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Changes to Daylight Savings Time continue to plague IT companies across the country

Daylight savings time (DST) is probably one of the most annoying inventions of the human race. Each year people spend a week or so adjusting to an hour forwards or backwards causing all sorts of erratic behavior and poor sleep while people adjust. Last year the U.S. Government decided to take it a step further and cause IT professionals and IT vendors to spend plenty of time and money to satisfy a few politicians with a not so brilliant idea.

The reason the last few transitions were different than any other change was because of the U.S. government mandated move for the start of DST to the second Sunday in March and a return to standard time on the first Sunday in November. This change required multiple computer systems and servers to be patched to change how they handle the traditional switch to DST. While this isn't such a big deal for the lone computer sitting on your desk at home, for an enterprise with hundreds of computer workstations and servers the issue is huge.

When this change first went into effect I wanted to throttle the U.S. Congress for the headaches of changing over countless software systems and applying patches. You also have to deal the small eventuality of IT, that not everything works or patches exactly as intended, resulting in some manual changes and hacks to get everyone on the same page. The coup de grace in this whole ordeal was the fact that its estimated that we didn’t save a penny in electricity, yet we spent tons of money making the change. What’s even worse is that by Congresses’ own admission if the change didn’t save them anything they might revert back to the old system in 2008 forcing us again to change everything back to the way it was. This would cost IT professionals and IT vendors again.

An article at ZDNet during the original change last year outlines the rough costs of the change back in early 2007 to be in the neighborhood of $300 million. This amount is a very conservative estimate based on labor costs alone. This does not account for the time and money spent on developing, testing and distributing DST patches by the various IT vendors. It also does not take into account the headache and manual pain of having to change older systems by hand or troubleshoot modern systems that fail to patch correctly.

According to the Wall Street Journal a researcher observed India while making the switch from standard time to a DST system. The change to DST resulted in an increase in electricity costs of nearly 9 million annually. The article also points out that past studies have shown no cost savings by switching clocks in the U.S. each year.

The Wall Street Journal reports that in the spring of 2006 when the Indiana Legislature mandated that all counties in the state had to participate in DST, as opposed to only 15 of the 92 counties that participated before, it gave Matthew Kotchen, a economics professor from the University of California-Santa Barbara the chance to actually see if DST saves money in the United States. According to Kotchen, his numbers (taken from actual meter readings in Indiana counties) showed that Indiana residents spent an additional $8.6 million in electricity bills after the change to DST.

I dislike DST as much as the next guy and after dealing with the initial impact of the switch in March 2007, I wanted to wash my hands of it and never speak of it much like the Y2K debacle. The problem is that with DST the problems seem to rear their ugly head every time we change the clocks, resulting in a few loose screws falling out and causing headaches for IT teams across the country.


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RE: why even have it?
By FITCamaro on 4/9/2008 10:17:52 AM , Rating: 2
Yes it makes sense for the majority of the country to change its time so the relatively few farmers in this country don't have to turn on a light.


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