Officials upgrade systems for Y2K

by Michael Anklin
Editorial Director

No matter how real the threat posed by the computer bug commonly known as Y2K may be, the University of La Verne is not taking any chances. What ever will happen or not happen on the night of Dec. 31, 1999, the University is making sure that any possible damages will be limited.

Concerning the administrative software, Clive Houston-Brown, director of Management Information Systems (MIS), said, “We’ve got to make sure that all of the databases, all of the operating systems, all of the software applications that we are running are year 2000 compliant.”

MIS has been working on these changes for the last two years.

“The way we’ve done it,” said Houston-Brown, “is to upgrade to specific versions of the operating system or database that the vendors have told us is year 2000 compliant.”

He said that ULV’s major systems are ready for the new millennium.

“The last one we are working on right now is the payroll system,” Houston-Brown said. “That one got a late start. But other than that, our major systems have been moved up to appropriate versions.”

Despite the preparations, something may still go wrong. There could be some minor problems but there could also be major disruptions.

“Minor problems is where systems have a problem and we upgrade them within a few days,” said Houston-Brown. “A major problem is that one of our major systems or an external system like electricity or something like that fails,” he said. “That is going to cause us weeks of down time and that would be a major problem no matter what you are doing.”

However, Houston-Brown said, “My feeling is that our electricity providers are ready for this; our major applications are ready for this.”

He estimated that, if anything, there may be a couple of glitches within the first few days or weeks but nothing that cannot be dealt with with some advice from the vendors.

One way or another, students should not be afraid that their records are going to disappear.

“All our systems are fully backed up on a regular basis,” said Houston-Brown. “We keep tapes [of back up information] in safes on campus; we keep tapes in safes off campus.

“So even if the systems failed in January, we still got the data. And we’ve just got to then correct the systems and the data is still available.”

Nevertheless, the University is not taking chances. For about the last two months each administrative area has been developing detailed contingency plans covering four scenarios should the computers fail.

The first scenario deals with a computer failure for a few hours, the second with a failure of a few days, the third anticipates the computers to be down for a few weeks and the fourth one concerns a long-term computer failure.

“From the middle of December on,” said Houston-Brown, “we are going to be doing massive downloads; we are going to be doing massive printings so that we’ve got hard copies and things like that for emergencies.”

As far as the computers for the academic departments and especially the Computer Science Department go, preparations have been going on as well.

“All our computer labs are Y2K compliant,” said Dr. Jay Jones, professor of biology and biochemistry. He said, however, that there is a wide variety of programs in academic computing as well as other departments, not all of which are going to be Y2K compliant.

“In most cases it is not going to be a problem, if they aren’t,” said Dr. Jones. All departments must ensure that their individual software is compliant.

Dr. Jones said programs that are theoretically not Y2K compliant may still run, though minor difficulties like a wrong date on the screen or similar small differences are possible.

The major computer programs should be all right.

“We have enquired as to the Y2K compliance of all of our major core software,” said Dr. Jones. “[They] are all Y2K compliant, we’ve done upgrades to assure that. Our core operation is Y2K compliant.”

Some programs and desktop machines are simply too old to be Y2K compliant, but Dr. Jones expected to upgrade these systems and ensure that all faculty computers are compliant by the end of last week.

MIS is working on its side of the problem. Houston-Brown has dealt with the Y2K problem at ULV since he was hired about two and a half years ago.

“At that time we were on very old versions of the software,” he said. “We needed to upgrade no matter what because we were on such old versions, but we needed to upgrade quickly because of the year 2000. We knew at the time I came here that we were not Y2K compliant.”

Houston-Brown estimated that the preparations are 95 percent complete at this point.

“Where we’re still struggling because of how much time it takes is the desktop machines,” he said. The desktop computers are being upgraded from Windows 95 to a Y2K compliant Windows 98.

“We are about halfway through those machines,” said Houston-Brown. “We’ve been doing an intensive upgrade for the last four weeks or so.”

According to Houston-Brown, there are about another 190 computers that need upgrading.

“The staff is working a lot of evenings and weekends,” he said.

Houston-Brown said that his confidence about the Y2K preparedness of the University is at a level of about 90 to 95 percent.

“The reason I say that,” he said, “is because we don’t know. We are going on what our major vendors have told us are year 2000 compliant versions.”

Those leading software companies have gone through extensive testing of their products and have found that ULV’s systems are Y2K compliant.

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