The University Record, January 10, 2000

U greeted new year virtually glitch-free

By Rebecca A. Doyle

One of the major benefits of the planning and work to upgrade systems to eliminate any Y2K bugs is that the University now has a plan that enables it to cope with a number of catastrophic situations that might arise. Members of the response team will gather once a year for a refresher run-through. Photo by Rebecca A. Doyle
As was the case all over the country, months of planning paid off for the U-M on Jan. 1 when the chronological odometer rolled over to 2000.

“There were a few minor things, but nothing at the systemic infrastructure level,” says Gloria Thiele, Y2K project manager for the University. “Our preparation prevented glitches and prepared us to function well.”

That preparation included keeping a list of all the problems that occurred just prior to and following the new year’s entry. Among them:

  • Hospital patient phones did not come on at the scheduled time Jan. 1. The problem was not Y2K-related.

  • On Dec. 31, the 800 megahertz radio and tower were not communicating with the Campus Safety and Security Building. The problem was determined to be overheating and not Y2K-related.

  • Door scanners in one area displayed an incorrect date even when the date was correctly logged.

  • A voice-activated security system did not roll over to the correct year and had to be reset manually.

  • Some unit network servers, shut down over the holidays, had problems booting up and one blew fuses. All were quickly repaired, and none of the problems are believed to be related to the new year.

    A side benefit of all the preparations, though not much talked about, is that the University now has a plan that enables it to cope with a number of catastrophic situations that could arise, and Thiele says the Y2K response team members will gather once a year for a run-through of the plan to update it. The emergency response plan will allow U-M to be prepared for power outages, snowstorms, fires and any number of disasters that would require responses from the Hospitals, Department of Public Safety, Plant Department, utility companies and communications experts.

    One of the most important tools used by the response center was a telephone conference “bridge” that allows a large number of people to listen and talk to each other at the same time. Scheduled at specific times, the telephone conference was used as a report-in line from designated members of the team at various sites around the University. They kept track of heating, electrical, security and computer operations on all parts of the campus and reported on area status at regular times.

    “We now have a tested plan for disaster preparedness,” Thiele says, “a structure, common flow, tools and procedures that allow us to work together to translate this plan into a long-term University emergency response plan.”

    While some people both within the University and in the general population voiced disappointment that there had been no disaster, and criticized the Y2K hype and the amount of money spent on preparing for something that never happened, the entire response team is happy that the work done in advance prevented situations that might have jeopardized University operations or personnel.

    The work done to upgrade computer systems was work that would have needed to be done eventually anyway, Thiele stresses. The deadline imposed by Y2K only ensured that upgrade procedures would be put into place Universitywide before the end of 1999.

    “The work done for Y2K ensured that all the technology was revised and very clean in both administrative systems and departments,” Thiele says.

    She notes that one of the benefits of the readiness preparations is that representatives of the academic and business units came together and shared information with each other, resulting in a network that crosses the entire campus and increases understanding of how each unit operates and why.

    “The intense efforts by the University’s information technology professionals to identify and eliminate Y2K problems has resulted in many benefits,” says Jose-Marie Griffiths, university chief information officer. “Our systems and services are improved, and we are well prepared for emergency situations.

    “This incredible undertaking,” she adds, “was completed with little distraction to students, faculty and staff who have demonstrated their increasing reliance on information technology. The complexity of preparing for Y2K was transparent to many in the University community, as it should have been.”