New Norton Tool Finds Y2K-Buggy Apps

With only months left until the new century, IT departments are being crushed by demands relating to Year 2000 fixes and testing.

With only months left until the new century, IT departments are being crushed by demands relating to Year 2000 fixes and testing. Therefore, much of the burden for managing Y2K readiness on PC networks is falling back on end-users.

To help manage increasingly decentralized Y2K efforts, Symantec Corp. (www.symantec.com) announced a new version of Norton 2000 Corporate Edition, which extends its scanning and reporting capabilities. Symantec also recently announced interoperability of the tool with Tivoli systems management software, along with other centralized console environments.

"In the beginning, it looked like IT departments could manage everything in the Y2K process," says Dana Prussoff, product manager with Symantec. "Now, given that 92% of companies have missed some Y2K deadline, more responsibility is going back to the end-users again to fix their issues," says Prussoff.

The major challenge in the end-user domain is ensuring that Y2K-related errors are not re-introduced into PC networks, she notes. "This increases the need for good reporting tools, to make sure that once things are fixed, they stay fixed." The latest version of Norton 2000 Corporate Edition (version 2.0), scheduled to ship in late May, includes customizing options for more flexible scanning and reporting. The tool will provide a one-to-five rating scale for severity levels of date problems, as well as provide user names for affected machines.

Norton 2000 also will include spreadsheet and database monitoring features. Many spreadsheets and other applications use windowing solutions that assign years to a century based on whether they fall before or after a "cusp" point. For example, Excel versions 4, 5 and 7 assume that year values from 00 to 19 represent 2000-2019, and year values from 20-99 represent 1920-1999. Excel 8 extends this cusp point to 29 and 30. As a result, dates in a spreadsheet with years close to these cusp points may be incorrectly interpreted. In addition, the cusp point will change across a simple software upgrade and cause erroneous processing of dates. To address those issues, Norton 2000 includes a data scanning component that not only discovers Y2K problems in these complex files, but also generates a customizable report detailing findings. Along with Excel, Norton 2000 also scans Lotus 1-2-3, Access, dBase, Clipper, FoxPro, and Paradox files.

While Norton 2000 is not automated, it will color-code and annotate Excel spreadsheets to highlight and explain Y2K issues in each affected cell. "We've claimed from the beginning that we're not ever going to do any automatic fixing -- it's just too dangerous to make assumptions and fix people's dates," says Prussoff.

In addition, Norton 2000 will also scan applications code, Prussoff adds. The previous version only scanned data.

Norton 2000 is based on ViaSoft's OnMark 2000 Assess product (www.viasoft.com), which includes a data scanner and conducts risk assessments of hardware and desktop software, including spreadsheets, databases and data files. "We've 'Nortonized' it, and improved the user interface a little bit," says Prussoff. In addition, the Norton 2000 version of the product includes a LiveUpdate service, which provides up-to-date information on applications to a database of known year 2000 problems.

Norton 2000 can scan most PC data and applications in one overnight session, Prussoff claims. To keep on top of new data and applications that may be introduced, "we recommend you run these scans every two weeks," she says.

Symantec Corp. has also announced efforts to push Norton 2000 into businesses with fewer than 100 seats. Corporate licenses -- which include tech support -- are now available for sites with as few as 10 seats.

For larger operations, Symantec and Tivoli Systems Inc. (www.tivoli.com) have been shipping Tivoli Manager for Norton 2000, IT Director Edition, as an add-on to Norton 2000. The product, which supports up to 1,000 nodes, centralizes and automates the Year 2000 detection and remediation process onto a single control panel. The system will automatically page or e-mail IT administrators when Symantec Norton 2000 detects a problem exceeding a preset severity level. Tivoli IT Director is a Windows NT-based monitoring station which enables functions including software distribution, inventory management, monitoring, remote control and network management. Along with Tivoli, Norton 2000 also integrates into Norton System Center and Microsoft SMS. "You can use it with any management console you already have," says Prussoff.

Carepoint Network, based in Salt Lake City, has been using Norton 2000 to scan the firm's accounting system for Year 2000 glitches. While Y2K-related problems have not yet caused problems with Carepoint's medical billing and payroll system, Gary Leonard, Carepoint's IS consultant has been closely scrutinizing the company's PC networks. "A Y2K problem could destroy the lifeblood of Carepoint's medical billing practice," he says. "If the century date problem is not addressed, Carepoint might lose track not only of their own billing records, but those of their clients as well. In a practice the size of Carepoint's, it could easily result in thousands upon thousands of dollars of losses."

However, many other smaller companies are not as vigilant about their Year 2000 exposures, Prussoff warns. "There's still a lot of companies with their head in the ground," she says. "Even among those that are working on the problem, there's a lot of applications both on and off their mission-critical lists that need to be remediated. This process will go on for at least 12 to 18 months beyond the Year 2000."