Need Opinions - Especially Computer/Marketing Types : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Need your opinions. The facts as they relate to small biz's and YwK.

1. First hand experience shows most small biz's are ignoring the Y2K problem. 2. Most of these biz's will have some degree of problem with Y2K. The bulk of which would not be mission critical if they could get help to fix when the problem becomes obvious. Without help, many will get thrown against a cash-flow brick wall because of loss of operation, or loss of efficiency. 3. Many of their problems could be fixed by their own staff if we could get them to become aware and/or provided them with some help in the form of a generic instruction manual.

With these in mind. I'm thinking of writing a booklet which would outline the potential problems, give as detailed instructions as possible to fix these problems, and provides resources to help them. What I'd like to do is give these away for free. Maybe get local newspapers, etc. to offer them for free. Also, might could talk certain suppliers like office supply stores to put them in with statements, etc.

I know this won't help everyone, but there are a lot of these small companies that could fix their own problems. Seems like every office I go in has at least one "whiz kid" that could fix most of the basic problems.

Well, what do you think? Will this help enough to make it worth my effort, or should I just spend my time reloading more 12 guage shells and training the Rotti?!

-- Greg Sugg (, December 05, 1998


Good idea. If you want any help making the words sound nice, send me an email ;)

-- Leo (, December 05, 1998.

These may give you ideas and info sources. -- Diane

S.F. Chronicle 1998/11/25/BU103473.DTL Wednesday, November 25, 1998

U.S. Issues Small Business Y2K Warning

Big companies and government are not the only ones who need to prepare for the Year 2000 problem. The U.S. Small Business Administration figures that as many as 330,000 small businesses out of 23 million risk closing unless they fix the problem and an additional 370,000 could be temporarily or permanently crippled. That means shutdown of services, canceled shipments and job losses.

A Gallup Poll showed that 82 percent of businesses with revenue under $50 million are at risk, and three-quarters of small-business owners have not taken any action to ensure that their computer systems can distinguish between the years 2000 and 1900.

The SBA, in partnership with Dell Computer Corp., has information on the subject. Take a look at the SBA's Web site ( or call (800) 827-5722. Dell's site is (


Published Monday, November 30, 1998, in the San Jose Mercury News

BY STEVE KAUFMAN Mercury News Staff Writer

THIS year, Sharon Hanson has received half a dozen brochures and mailings about the year 2000 computer threat from her bank, insurance company and consultants wanting her business.

But it hasn't done the owner of Serpico Landscaping, a small Hayward commercial landscaping firm, much good. Hanson knows little about her network of seven PCs and isn't always sure what questions to ask. When she does, she says, she has a tough time getting answers from hardware and software suppliers.

``My biggest concern is that there is a problem lurking out there that can wham my business out of the blue,'' says Hanson, whose $3 million business has 83 employees. ``The year 2000 problem is overwhelming for somebody like me.''

While much attention is paid to the Y2K problem for large corporations, it also poses a significant threat for small businesses like Hanson's, if they fail to update their computer systems by Jan. 1, 2000. And the majority of the nation's 23 million small businesses appear to be doing just that, either because they are unaware of the problem, overwhelmed by it or ignoring it.

In a survey earlier this year, International Data Corp., a technology research firm based in Framingham, Mass., found that all 60 companies polled with less than $10 million in annual revenues had yet to address the Y2K issue. Other surveys show that 60 percent of small businesses aren't dealing with it.

``Many small-business owners take the same approach to Y2K as they do with cancer and heart disease and say it won't happen to me,'' says Garth Gilmour, a technology consulting partner at SK Consulting, a San Jose small business consulting firm.

What could happen is that small-business computers may crash or miscalculate data on the stroke of midnight, Jan. 1, 2000. That's because most computers use two-digit fields for identifying years and can't recognize the difference between the years 1900 and 2000.

Business owners may find their computers produce inaccurate invoices, or none at all, erroneous customer database reports and, in the worst cases, simply fail to run general ledger and other key applications programs.

``A lot of companies are running scared because they don't know where they stand,'' adds Jim Macfadden, president of Macfadden & Associates, another consulting firm in Silver Spring, Md.

On Nov. 19, the U.S. Small Business Administration, Dell Computer and Microsoft Corp. hosted a ``Webcast'' outlining Y2K tips for small businesses at the San Francisco Airport Marriott. About 4,000 small businesses registered to review the presentation, which offered an overview of the problem and described how to fix it.

