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US plans to change daylight saving hours this spring could wreak havoc on computer systems, Gartner claims. The analyst firm said automated systems could run haywire this March.

Disruptions could affect calendars, billing programs and security systems, as well as undermining automated trading systems.

This year daylight saving time (DST), which puts the clocks forward one hour in spring and back an hour in autumn, will begin earlier and finish later in the US. It will start on the second Sunday in March, rather than the first Sunday in April, and end on the first Sunday in November, rather than the last Sunday in October.

Gartner has discovered that few organisations have put systems in place to deal with the change, and few may even be aware that such a change is planned.

The UK and much of Europe, major trading partners with the US, also use DST, but till now the changeover dates have been largely in synch.

These changes, though, mean that between 11 March and 25 March there will be a four hour, rather than a five hour, time difference between London and New York, and a five hour difference between Frankfurt, Paris, Madrid or Milan and New York instead of one of six hours.

"This is a minor problem compared to the big code changes required in the recent past for issues like Y2K or the euro conversion," said Will Cappelli, research vice president at Gartner. "However, significant business damage and liabilities could occur from applications performing their processing at the incorrect time if organisations do nothing."

According to Gartner, the dangers could include incorrect travel times in systems in the travel industry; late scheduled payments in the banking industry; botched automated trades in the financial sector; and phone companies incorrectly charging peak and off-peak rates. Not all the issued patches will work. Many will ensure that future appointments will take account of the change but will not change previously made appointments.

"At the very least organisations should run a communications program for all staff well in advance of the change, and support service managers should ensure that they are fully staffed on 11 and 12 March," Cappelli said.

Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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