Y2K? That's the least of their Net concerns

December 31 may be looming large for many businesses - but for others, the Y2K problem is shaping up to be a paper tiger.

"With all the preparations we've made, I would expect [New Year's Eve] to be a nonevent," says Chris Coons, manager of enterprise services at Southwest Airlines.

Businesses already confident in the Y2K-readiness of their systems and networks aren't so worried about the possibility of computer failures as the year rolls over from 1999 to 2000. Instead, they are setting their sights on the expected spike in network traffic that goes hand-in-hand with e-commerce during the holiday season.

Such is the case for Southwest, which always faces network congestion just before and after Thanksgiving and Christmas, Coons says. Three years ago, the company started using Concord's Network Health software to analyse trends in network utilisation. This way, Southwest can create long-term plans, making sure it has enough bandwidth available for spikes in usage.

Coons says the airline also generates daily reports, to look for slowdowns in the network. With that data, the company can troubleshoot problems on individual network segments with a Network Associates Sniffer.

Southwest isn't the only company in this situation. NextLec in Chattanooga, Tennessee, for instance, is confident its network is ready for Y2K. But the network service provider broadcasts streaming media over its network - and there will be many concerts happening this New Year's Eve.

"We're concerned there might be extreme network congestion because of all the concerts," says Jeff Gomberg, president and CEO of the company. During that time, NextLec will watch its servers closely, using Ipswitch's WhatsUp Gold systems management software.

The company will use the software to watch for servers failing or services on the server going down. "We're hoping for an extremely boring New Year's Eve," Gomberg says.

"We're not going to treat that Friday night different from any other Friday night," echoes Steve Pierce, president of HDL, a Web-hosting company in Flint, Michigan. The company will monitor its servers remotely and send in a technician only if necessary.

The company uses WhatsUp Gold in conjunction with APC's MasterSwitch. MasterSwitch is a "power strip on steroids," Pierce explains. The surge protector has a Web-based interface, accessed through its Ethernet connection, which lets a network manager remotely reboot a computer.

If a server fails, the network managers at HDL will remotely tell the server's MasterSwitch to reboot the machine. Through tests, the company knows that a couple of its clients' computers won't be able to roll over to Jan. 1, 2000 in real time, so these machines will be rebooted in the early hours of the new year.

Despite his confidence, Pierce says HDL employees will be dialing in to make sure the servers are OK. Normally, they let the management software alert them to problems via pager -- but not this time. "How compliant is the Pager Company?" he asks.

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