Experts urged small businesses to review their hardware and software and check manufacturers' Web sites to determine whether it is Y2K- compliant. If it isn't, they can remedy the problem by downloading software from the Internet.

Replacement may be needed

If such fixes are unavailable -- and they are relatively common for computer systems less than three years old -- small businesses will have to replace their systems, computer consultants say.

On the bright side, small businesses can often fix and test their Y2K problem in less than two months, a fraction of the time needed by large corporations. Moreover, the Small Business Administration and some banks, including Comerica-California Bank, have begun offering special Y2K loans.

If a small business acts soon, it may have little to worry about, some say. ``There is a lot of noise about Y2K, but in the end it will largely be a non-event for most small businesses,'' says Frank Marra, president of FMA International, a Saratoga systems integration firm specializing in small business. ``Small businesses won't crash. Most have gotten into the habit of upgrading their software at least every year.''

Many disagree with Marra, because they point out small-business owners have fewer resources than large companies. Some small-business owners can barely keep pace with the day-to-day operations of their business, let alone plan for the future. They lack management information systems and the in-house computer experts common at big companies.

And they may also be financially strapped. Experts say a business with only half a dozen employees may spend $10,000 to replace old hardware and software. The cost of downtime and instructing employees in the new software can easily double that.

Hanson, the Hayward landscaper, counts herself lucky that she has the money to hire a San Mateo computer consultant to help solve her Y2K problem. Some of the PCs in her business are more than six years old, making potential problems a certainty.

In fact, small businesses can use the Y2K problem as a good time to replace outmoded equipment. Suzi Rossi, the controller at Bargetto Winery in Soquel, decided to replace her firm's accounting program early next year, then its four-year-old computers. The winery needs to network the computers together to allow employees to share sales and marketing information easily.

But if Rossi already owned a new computer system, she doubts she would be motivated to correct Y2K problems nearly as quickly. ``The Y2K problem is simply pushing us to do what we had already planned to do,'' Rossi says.

The most vulnerable

Shippers, retailers and manufacturers are among the small businesses that are most likely to be affected by the Y2K problem, experts say, because these businesses rely on bar-code scanning or commonly use computer numerically controlled equipment.

They must also retrieve new, specialized software directly from their vendors -- a task more complex than downloading software patches from the Web sites of major hardware and software makers. In many cases, this software isn't ready yet.

Small law firms are especially vulnerable, says consultant Gilmour and others. Almost everything they do is is pegged to a specific time and date, including systems to track customer billing in fractions of an hour and other that track court filing dates.

If a small law firm fails to fix the Y2K problem on time, it may have to prepare its bills by hand, rather than by computer. The backlog could quickly become staggering, threatening cash flow. ``It's entirely possible that the law firm could lose one or two months worth of billing records because the data is no longer accurate,'' says Gilmour.

Some small businesses are tackling the problem aggressively. For example, First Financial Federal Credit Union, a West Covina credit union with $400 million in assets and 200 employees, created a task force early in 1997 from every major department and asked task force members to identify every computer and software application they were using.

Later, the task force determined it was most important to fix a five- year-old Digital Equipment Corp. minicomputer that handles information accessed by the firm's 75 tellers at 19 branches throughout Southern California. The problem was that it couldn't accommodate four-digit fields for the year in some cases.

First Financial spent $25,000 on another specialized computer that ran Y2K tests off-line on the minicomputer. Then it worked with a custom software supplier to fix the software and retest it over a two-week period. The system is now completely Y2K-compliant, says Janet Behnke, First Financial's network center manager.

Before the deadline

``We had to do address the Y2K problem because it was crucial to be able to tell customers that their money was safe with us,'' Behnke says. ``If changes were necessary, as they were, we wanted to make them well before the deadline.''

San Jose-based Bay Area Labels is another company that addressed the Y2K problem early. In fact, it corrected the problem more than eight years ago when it installed a server linked to personal computers. At the time, the company figured it might as well make the system Y2K- compliant while it was making other software changes.

Today, the company is mailing surveys to its 350 suppliers and 1,000 customers to determine whether they have fixed their Y2K problem. Ed Lee, a vice president, acknowledges this could be the company's weak spot, partly because some companies place orders with Bay Area Labels via electronic data interchange.

``In the end, we may not be able to get orders out the door if the businesses we deal with are not also Y2K-compliant,'' Lee says. ``It could shut down our business. ``If their computers go down, ours could go down, and business can practically stop.''

-- Diane J. Squire (, December 05, 1998.

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