and plan for operational risks you would face in the event that your core business processes fail despite your best efforts in planning for the Year 2000. Simply put, the business resumption contingency plan ensures that you have a plan to get your business back up and running if your original Y2K plan fails.

IS THERE SUCH A THING AS GOING OVERBOARD IN HAVING COUNTERMEASURES AND PLANS AGAINST THE Y2K PROBLEM?
The question more likely here is if a business resumption contingency plan is still needed if there's already a disaster recovery and business continuity plans in place? Yes. These plans are designed to rescue your business from other types of disasters--not Y2K failures.

SHOULD YOU STOCKPILE SOME CASH FOR THE NEW YEAR?
Many businesses are planning on having a substantial stash of cash on hand to ensure they'll be able to conduct business in the event of bank or credit card processing failures. Experts recommend two to three weeks of liquid funds.

WHAT ARE THE THREE VITAL STAGES OF THE Y2K ANALYSIS?
The first stage is the investigation phase where each machine, control system, or device is checked to establish whether a date-related function exists, then the procedure and skills needed to complete a compliance test in those applications where a date function is found are defined.

This first stage normally allows a lot of equipment to be declared as compliant simply by ensuring that no date-related hardware is in use, thus reducing the initial inventory and helping highlight those systems and devices that are in need of more detailed attention.

The second stage involves the actual testing of any equipment that has been found to use the date in some manner. A variety of tools in this stage may be needed, some that test hardware and some that test software. This stage should involve full testing of the equipment for all significant dates. This may be as simple as manually entering the test dates into systems as well as altering actual code.

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