WASHINGTON, D.C. — In an effort to conserve energy, daylight-saving time will occur three weeks earlier this year. This could pose technological problems for businesses that aren't prepared. The Energy Policy Act, passed by Congress in August 2005, permanently extended daylight-saving time by four weeks starting in 2007, which means that any computer operating systems programmed before 2005 will not automatically spring forward on this year's date, Sunday March 11.
Everything from appointment times to banking transactions could be affected by this switch, and with so many businesses relying on the regulation of an internal clocking system, technology experts are bracing for the upcoming glitches. The change is especially worrisome for organizations that are sensitive to timed events, especially for locations in different time zones. If some people on a computer network are operating on a different time schedule, it could interfere with standard business communications. Additionally, companies that operate a large mobile network and have employees using mobile PCs will also be affected by the change.
The good news, according to technology experts, is that there are some easy ways to minimize potential problems for your business and still plenty of time to take action. For businesses that use Windows XP, Microsoft Office, and other Microsoft software, the company's website has extensive coverage on which systems are affected and instructions for installing the necessary updates.
Windows XP users who already have the Service Pack 2 upgrade or users who are already running the new Windows Vista system do not have to do anything; those systems were programmed to automatically update themselves. Updating some of Microsoft's older operating systems, such as Windows Millennium Edition or Windows 98, may take slightly more work and time, but the clock on these systems can be manually updated in the computer's control panel. Instructions for this are also at Microsoft's website. The change will also need to be performed on the first Sunday in November, when the clocks switch again.
Another area that could be a cause for concern for businesses is e-mail. Operations that rely heavily on appointments in desktop calendar programs like Microsoft Outlook will have to install further updates. Patches for calendars in various operating systems can be found at the Microsoft website as well.